Often times leadership comes up with an idea, works the idea and then plans to implement the latest brainstorm. So why don’t employees simply buy into the idea completely and carry out the idea? They have seen this before. Not all ideas are great ideas. So how can the process be improved? Consider engaging employees in the process along the way. This is not necessary for every decision, but for major ones, this is critical.
Some questions to ask
Is leadership firmly on board with all participants?
Do all of the leaders know their roles and what actions they will be taking?
Are the leaders ready to take time and resources as anticipated to carry out the initiative?
If there is not a resounding yes to all three questions, maybe leadership needs to step back for a moment and find out why. Rather than cause a problem, it may be better to forgo a negative implementation. Think about. If a bad decision is implemented memories are long regarding our last worst act. Think of the implications the next time it is necessary to roll out something major.
How about employee input?
Instead of leadership coming up with everything and only seeking a blessing from employees, what about asking different parts of the organization for their input? This is a critical sanity check for one and it demonstrates true listening and trust building if implemented properly. To implement properly this means facilitating a discussion with active listening. When you actively listen you paraphrase, summarize ask open ended questions and empathize. This goes a log way towards building trust.
By asking employees what they really think and soliciting employee commentary critical blunders can be addressed before implementation.
If key employees are brought on board to the process and they buy into the process this can really make implementation positive. So, who are the key employees? Every organization has their naysayers. In addition, every organization has those individuals that have significant inferential power. Not necessarily organizational power associated with the official organization chart. Rather, those that have the ability to persuade and influence others in the organization regardless of where they fit into the organization.
The organization typically knows who these people are. They are the ones others look to for reactions. If such and such is on board and thinks it’s a good idea, then others will likely follow. If that person or those people do not, then it is going to be very hard to implement the new strategy. Knowing this, isn’t a good idea to have them be part of the team to provide feedback. If this group has ideas, they are considered, and they feel listened to, then chances are much better for a successful launch.
A new book for consideration
In the new book The Façade of Excellence: Defining a New Normal of Leadership by John Dyer the author provides classic examples. In these examples he offers insights where management has operated “old school” where employees were expected to keep their heads down, do their jobs, don’t ask questions, and keep out of trouble. That really is “old school”. In today’s world the best millennials are not going to put up with that and they’ll leave. No employer can afford to recruit, hire, train and lose employees in today’s competitive environment. The idea of operating “old school” simply is not realistic in today’s world.
Collaboration is what is expected. Everyone in today’s work force is expecting to be treated with dignity and respect. The organization wants to build trust. Consider a process to solicit ideas from the employees.
Process of selecting ideas
To do this, consider using a facilitator to:
All ideas should be accepted
Discussion can follow to clarify the idea conceptually
Consideration should be given economically, socially and environmentally
Once all ideas have been aired, a process is needed to prioritize ideas for additional research. For example,
Ideas could be categorized as fitting into one of four boxes:
- High impact and low effort – do it now – top priority
- High impact and high effort – explore for long term implementation
- Low impact and low effort – maybe -likely not at this time, but don’t necessarily discard
- Low impact and high effort – walk away from these
Define ahead of time what high and low effort means. For example, determine a standard in terms of time or dollars. The same is true for impact. Define the standard in terms market share, dollars or a similar measure that can be determined.
No ideas can be removed except by the originator of the idea.
After sorting consider prioritizing the alternatives. This could be done for example with multi-voting. Take the number of ideas (say 20) and divide by 1/3 or 1/4 of the number of ideas. Using 1/4 in this instance each person is given 5 votes. Their number 1 vote might be one color (blue) and the other 4 votes might be in green. In that way everyone can see what was a number one priority for each voter and the total number of votes for each of the ideas. Discussion follows. Those with the most votes and/or those with the most number 1 votes are taken first.
Next steps in the process
Now that ideas have been prioritized, how will they be further developed? With additional research develop the idea with specifics. Give it meat. Provide details. Then determine the economic, social and environmental impacts. When exploring the social impacts consider up-down-lateral impacts within the organization, external impacts such as with vendors and customers, and any other impacts on other stakeholders. Once the impacts have been determined, evaluate those impacts on how positive, neutral or negative each is. This will allow for evaluative process to select a solution that may be one of the original ideas or some hybrid of ideas.
Once a solution has been determined, pause. First, should one of the earlier steps be re-explored now?
For example, is it clearly defined? Are the impacts economically, socially and environmentally clearly determined? With any changes in the impacts, does this change the evaluation of the impacts? If so how? Does that change the solution?
Second, should the solution be tested in some manner before implementation?
By testing the solution, it may be possible to address issues during testing that were unforeseen beforehand?
Is everyone ready to go? Is training needed? If so, how much, by whom and when? For the high impact low effort ideas, there may be little to no training needed. For the longer-term high impact high effort ideas, there may be considerable training needed. To ensure success educational training should be interactive, fun and engaging. This is the most effective way to help participants learn in an adult learning environment.
Management that has thought it through to address most of the initial concerns, that then engages employees to solicit their ideas, is seen as pro-active, engaging and trusting by employees. This goes a long way towards collaboration. Along the way catch employees doing something right and recognize and reinforce this. Humble management that instils pride in its employees goes a long way towards building a culture of success.
About the author
Mike is a professional speaker, negotiator and mediator. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]