Tag Archives: employee engagement

Engaging staff in operational excellence – a case study on the visual workplace


Managing cargo shipments in the Port of Felixstowe

I’ve been catching-up on my business reading.  I always find something fascinating when I do….

True to form, my efforts were quickly rewarded this morning, with a case study on digital signage at the Port of Felixstowe in the August 14th issue of Business Weekly. This article caught my attention for two reasons:

  • I’d been impressed, whilst sketching* on the beach during a late summer trip to Felixstowe, by the size and frequency of the cargo ships going across the horizon.
  • I’m always intrigued by how organisations engage their staff in a commitment to operational excellence.
Cargo ship and operational excellence in Felixstowe

Cargo ship on the horizon and operational excellence in Felixstowe

(*I’m a very recently initiated amateur! More about this for anyone interested in the July-August RiverRhee Newsletter.)

Collecting metrics is a step towards operational excellence

Most business teams collect metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on their performance.  It’s a requirement from management.  Variations on cost, time and quality – often expressed as frequencies, quantities, timings etc. – are dutifully collected and included in monthly reports.

We talk about these metrics during the RiverRhee training courses that I run on Lean and Six Sigma, and on Change Management.  Questions that are often raised are:

  • Are the right things being measured: will they give us meaningful and useful information on how we are performing in relation to our customers and our goals?
  • Is anyone paying attention to the metrics and using them to make decisions, to improve performance on a continuous basis, to monitor whether anticipated  benefits are being delivered?
  • Have we in fact got too many metrics?

‘Stand-up’ meetings and a visual workplace can make a real difference to engagement and results

One of the things I enjoy about working with multiple customers is witnessing the diversity of their approaches and hearing about examples of operational excellence.

One company uses ‘stand-up’ meetings at the start of the day and at lunch time (to catch people working on different shifts).  They update a white board in a narrow corridor with their key targets and up to the minute metrics on performance in relation to customers and operations.  The local manager or supervisor runs through the figures, celebrates achievements, asks for comments and suggestions.  One or two members of staff might also share an item of news or a good practice.  The narrowness of the corridor and the absence of chairs help to ensure that the meeting is very brief – it lasts 15 minutes at the most. Everyone is engaged, informed, energised and committed to the organisation’s aims and their roles within it.

Other organisations have more sophisticated white boards or electronic displays in more spacious locations that can be viewed as people go by as well as in similar ‘stand up’ briefings at key points of the day or working week.

Using ‘media screens’ at the Port of Felixstowe

The case study in Business Weekly features Anders+Kern (A+K) PADS (www.anders-kern.co.uk) and the Port of Felixstowe’s decision to use their ‘media screens’ to provide ‘real-time and relevant information’ to the approximate 75 per cent of their staff involved in operational roles and delivering services to their customers. (The Port of Felixstowe A+K case study is also available online.)

The article describes how the information communicated includes ‘progress against customer service targets’ and ‘changes to operational procedures’.

This is all very good to hear about.  It would be wonderful to get an inside view on the impact that this approach to the visual workplace is having on employee engagement and operational excellence.

How are you engaging your staff in operational excellence?  Do you have some form of visual workplace?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), APM (Association for Project Management) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Reflections of a team facilitator


By Elisabeth Goodman

HAVING FUN WITH PINTEREST

Summer is a wonderful time to reflect and play with new ideas.  I’ve been having a lovely time exploring Pinterest for new insights to inspire the teams I work with in workshops.

Reflections

Pinterest has only been going since 2010 and although it already has more than 70 million users it is still not widely used by people in my community, so I was surprised at how much I have started to find in the way of pictures, annotated diagrams, mindmaps, and increasingly popular infographics to inspire and illustrate some of the ideas that I use for facilitation.

If you would like to follow me on my journey of exploration, please see my “Inspiring Learning” board.

