Tag Archives: knowledge workers

Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners


Employee involvement is of course fundamental to the success of any business process improvement initiative: without the close involvement of those who are involved in an organisation’s process, it would be futile to try to identify opportunities for improvement, let alone to try to implement them.  So it was with some interest that I read the results, in this Sunday’s business management article in the Observer : “Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service?” (22 August 2010, pp38-39) – commissioned research on how the FTSE 100 companies report on employee engagement, and of how they ranked the top 30.

The research on employee engagement and the findings

The full report carried out by Transparent Consulting, with assistance from Snap Surveys, Call Britannia and Tomorrow’s company is available from http://www.transparent-consulting.com/engagement-index/.  It evaluated the FTSE 100 companies’ annual reports up to June 2010, and compared them to the 2006 Companies Act requirements, which include the need for companies to report on their impacts on employees.

Amongst the report’s key findings are, that: “Companies and sectors which prioritise customer satisfaction are also the ones that seem to find it worthwhile to give attention to employee engagement.”  (Banks, insurers, utilities, telecoms and media were the highest-scoring sectors.)  Such organisations are thus addressing some aspects of the two key components for effective business process improvement: customer relationship management, and employee involvement.

The report’s detailed data make for an interesting review of the FTSE 100 companies.

Examples given of how companies engaged with their staff fell into the following categories:

  • Communication – 80% used company intranets or newsletters; 13% sent senior executives ‘back to the floor’ (e.g. Marks & Spencer, Tesco, J Sainsbury, Kingfisher); only 4% conducted exit interviews when employees left.
  • Employee surveys – nearly 70% conduct regular surveys, with 41% of the total conducting annual surveys, and some conducting quarterly ones (Lloyds Banking Group, British Airways, BT and J Sainsbury).

There are also other important aspects of employee engagement covered by the report such as diversity policies and Health and Safety practices.  Pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are also mentioned in the report.

Case studies on employee engagement and customer satisfaction from BT, Sainsbury and Centrica

The following extracts from the Observer article’s description of the case studies in the report speak to aspects of employee engagement and customer relationship management that could support a business improvement culture:

  • In BT, each manager gets a report on their team’s collated responses to the employee engagement survey, and is expected to work with their team to address the results.
  • Sainsbury operates a process for collecting ideas from employees and putting suggestions into practice.  They also have a “daily huddle” where employees talk directly to managers, and senior managers / executives are expected to visit their stores on a weekly basis to talk to front-line staff.  Sainsbury also have an online “community” to collect employee feedback.  Finally, they also conduct monthly customer surveys.
  • Centrica ensures that clients’ opinions about their service are fed back to their employees.

Closing thoughts

As Simon Caulkin points out in his aptly titled accompanying commentary to the Observer article: “Britain’s companies can’t afford to continue wasting the human capacity in their grasp”, it’s time for companies and financial analysts to think beyond economic efficiency, and recognize that “in a knowledge-based economy it’s worker’s ideas and inventiveness that matter most.”

Companies’ focus on employee engagement and on the tools to facilitate and measure this engagement are important, but will only work if the people involved are: doing the jobs that they enjoy; supported in the skills that they need to do them effectively; ‘empowered’ (or have control over) how they do their jobs and can improve them; and have a belief (endorsed by their managers) that what they are doing is worthwhile.

Although neither article, nor the report mention this, a strong awareness of what is important to the success of the organisation, including up-to-date information on the needs and views of customers, are all key complements to effective employee engagement, and to the success of Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.

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.

Advertisements

Achieving more value with less


As Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England point out, in their one-hundred-and-ten page “Predictable results in unpredictable times”1: “in bad times, the distractions are more severe than ever… As people get laid off, the survivors have more to do.  The distractions pile up to the sky as the economy grows rougher…”

In our increasingly lean organisations, we all need to achieve ‘more with less’.  But rather than indiscriminately piling on more work with the stress and burn-out that this will entail, we need to find ways to ‘work smarter not harder’.  We can do so by focusing on what our customers value, and examining how we and our teams can deliver that value more effectively.

