When organizations are confronted with situations where they just aren’t achieving the level of buy-in that they were expecting or hoping for, it often helps to start your analysis by thinking back to Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s words “a bad system will beat a person every time”.
Organizations must ensure that their systems are in alignment with the results that they desire. Whether it’s increasing productivity, morale, buy-in, or as in the following case, a more communicative information sharing environment, a comprehensive focus must be placed on the desired outcome. For example, I recall a manager who wanted to carve out some time for her staff to get to know each other better and improve communication. She came up with an idea to have monthly, company paid, all-employee team luncheons. The idea was good, but the execution was lacking. You see, often, the luncheons were scheduled at times that interfered with production deadlines. So, instead of creating an environment where staff could openly discuss various topics, everyone was more focused on leaving the luncheon as fast as possible so that they could get back to work and not have to work as late that day. This was a classic example of not thinking through the “system or initiative” that was put in place to achieve a desired outcome.
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It wasn’t until an employee teambuilding event that this matter surfaced. We were charting an expectations exercise where employees, teams, and leaders were grouped together, and each group listed what they thought was expected from them and from the other groups. The desired outcome of the luncheons was achieved when both teams and leaders openly discussed the matter. The leadership wasn’t aware that staff felt “punished” by forcing them to attend the luncheons that coincided with various work deadlines. It was a simple but powerful moment for the leadership team when they heard this, and they immediately changed the luncheon dates to ensure that they did into interfere with critical deadlines. This is the power of fostering a work environment that encourages open and timely communication!
Below are some additional real-life work examples taken from expectations exercises where teams identified, to their leaders, their biggest frustrations, and their desired solutions.
- Follow through on all commitments
Example: Assignment of additional work with the promise of more staff. Yet, additional staff never comes! Hire additional staff…
- Be your team’s advocate
Example: Sales invoices are posting incorrectly to the commission compensation software. We have identified the issues and have a solution, but the information technology department has us at the bottom of their “to do” list. This adds eight additional hours of work per month for what can be an “easy fix”. HELP!
- Stop “punishing” high-performers
Please hold everyone accountable. It seems the better an employee you are, the more work you get. On the other hand, the more difficult someone is to work with, it’s as if they get rewarded by being left alone and not given any additional work. Stop this!
- Be clear about expectations
Be clear with expectations and how we will be held accountable. While it doesn’t happen often, it hurts when we think we’re doing a good job only to find out that the final product isn’t what you expected. We care and want to do a good job but feel horrible when we let you down. Please be clear on your expectations!
In closing, when organizations implement any new initiative, no matter how trivial it may seem, it is imperative that thought be given to ensure that the action or system is congruent with the desired outcome.
Written by Chris Boguslaw, M Ed
For more information about creating, improving, or maintaining a productive and caring work environment, please visit www.teambogie.com.