But is Pinterest’s use of visuals for everyone?  One of the posts I found is a mindmap stating that we all think in pictures.  And yet the NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) representational styles are all about our different ways of representing and communicating information, suggesting that some of us prefer auditory, and others kinaesthetic (touch or feel) or auditory digital (‘self-talk’) representations.

Pinterest does include YouTube videos and audio files such as on this “youtube tips and tricks” board, but will that be enough to appeal to those whose preferred representational style is other than visual?  Pinterest statistics suggest that female users outnumber men by 4 to 1.  Perhaps we could get a demographic study by NLP representational styles?

Facilitating teams to help them achieve high performance

My colleagues and I have been facilitating a lot of team workshops – in fact that is at the heart of RiverRhee Consulting’s work for enhancing team effectiveness.  The goals and approaches that we use have been evolving as our clients ask different things of us, and as we’ve been developing our own expertise in the options available for helping teams to achieve high performance.

Team members benefit from additional insights on their own and others’ personalities.

Whether the team is relatively new, or has been around for a while, there is no doubt that gaining additional insights on people’s strengths and preferred ways of behaving will enhance relationships and build a stronger team.

A 1-hour icebreaker around the NLP representational styles, or a more in-depth 2-hour exercise based on MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can be powerful ways to kick off ½-day, 1 day or longer workshops.  The overall event might be focused on team building, managing change or overall team effectiveness.

People enjoy finding out new things about themselves and those they work with, and take away insights that they continue to reflect upon and add depth to as they apply them not only at work, but also in their everyday life.

The importance of articulating the strategic context: vision, purpose and goals

Certainty and control: these are the two key enabling factors that team members identify when asked what would help them move more positively through their personal journey of change.  Understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ – the strategic context of their work – gives them certainty about what will happen and clarity about what they can control or at least be involved with going forward.

Encouraging senior and line and managers to articulate their strategic goals in terms of key messages grounds them in the practical reality of what they want to achieve.

Sharing these key messages face-to-face with team members also makes the managers more approachable and opens up opportunities for dialogue.

I’m excited by how working with managers on their strategy is becoming an increasing component of my role as a coach and team facilitator, both independently and with the government sponsored GrowthAccelerator initiative for SMEs.

Facilitating discussions for improving team working

Managers often wish that members would take more of an active role in improving how the team works.  The answer is to give them the opportunity to have their say, and to then shape the way forward.  A pre-workshop diagnostic on the different aspects of team working, as described in “Team development, pre-requisites for success and temperature checks” can be very powerful for surfacing what’s going well, and what could be improved, especially with an outside facilitator collating the results anonymously into key themes.

It then takes only a little encouragement in a constructive workshop environment for team members to identify the priorities to focus on, along with suggested next steps and the roles they can play to address them.

Finding ways to make more of your team’s time and resources

Leaders and managers often approach us because they are looking for new ideas to address the nitty-gritty of how the team goes about its day-to-day work.

Their impetus may be a realisation that they need to do things differently in order to take on all the new things that their strategic goals entail.

There’s been a recent flurry of discussion in the APM LinkedIn group about the value or otherwise of Six Sigma and its focus on processes.  We use principles and tools taken from Lean as well as Six Sigma in our work with teams.  The opportunities these give for an open, constructive and fact-based discussion on how the team goes about its business has proved invaluable.  Contrary to what some protagonists claim, there is lots of scope for creativity, not only in the form of incremental improvements, but also for breakthrough innovation.  And yes, these workshops do make use of visual tools too!

More reflections to come

I’ll be continuing my explorations of Pinterest to expand my facilitator’s tool-kit.  I’m also looking forward to becoming qualified in MBTI Step II during the summer, so that I can further enhance team members’ insights into their own and others’ strengths.  Meanwhile, if you missed RiverRhee Consulting’s summer newsletter, and would like more food for thought, why not take a look at “Summer and the 3 Cs” now.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Feel the fear and do it anyway


By Elisabeth Goodman

Last night I heard Sheri Kershaw & Band at the Royston Folk Club – our favourite twice-monthly music venue.  She introduced her first song ‘Colours of Life‘ with the observation that we will all suffer at some time in our lives, and the suggestion that we embrace rather than resist this experience, as it is what adds colour to our lives.