Covey et al’s book is a very readable synopsis of modern day thinking on how to tie a strong focus on strategy, keeping score and customer value with process improvement, engagement and empowerment of the people in our teams.  This blog picks out and discusses some of the book’s main points.

Build customer loyalty vs. customer satisfaction

We all know the importance of understanding what would satisfy our customers, but the concept of ‘customer loyalty’ takes this further.  What would it take for our customers to be emotionally connected to us, so that they would miss us if we were gone?  How far do we understand what we would need to do to achieve either customer satisfaction, or customer loyalty?

Covey et al quote a Bain survey of senior executives in 362 companies where:

  • 96% said their companies were customer focused
  • 80% believed their companies delivered a ‘superior customer experience’
  • Only 8% of their customers agreed

From my conversations with people in various organisations, there are many opportunities for companies to gain a much better understanding of what constitutes value for their customers.

Covey et al suggest that companies should look for opportunities to reduce the complexity and diversity of what they offer to their customers, and so do less than their competitors, but do it better.

Develop employee engagement, empowerment and loyalty

It’s a sad paradox that in difficult times, many of the people that get laid off are those who have the knowledge that could help the organisation out of recession.

Covey et al make a number of references to how Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox in 2001, managed to turn the organisation around.  One of the key ways she did this was by making fewer people redundant than others might have done, and by appealing directly to people throughout the organisation for ideas.  It may seem obvious but, as the authors point out, “only knowledgeable people can create the solutions you need to succeed in a crisis.”

These 2 other extracts from the book are also I think particularly pertinent:

“Even in tough times (perhaps especially in tough times) people want to contribute, they want to help, they want to make a difference.”

and

“When a company aligns the customer experience with the employee experience, they create employees who are passionate about what the company stands for.”

These thoughts remind me of the points Stephen R Covey makes here and in his book “The 8th Habit”2, which I’ve written about elsewhere3 about how much more effective we can be in our work if we find our ‘voice’, and also in my commentary4 on Goffee and Jones’ book “Clever”5 about the need to clearly and regularly communicate the organisation’s vision and goals to your  ‘knowledge workers’.

Push the ‘reset’ button to align around goals and continuously improve your work

Covey et al close the loop on ‘doing more with less’ by having organisations realign what they do around the priorities set by customer value and employees ideas to address them.

The priorities are in effect the organisation’s one, two or three ‘wildly important goals’.  Effective team leaders will ensure that everyone understands what they need to do in relation to these, and also that there are good measures in place to monitor performance against these measures.

Covey et al differentiate between ‘lag’ measures and ‘lead’ measures. Lag measures are typically the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or output measures that organisations use to demonstrate to what extent they have achieved their goals.

Lead measures are more effective indicators of anticipated performance because they are based on ‘in-process’ performance.  Teams should be able to regularly review how they are doing against these lead measures, and share knowledge and lessons learnt to continuously improve their performance and so achieve the final goals more effectively.

Closing thoughts

Large sections of Covey et al’s book are devoted to the importance of execution and trust.  To me these are enablers of the 3 main themes I’ve pulled out above.

Effective execution relies on focusing on a few key goals, making sure everyone knows what they are, keeping score, and ensuring that the team reviews and improves performance.

Trust is the trust between leaders and their teams in ensuring that there is transparency around the goals and where the organisation is in relation to them, keeping commitments (on the leaders’ part), and extending trust to the team.

But trust is also about having trustworthy systems and processes such that, as for the Formula One pit crew: each knows their job: “Silently they do it, and they get out of the way.”  Great Ormond Street Hospital, London studied the Formula One team’s approach to improve the serious issues they were facing and, as a result of this, “introduced a system that defines carefully who does what, and in what order.  Every action is focused and productive; everyone has a contribution to make.”

In all of this thinking, there are strong analogies with Stephen Spear’s 4 main steps in “Chasing the Rabbit”6, which I also describe in one of my blogs7: design (or define customer value, processes and roles to achieve them), improve and share knowledge (involving everyone in these), build capabilities (through the interaction between leaders and their teams).

I’ll close with this quote in the book, which I particularly like:

“Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depended on your success” Warren Buffett

Notes

1. “Predictable results in unpredictable times”, by Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England. FranklinCovey Publishing, 2009.

