Employee Engagement Just by Changing the Way We Think

March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Recently my car was stalling. I took it into a local shop (not the dealer). They replaced a part and assured me it was fixed. They showed me the “shiny new part.” I drove the car for a few days and it began to stall again. I took it back to be fixed again. They couldn’t find the problem. They recommended I take it to the dealer who had more specialized knowledge. The dealer was able to find the problem and fixed it.

The local shop installed a “shiny new part” that looked much better than the old part but there was absolutely no improvement of the performance of the whole car. Replacing and improving parts claiming improvement on those parts does not guarantee an improvement in the overall system.

The local shop replaced, and therefore improved, one of the parts of my car. That action did not improve the performance of the car. I still could not trust it. The car might still stall until the proper part was replaced. They wasted my time and my money to fix something that made no difference to the overall improvement of the car’s performance.  What is the insight here? Improving the parts of an organization does not predictably improve the performance of the organization.

 The Flawed Tools of the OD Professional

 Performance appraisals and 360 degree development tools are used to improve the performance of the parts of the organizations (the individual). The intention is to improve the performance of the individual in order to improve their effectiveness and therefore lead to the improvement of the whole organization. This thinking is flawed. This thinking is left over from the beginning of the industrial age. This belief still prevails even among many Organization Development (OD) experts.

These consultants and their respective clients believe that dereliction of duty, and or poor development in leadership skills of individuals, especially managers and leaders, is still the main cause of most of the performance ills in organizations. Many OD experts continue to promote these tools in their management consulting practices today. Many consultants make a very fine living promoting and implementing a useless and wasteful tool. They promote and install “a shiny new part” in the form of improved skills of a manager and they really have no way of knowing if it really makes any improvement at all in the overall performance of the organization. They really don’t even know how to measure the improvement other than the subjective claims of those who participated in the instrument implementation and/or the observations of those who surround and observe them.  These tools waste time and money to fix something that make no difference to the overall improvement of the larger system.

Change to Systems Thinking

As OD professionals shouldn’t we be focusing on the overall system and not the parts? A system is a series of interdependent processes that attempt to achieve an aim.  This means the interactions between the parts is more important than the quality of the individual parts themselves.  That is why the replacement of that one part in my car made no difference.  It was the wrong part and had nothing to do with the interaction within the electrical system. 

At worst, many organizations create a competitive environment where individuals compete for bonuses, promotions, and other recognition in order to improve themselves.  This detracts from the correct focus which should be a team effort to study the overall system and improve the interactions immediately.

Why do we need a specific instrument(s) to tell us anonymous information about a person’s behavior when a short and immediately truthful conversation would instead provide more instant feedback with more immediate results?  We need these wasteful instruments because it is not safe to tell the truth to managers because of fear of being evaluated by performance appraisals, a threat of loss of promotion or bonus.  The very wasteful tools that cause the problems are the same ones we continue to use and they perpetuate the lack of trust.

I have developed a process that enables everyone in the organization to instantly and continuously assess the quality of their interpersonal interactions and the quality of their system interactions and give and receive feedback for the purpose of improving those interactions.  The intention is to find flaws in the quality or deficits in the speed of the interactions in order to serve customers better and therefore more easily and quickly achieve the vision mission and strategy of the organization.

Like a flock of birds that move as one self-organizing system, my process can help your organization to improve its interactions instantly and respond to changing needs of customers, the work environment, or trends in the economy.  This new way of thinking is called the Values and System leadership model.  The description of this model is detailed in my new book  The Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement.

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