One of the reasons that I write these blogs is the opportunity this gives me to share the insights that experiences like hearing someone like Sheri gives me.  Combine this with a Harvard Business review blog by Peter Bregman ‘The unexpected antidote to procrastination‘ that I spotted in my twitter feed earlier in the day, and some magic happened that I wanted to share!

Not being afraid to fall

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Bregman writes of his experience of watching surfers, who dare to ride the waves in search of that epic experience, with the full knowledge that they will always end by falling.  Some fall gracefully, others resist it for as long as they can.  But inevitably, they do fall.  He suggests that the reason we put off doing a lot of difficult things in work or in life, put off taking risks even if what we might achieve might be epic or wonderful, is the fear of what might happen, of failing, of falling, of being hurt.

However, if, like Bregman, like Sheri Kershaw, we accept that the intensity of what we might feel, of what we might suffer, is an integral part of life’s rich tapestry, and of what we can achieve and succeed at, then it’s going to be about feeling the pain, and doing it anyway.

The link to engagement, empowerment and change

This brings me to why I’m writing about music and surfing in a business blog, and why I do the work that I do!  I had the pleasure to experience a one-day course on coaching, organised by the Cambridge Network‘s Learning Collaboration, and led by Sue Blow from Management Learning & Coaching.

Listening to Sue and hearing about her approach as a coach reminded me that my work with teams is all about giving the individuals within the team the time, environment and skills to deal with the pain that they have been experiencing.  As a result, the members of the team can become more engaged with their organisation’s goals, and also feel more empowered to do something about the challenges that they are facing.

I was talking with David Bance and John Moore earlier in the week, in our nascent Melbourn Business Association Special Interest Group for Operational Excellence. We were comparing experiences of how empowered people had been to raise suggestions for improvement as a result of participating in Total Quality Management, or Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.  The best outcome was that it gave them the permission, the courage, the skills, the data and reasoning to dare to change situations where they had previously been feeling the pain.  Of course, a successful outcome is also dependent on the management and organisational support to make the resultant changes.

The fear and the pain can be large or small

I definitely do not wish to minimise or trivialise the fear, pain or suffering that people might experience in their working or home lives, and the courage and the risks that they take to overcome them.  I recognise that these can be very great and some of the situations that I come across can seem relatively small.

For example I also recently attended an excellent seminar by Janet Burton, of The Training Manager, where we explored how to develop, prepare for and deliver  presentations.  Even these kinds of situations can feel challenging and require effective mental preparation, a good stretch and taking a deep breath before beginning!

I’m also a trustee of the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, and admire the courage of the students who come in to tackle their personal challenges of recovering from bullying and other traumas that they’ve experienced, so that they can come back to learning again.

The main thing is, as Sheri Kershaw and Peter Bregman suggest, to embrace these experiences and to also remember that there are people out there who will help you if we can.

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge management, change management and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
  2. Follow the links to find out about other ways in which Elisabeth Goodmanand RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams – a Cambridge Network event


People leave their managers not their companies

“70% of people leave their managers or supervisors, not their company”.  These were some of the research findings shared with us this morning by Sue Gibson, Human Resources Consultant at DoubleG Assosiates LLP, in a Cambridge Network Breakfast meeting on retention and motivation of staff.  She also told us that mediocre managers can do a lot of damage ‘under the radar’ and can pass on stress and stifle employee engagement through inappropriate authoritarian attitudes.

As a trainer and consultant who focuses on ways to relieve the pain of people in teams, by working with inspirational managers who want to improve the way they support team members, as well as equipping the team with tools to improve their work, I was very interested to learn more about this topic!