2. “The 8th Habit. From effectiveness to greatness”, by Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster Sound Ideas,1980.

3. Empowerment and self-employment; (A consultant’s) life is like a game of rummy; Aptitude, Attitude, Plenitude and Servitude.; Social networking tools, empowerment and knowledge management; Project leaders empower, project managers organise; Powerful quotes for strong performing teams… – see https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com”

4. Why conventional knowledge management, process improvement and project management won’t work with ‘clever’ teams.  Or will they? http://wp.me/pAUbH-1n

5. “Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.” By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Press, 2009

6. “Chasing the Rabbit. How market leaders outdistance the competition and how great companies can catch up and win”, by Steven Spear. McGraw Hill 2009.

7. High performing organisations – interweaving process improvement, knowledge management and change management http://wp.me/pAUbH-1V

8. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement, knowledge and change management to enhance team effectiveness.

Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.

Why conventional knowledge management, process improvement and project management won’t work with ‘clever’ teams. Or will they?


‘Simply putting clever people together does not make a team’, and, ‘There are many examples of extremely bright and talented groups that signally underperform’.  So say Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in ‘Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.’ (1) This book, which Elisabeth Goodman, principal consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, picked up as a result of attending a Cambridge Network business lecture delivered by Professor Gareth Jones, should definitely be read cover-to-cover by any leader wishing to fully understand the challenges and opportunities of working with their most talented people.

Although the focus of the book is on how to lead clever people, there are passing references to the implications for applying knowledge management, process improvement and project management to create effective teams. In this blog, Elisabeth Goodman discusses some potentially provocative statements, and expands further on her insights and reflections as to how these disciplines might apply to ‘clever’ teams.

Goffee and Jones define ‘clever’ in the English Oxford Dictionary context of being skilled or talented.  More fully, they define clever people as “highly talented individuals with the potential to create disproportionate amounts of value from the resources that the organization makes available to them”. Their book includes a wealth of examples and insights from a wide range of disciplines and organisations such as Pharmaceutical R&D, Banking, Consultants, Universities, IT / software, Formula One Racing and many more. A few of the examples are quoted here.

Knowledge Management:

Knowledge is power and not to be defined. Personal (or ‘tacit’) knowledge and how to apply it is the currency of clever people.  So, whereas sharing knowledge is at the heart of effective knowledge management, ‘clevers’ might have a sense that sharing their knowledge will devalue them. However ‘clevers’ do:

  • Recognize that in order to be successful, they need to work with others who will help them to translate their ideas into tangible deliverables.  There is therefore a recognized need to share knowledge within a team.
  • Build networks with others like them both within and outside their organisations, and so again there is an implicit sharing of knowledge within these communities.

Effective leaders recognize that risk taking and failure are pre-requisites for innovation by ‘clevers’.  These experiences provide ideal opportunities for learning by all members of the team or networks.

‘Clevers’ are resistant to anything that looks like bureaucracy or unnecessary distractions from their core interest of pursuing their ideas.  Effective leaders aim to minimise such distractions.  Knowledge management processes and systems that require ’clevers’ to spend time in meetings, or filling out information that detracts from their core work could be categorized as such.

The challenge, and opportunity for leaders and for those with a remit for knowledge management is to find ways to harness the conversations that take place in teams and in networks, the learnings from experiences, and the general ‘tacit’ knowledge of ‘clevers’ in as un-bureaucratic a way as possible. This could be an argument for ensuring that organisations continue to have individuals with a dedicated remit, and with the credentials, to facilitate and record conversations within teams, networks (or Communities of Interest / Practice), around learnings, and from interviews with ‘clevers’ on an ongoing basis.

Werner Bauer, chief technology officer of Nestlé, and one of the interviewees in the book, sees knowledge networks, and managing know-how through people (rather than systems), as a key element of his job.  It would be interesting to discover how this is handled at Nestlé.

Process improvement

Many will argue that the role of ‘clevers’ should focus on innovation, rather than processes, process improvement, or efficiency. Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Score Card approach(2) clearly shows how there is scope for both perspectives in an organisation’s strategy.

