If we want every person in our business to start identifying problems, solving problems and coming up with new ideas then we will need to properly engage with our people.
The most important thing to do is demonstrate that you will genuinely listen and that you will act if their idea is worth pursuing. For this to work effectively you will need to remove any sense of hierarchy and treat them more like equals.
Most people are inherently lazy and are comfortable with the status quo even if the status quo is uncertain and painful. At least they know the level of pain they are going to be inflicted with. This is why people put up with poor jobs, poor conditions and boring roles.
If we want to energise and motivate our people to think and do things differently then there has to be something in it for them. Something real.
Real does not mean suggestion boxes or having a share of the savings from improvement ideas. Remember the whole ethos is to ensure that everyone in your organisation is engaged and takes ownership in improving the business. If people only participate because of a potential monetary reward then you are missing the point. Suggestion boxes or sharing in savings are completely wrong. You will need to look at other ideas to transform the culture into an energised and inclusive one.
You need to do more
One of our clients has achieved just this. Virtually every employee is helping to identify and implement improvements. They have made this happen in a number of ways;
- Senior managers all agree on the concept and actively encourage their people to get involved
- They provide regular updates of progress including information about what others have achieved
- They have provided training and coaching for each person in how to identify and solve problems
- They have allowed people time to solve problems they have identified
- They have set up a number of fun competitions to engage with their people and encourage improvement
- The shop floor gets daily visits from the CEO and other senior managers just to ask them what is happening and how things are going.
- They have taken some potentially boring roles and given people the opportunity to do other things as part of their job. Remember we used to call this job enrichment
- They clearly communicate performance so that people can see how their efforts are affecting the business
In just 18 months this company has been transformed from being the worst performing unit in the group to the best performing unit. Their reward from the group executive has been a substantial investment in new machinery. They now invite customers to the plant and ask them to talk to any member of staff about anything. Their people are energised and the bottom line just gets better and better.
So what’s in it for the staff? Why have they stayed involved? Well, how about improved job security, job enrichment, enjoyment in new tasks and a different view on life. They all see that life is better and that it can only get better. This is encouraging them to look for and solve more issues and to develop new ideas and approaches which will make them more successful. They now have 100 people working on business improvement, not just a handful.
And it’s not just them, we’ve seen the same thing happen with a number of companies we’ve worked with. Take a look here, here and here.
What is stopping you from doing the same in your organisation? How could you change your approach to business improvement and get your people engaged and involved?
It just starts with one step. What is your step going to be?
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Katie – Marketing Assistant
100% Effective Ltd
This one hits a nerve John:
Lean events or approach unfortunately link directly to reduced job security and lowered self esteem (as far as many staff are concerned), by favouring a 6 Sigma approach/vocabulary I can usually link business improvement to something tangible like better patient outcomes and enhanced job satisfaction, it doesn’t make it easy to engage staff but in my experience it does make it more likely.
Waste – removal of waste – patient outcome the same, staff have little motivation to engage.
Variation – removal of variation – improved patient outcomes, staff happy to get involved
A very simplified overview but believe me it works.
In my lean journey, I’ve come to the realisation that the goal we should be striving for is to create a culture of continuous improvement at all levels of the organization. This culture can be defined as teams of people trained to practically solve problems as they occur. The tools and solutions offered by lean and six sigma methodologies become just ways to solve the problems. The secret is identifying problems and training and engaging folks in helping solve them.
I think you use what ever works to engage with staff. If you find that six sigma and variation works that is great. Lots of people have a negative view of Lean as it is seen to mean using less people or making people work harder. This is of course not the case. Unfortunately because most companies don’t set up Lean properly then this many be the way it is viewed and you will have to find other ways to engage as you have proven.
I think it is magic that you have found a way to engage your staff to get involved in looking for and solving problems. The more companies that we get doing this then the better our business will become.
We have provided training and consultancy in Lean Six Sigma for 13 years and it is the best approach to solve problems. Hope things keep working for you.