So what makes for an inspirational manager?

We all shared our own experiences of those managers that we remember to this day or, as Sue described, ‘have a following’.  Those that have inspired us:

  • Have vision
  • Can relate and communicate with everyone in their team
  • Empower individuals
  • Speak from the heart, with passion about what they are doing
  • Have integrity
  • Are happy to recruit people better than themselves
  • Focus on the career progression of the people in their teams

They are also, in the words of one of the delegates who is a school governor: “a critical friend”.  They will give honest, timely, constructive feedback, and are consistent in doing so.

technical competence is not a criterion for becoming a manager

We have all come across situations where people have been promoted to management roles as the only route to reward their technical competence, and that of course is not necessarily the right solution.

People forced into a management route will not necessarily have the passion or aptitude for it and may spend their time trying to find opportunities to still use their technical skills.

Enlightened organisations, and there were some in the room, have developed 2 branches for promotion, so that people can progress according to their preference and strength along a technical or a management route.

How to find and develop those inspirational managers

Sue described how one organisation she supports identifies their existing inspirational managers and asks them to act as talent scouts to spot potential new talent.  These people can then choose whether or not they would like to progress up a management or a technical chain and trains them accordingly for active succession planning.

Another delegate described how they use a buddy system for new managers to help them get up to speed more quickly and effectively.

There was a general consensus that some form of active management training is needed, rather than expecting managers to just learn on the job.

other key considerations for retention and motivation

The seminar was not just about inspirational managers, but about what can be done to retain staff.  Sue stressed that this is not about rules, processes or restrictions but about getting a number of things right.  Her list included:

  • Culture
  • Interesting work
  • Development
  • The mindset of leaders and managers (which brings us back to the earlier points on inspirational managers)
  • Making sure that people know what is expected of them
  • Having clear organisational goals
  • Pay
  • Benefits

We discussed examples of individuals writing their own objectives based on the organisational goals and relating to performance (things they need to do for the job) and also their own personal development.  In Sue’s experience people have also been asked to assess their own performance against their objectives.  I mentioned that this had hints of the situation at Morning Star described by Gary Hamel in the Harvard Business Review, which I wrote about in one of my other blogs: “Why is employee engagement such an important topic?”

We also discussed the importance of showing people that they are valued, and giving managers the scope and authority to show recognition.  Sue gave examples of giving someone a meal out with their partner, including making babysitting arrangements with a professional Nanny, or paying for a week-ends Italian lessons for someone who wanted to learn. As she pointed out, the cost of these kind of recognition packages are far less than the value delivered by an employee going beyond routine requirements, or indeed the cost of replacing someone and of the knowledge lost when they leave.

In the work that I do with teams, retention and motivation is also about creating an environment where people can thrive, where they have time to think and be creative as a result of being able to focus on the key priorities of their business.

managers need to be aware of generational differences in their staff

This is a fascinating area to explore.  I didn’t quite catch everything Sue was saying at this point, so some of the following notes are a bit improvised, but it was along the lines that those aged between 30 – 40 expect to be taught, are generally technology ‘savvy’, will be tolerant of their managers and are OK about change.

Those aged 30 years and under though are more likely to teach themselves, are technology ‘wise’, will work hard if they are interested, expect their managers to collaborate with them (because they are equal) and are likely to be more actively mobile.

So these considerations reinforce what we already know, that managers need to understand their staff and relate to them as individuals, in order to manage them well.

Concluding thoughts

We finished with some discussions in small groups.  Some of the thoughts that came out of these were:

  • In small organisations, when people go on holiday, it gives those left in charge the opportunity to develop. (We’d touched earlier on the importance of giving people challenges outside their comfort zones for the same reason.)
  • There seems to be an optimum ratio of 1 manager to 8-10 staff in order to be able to build rapport, engage with team members and generally manage them well
  • Managers can be blockers!
  • The importance of empowering staff to improve the way they work as they are the ones who will best understand the opportunities to do so.
  • In start-ups, HR should be a foundation stone, not an add on: people can be the biggest asset, as well as the biggest cost!