  • Elisabeth Goodman’s experience of running Lean and Six Sigma workshops for research scientists in Pharmaceutical R&D reinforces the fact that effective teams have an iterative dynamic between the two.  They develop new models and assays, add them into their screens for new drug candidates, continuously review and improve these processes, and innovate some more.
  • Cisco, a highly innovative organisation, has replicable models, and believes this is the right thing to do because it helps to predict the future.  But at the same time, these too must continuously improve.
  • The McClaren team is obviously strongly focused on ‘process improvement’.  Goffee and Jones give a wonderful account of the recent Formula One World Championship, when Lewis Hamilton swept to victory assisted by the perfect timing of the team as to when to change the tires on a slippery circuit.

As management writers such as Steven Covey  and Peter Drucker point out, we should recognize that the nature of organisations has changed, and that the focus should not necessarily be on efficiency.  Organisations are becoming increasingly complex, and built on networks and know-how, rather than pure production or services centered within one organisation.  Examples of these ‘Clever Collectives’ include Google and Microsoft.  This is also increasingly the model being developed by Pharmaceutical organisations.

Project Management

There needs to be a disciplined rigour to ‘kill’ poor projects.  Something that may be hard to do where ‘clevers’ are keen to pursue a particular idea.  Again, this is something that Pharmaceutical R&D organisations strive to do through effective portfolio management.

Good management will involve transitioning projects from ‘clevers’ who may be more concerned with the ideas, to ‘implementers’ who may be more skilled in operational procedures.

A continuous focus on the vision, goals, and ongoing communication will be absolutely key to keep clever teams on track with what needs to be delivered. Goffee and Jones provide good illustrations of how Will Wright, the man behind SimCity and Spore at Electronic Arts, achieves just that with his team.

In conclusion, ‘Clever’ provides a rich source of information and insight for how to lead clever people and teams, not only from a general leadership perspective, but also for those looking to apply such disciplines as knowledge management, process improvement, and project management in today’s increasingly complex organisations.

Notes

(1) “Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.” By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Press (2009)

(2) “The Execution Premium” by Robert S Kaplan & David P Norton, Harvard Business Press (2008)

(3) This article focuses on three of RiverRhee Consulting’s 4 main areas of expertise for enhancing team effectiveness for improved productivity and team morale:

  1. Focusing on your customers
  2. Simplifying and streamlining what you do
  3. Optimising information and knowledge assets
  4. Ensuring successful business change

Follow the links for more information about RiverRhee Consulting, and about principal consultant, Elisabeth Goodman.

Taking control of your working life as an employee; a first 100 days approach?


At 4am on a fresh autumn morning, a coach load of members of the European Pharmaceutical Student Association (EPSA) began their early morning journey from Genoa, Italy, to Nice (France) to attend a workshop on ‘Personal Career Development – new to the job or ready for a change?’  This was one of the sessions organised by the DIA’s 3rd Annual Clinical Forum in Nice, France, and also an integral part of EPSA’s own conference taking place simultaneously in Genoa!

As one of the ways that Elisabeth Goodman, principal consultant at RiverRhee Consulting (1) helps to improve team effectiveness, productivity and morale is to enable team members to generally ‘find their voice’, Elisabeth took the opportunity to listen to what others have to say on this subject.  This article, with the kind permission of the speakers involved, documents what she learnt during this workshop.

Carl Metzdorff, Principal at ACES Health Care, introduced the concept of ‘the first 100 days’ as one that obviously applied to Obama’s and other US Presidents’ first days in office.  It’s also a concept that organisations use in the days following mergers and acquisitions.  Carl used it to describe the priorities that a new manager should address in his / her first 100 days.  He suggested that the first 100 days are a period of grace or temporary incompetence whilst the incumbent is getting to grips with their job.  It’s a time when effective communication is essential, when the individual is expected to form their team, shape and share their strategic direction, and start delivering results.  To achieve all of this, a new manager would do well to start developing their plans before the start of the 100-day period, as this can run out very quickly.