Were you at this seminar?  If so, and you’d like to add any material that I’ve missed, do feel free to do so as a comment.  Also, if you think I’ve misinterpreted anything that was said, do please set me right!

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Elisabeth Goodman’s 2012 blogs in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blogs.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog (Recognising reactions to change, and responding to them) had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

These were the top viewed blogs:

  1. Recognising reactions to change, and responding to them  November 2011
  2. What can Lean and Six Sigma and Dilts’ Logical Levels of Change bring to effective change management? March 2012
  3. Why is employee engagement such an important topic?  March 2012
  4. Top Tips for Motivating Teams  January 2012
  5. Lean and Six Sigma in R&D and Service Delivery – opportunities and challenges  February 2011

Click here to see the complete report.

Banishing the Monday morning blues: Being Exceptional


Holidays are an excellent time to catch-up with my reading, so I have just had a very stimulating week reading Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional”.  I’ve previously enjoyed Yeung’s books on networking, and emotional intelligence, and picked this one up at random, not really knowing what to expect.

It’s a gem!  Like his other books it’s extremely readable – with anecdotal illustrations from the many exceptional people that he has interviewed, backed up by references from the literature, exercises to start developing our own capabilities for being exceptional and summaries at the end of each chapter in case we missed anything.

I would strongly recommend everyone to read this book, but in the meantime, here’s my own interpretive summary.

(By the way, the key capabilities in this book are aimed at individuals, but many would apply to businesses or teams – so I’ll be writing the next issue of my company newsletter based on this too.  Look out for ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ on http://riverrheeconsulting.wordpress.com)

Banishing the Monday morning blues (authenticity)

I’m always sad when I come across people who feel glum or worse at the start of the working week.  I’ve wondered if I’m naïve to think that people have a choice: that they could take the plunge and go for something different.

Rob Yeung backs me up: he calls this ‘authenticity’ and suggests that we should absolutely be true to ourselves and find work that is inspiring: what we enjoy most and are good at.  It’s what will help us feel fulfilled and, whilst doing it, put us ‘in the flow’ – where time just goes by without us noticing.  If we find and do what is authentic to us, Yeung maintains that the money will follow!

Being ‘authentic’ does not necessarily mean completely changing what we’re doing – it may be possible to craft a current job or role to bring it closer to what we enjoy doing the most.  This relates to other blogs that I’ve written about taking a self-employed attitude when working for an employer.  Fostering this may also lead to greater employee engagement and empowerment.

Having a vision

The idea of writing a business or team vision is well established – that of writing one for ourselves as individuals is less so.  Yeung makes a strong case for both developing and writing down our personal vision.

A vision acts as a framework for our ‘authenticity’.  It helps us create work-life balance so that we give enough time to all the things that are important to us: family, friends, physical health, social activities or anything else, as well as our work. It helps us enjoy the ‘here and now’ and avoid ‘destination fixation’.  And it puts our shorter term goals into a longer term context so that we can make sure we don’t get inappropriately side-tracked.

Up till now my personal vision has been very much in my head – but I’ll be writing it down, referring to it and refreshing it as Yeung suggests.  I’ve written my first draft.

Daring

I’m following a different order in describing these capabilities than the one in the book, because I believe that finding our area of ‘authenticity’, and then putting it within the context of a personal vision gives us the focus from which everything else can flow.  Daring is then all about taking action: pursuing opportunities that come our way even if they’re scary, but with the conviction that they’re the right thing to do – as I did in starting my own business!

Being daring is about doing things that we would otherwise regret not having done.  But it’s also about articulating these daring activities as individual goals, with specific measures (so we know when we’ve succeeded), timelines (to avoid procrastination), and a series of steps that we can follow one at a time and so maintain and build our motivation as each step succeeds.