For an individual ‘finding their voice’, wanting to make themselves visible, and make an impact that will shape their career going forward, a 100-day approach might be a very useful framework.  Thus they too could do some useful preparatory work to identify their values, career goals, and key stakeholders in the organisation.  They could use their first 100 days to connect and communicate with the key stakeholders and get input on how they could best deliver value to the organisation as well as effectively start shaping their career.

Nicolaos Gentis, PhD Student and Teaching Assistant at Industrial Pharmacy Lab, and Parliamentarian for EPSA, also emphasized how important it is for students to be clear on their wants, skills/talents, strengths and weaknesses when considering their career direction. He also talked about the importance of communication in the early days of a new job both to learn from others, and to ensure that the job develops as the individual would wish.

Wim Souverijns, Senior Director Global Marketing Excellence, Celgene, own career is a vivid illustration of how switching jobs during the course of a career is part of the deal nowadays.  In 12 years he has worked in 3 industries, 4 companies, 6 jobs, and has had 4 international moves.  He suggested that a desire to learn and a basic curiosity are key factors for creating ones own career opportunities.  Wim also stressed the importance of reflecting on ones career objectives, on what matters to the individual, and what they are good at or enjoy doing in time.  Companies will try to get the best out of an individual, for the benefit of the organisation.  The individual needs to decide independently, where they want to go. Again, he stressed the importance of communicating with other stakeholders, in this case with one’s boss, and of identifying a mentor or coach, to help steer one’s career in the right direction.

Finally, Max Beckmann, Managing Director of Beckmann Bio, reminded people that being self-employed, or starting one’s own business, is also an option as a route for achieving your potential, if working within an organisation no longer meets your needs.  Whilst being employed has many benefits, if it gets too limiting in terms of the scope of an individual’s work, their level of responsibility, or their income, then being self-employed may be the answer.

However, the self-employed route is not a choice to be taken lightly!  The alternative is to take a long hard look at your values, goals, talents and strengths; consider how you could meet the needs of others from within an organisation; and take a 100-day approach to achieving it.

Notes

(1) This article focuses on one of RiverRhee Consulting’s key goals: helping teams achieve improved team morale.  We enhance team effectiveness for improved productivity and team morale by:

  1. Focusing on your customers
  2. Simplifying and streamlining what you do
  3. Optimising information and knowledge assets
  4. Ensuring successful business change

If individuals within a team are clear on their personal objectives, strengths and on how they can best support their customers, then they will play a powerful role in helping the rest of the team enhance its effectiveness and productivity.

Follow the links for more information about RiverRhee Consulting, and about principal consultant, Elisabeth Goodman.

We are still in the knowledge age: are we meeting the needs of knowledge workers?


I first got involved in the discipline of Knowledge Management about 15 years ago, so it’s very refreshing to revisit the basics and check on what I might have missed or forgotten along the way.  This is why I’m reading Melissie Clemmons Rumizen’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management.”  It’s a very good book.

At one point Melissie references a presentation she attended by Peter Drucker about how to make knowledge workers more effective – this was back in 1998 – but seems very relevant today in the context of how to help people continue to feel motivated during the continued cut-backs that are going on.  In fact, Drucker’s points, like Covey’s (see my earlier blogs) remind us that we are very much in the knowledge age rather than the industrial age, and should be treating people / behaving accordingly, irrespective of any cut-backs!

Here then are Drucker’s points about how to make knowledge workers more effective:

  • Make demands of them and help them to establish goals (this is where we can help people to adopt a self-employed attitude, but within the context of the overall organisation’s goals)
  • Make them accountable for achieving these goals in their own way (empowerment again?!)
  • Ensure they have the education and training for their current jobs, and future development (I particularly like the ‘future’ consideration)
  • Place them where they can be productive (i.e. if they are a square peg in a round hole, you may need to move them to a square hole)
  • Ensure meaningful (i.e. in their context) reward and recognition

These seem like good reminders for managers, but also for individual knowledge workers.  If the latter are not happy with their current work environment, it may help them to understand what’s missing and perhaps take some action to address the gaps?

For me, with one of my upcoming courses being around Promoting Information Literacy to End Users – it is a timely reminder of what the needs of those End Users (i.e. Knowledge Workers) may be.