I love Yeung’s suggestion of having a ‘setback manifesto’, so that we can constructively review what’s happened if things go wrong, identify actions to take to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence, and know how to behave if something similar happens again!

All the ‘C’s

Yeung describes 5 other capabilities of exceptional people, which would seem to ‘feed’ and sustain our authenticity.

Curiosity or ‘awe’ enables us to develop our knowledge, pick up new ideas, be more creative.  In a work situation this is what enables us to ‘work smarter not harder’: solve problems more effectively and innovate.  Yeung encourages us to read widely – not only in our area of expertise, but across disciplines too.  Incidentally he challenges the group approach to brainstorming, saying it is less effective than individual brainstorming and suggesting a new (4-tier) model, which combines the two.  I will definitely be trying this different approach with teams.

Connecting with people to achieve diversity in our contacts, but with an emphasis on ‘netfriending’ rather than ‘networking’ so that we build relationships with the people that we get to know.  Yeung talks about ‘seeking the spark’ with people where connecting comes easily rather than forcing ourselves to try building relationships with everyone we meet.  He also reminds us that making connections with people can come through speaking at and running events or courses, writing, joining committees, going to conferences etc. not just attending pure networking events.  For those working within an organisation, connecting can come from going to lunch with people, joining task forces, or simply stopping by to say hello to colleagues.

Cherishing is about building that rapport with people; having the emotional intelligence to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; really listening to others and giving them space to express themselves.  Yeung also encourages us to look for the ‘3rd way’ in conflict situations in that both people could be right in their views, and the way forward could build on both views, rather than on only one or the other.

Centredness is also a form of emotional intelligence.  In this case it’s about developing our inner calm; cultivating more positive than negative inner thoughts; recognising that ‘thoughts are just thoughts’; and developing a mindfulness or focus on the here and now.  Yeung has some very helpful exercises on how we can help ourselves feel better about both short-term and more serious emotional setbacks.

Citizenship is all about integrity, being a responsible member of our community, and respecting the environment (sustainability).  It’s about focusing on our personal legacy and managing our reputation.  Without it, all the other efforts we might make at being exceptional could be wiped out!

Closing thoughts

“E is for Exceptional” has been an inspirational book.  There are lots of ideas that I have taken away for developing my own capabilities, and I’m looking forward to exploring how these ideas can be applied to ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ in my RiverRhee Consulting newsletter.  Hopefully some of you will also pick up Rob Yeung’s book, and/or follow my newsletter.

I do hope that anyone suffering from Monday morning blues will discover a way to banish them forever, and will be daring enough to follow it through!

[Footnote.  It’s interesting to compare Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional” with Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness” – there is a strong overlap in the capabilities covered between them and I may re-read Covey’s books in that light on my next holiday!  I would also mention Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work” as another easy to read, exercise based approach for helping you to find your ‘authenticity’.  I wrote a blog some time ago (Building Strong Personal Careers)  inspired by “The 8th Habit” and “Do More Great Work” which readers might also find interesting.]

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.

Why is employee engagement such an important topic?


By Elisabeth Goodman

My blog on employee engagement (Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners) is, of all the blogs that I have written since 2009), the one that has attracted the most attention.  I wrote it in response to an article I read in the business section of the Sunday Observer1 – a very informative study that the Observer had commissioned, rich in case studies and data from FTSE 100 companies.  So why has this blog attracted so much attention?

Employee engagement is the key to organisational and team effectiveness

The Observer article caught my attention because employee engagement, or involvement is intrinsic to business process improvement through such techniques as Lean and Six Sigma.  If people are not engaged, they won’t be committed to the organisation’s goals, won’t be able to communicate those goals as part of building strong customer relations, and won’t be looking for ways to achieve those goals through efficient internal processes.

People also need to be engaged in order to achieve effective business change.  Participants in my Change Management courses sometimes find it a revelation to hear that resistance from those experiencing change is a good thing, something to be welcomed.  Resistance is an indication that people are actually beginning to engage with a change:  that they are considering what the impact will be on them, rather than oblivious to or ignoring it.

And without engagement, people will find it impossible to identify and share the learning and insights, which are essential to healthy and thriving teams and organisations if they are to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.

As I wrote in the December 2011 version of my RiverRhee Newsletter, “The answer comes from within… with the help of others”, it’s only possible to have an effective team or organisation if people are engaged.  Employees have the key!

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Intrapreneurs’

One of the big themes in my life as a corporate employee was ‘empowerment’: encouraging employees to appreciate and act upon the idea that they had ‘the power’ to make decisions and carry them out without necessarily referring to their managers.

As someone who is now self-employed and runs my own business, the idea of acting otherwise makes no sense at all!  I work in teams in an associate relationship, and we collaborate in our decision-making and actions.  I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and have often wondered what it would be like if people took an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to working within organisations.  In a 2010 newsletter (‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?), I suggested that what might help people to do this is to take a more active perspective of their careers – so that they view their current job as one that they have chosen, and are in control of, rather than something that they are being subjected to (to put it a bit bluntly!).

What if there weren’t any managers?!

I really enjoyed reading the case study of Morning Star in the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review.2   Gary Hamel describes a leading food processor, with revenues of over $700 million and 400 full-time employees, which functions entirely around the principles of self-management.

At Morning Star, no-one has a manager, each employee negotiates responsibilities with their peers and is responsible for finding the tools that they need for their work, everyone can spend the company money, there are no job titles or promotions, and compensation is decided between peers. The only ‘boss’ is the overall mission of the company.

This model works at Morning Star because it combines an individuals’ responsibility (and freedom) for managing their work within the context of the overall mission, and collaboration between peers to define and review individual roles and expected performance.

The article goes into a lot more detail, but one of the many interesting aspects of this model is that engagement and empowerment are not issues at all in this kind of scenario.  As a result of this approach, every individual inevitably has to:

  1. Use their initiative
  2. Continuously develop their skills to enhance the quality of their work
  3. Display flexibility to respond to the changing environment of the organisation
  4. Work in a collegiate way to fulfill their role in relation to their peers
  5. Make decisions that directly affect their work

These are wonderful illustrations of process improvement / Lean and Six Sigma (1,2,4,5), Change Management (3), and Knowledge Management (2, 4) in practice.

Some final thoughts about thriving

I love my work, and welcome Monday mornings as the start of another week of new discoveries, opportunities to work with others and practice and develop my skills.  I meet many others running their own business that feel the same.  It sounds like the employees at Morning Star may also feel like this.

Another Harvard Business Review article3 suggests that giving employees a chance to learn and grow will help them and the organisation to thrive.  This time the managers are in charge again, but some of the themes re-occur:

  1. Providing employees with the discretion to make decisions directly affecting their work
  2. Ensuring that people have the information they need to understand how their work relates to the organisation’s mission and strategy
  3. Encouraging good (civil) behaviour – positive relationships
  4. Offering performance feedback

The authors suggest that these 4 mechanisms will foster vitality (or energy in individuals and in those with whom they interact), and learning (or growth from new knowledge and skills).

Conclusion

It seems that, unless people are running their own business or are self-managing themselves in an organisation such as Morning Star, employers need to study and support the mechanisms that will enable employee engagement and so help individuals and the organisation to thrive.  We’re obviously not there yet.

Why are you interested in employee engagement? It would be great to read your comments.

Notes

  1. Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service? Observer, 22 August 2010, pp38-39
  2. Gary Hamel.  First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, December 2011, pp49-60
  3. Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath.  Creating sustainable performance.  Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, pp93-99

Elisabeth Goodmanis the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).