Agility = Sustainability Written by Robert E. Cannon
High Engagement, it’s not your standard employee motivation. - All organizations today are faced with intense competition and rapidly changing markets, customers, products, delivery, systems and services. The rate of change is outpacing our ability to adapt. We are witnessing this inability to adapt every day as organizations in business, government, religion, healthcare etc. fail right before our eyes.
Sometimes, I think we overlook fact that rules of game have changed as well. Early on in my career, businesses were evaluated by amount of assets or “Retained Earnings” showing on their books. “Good Will,” used to be a bone of contention in determining real value of an organization. Today, little if any attention is paid to “Retained Earnings” as we have switched to measuring “Return on Investment” and other measures of efficient use of capital. In part, efficiency has become key instead of asset accumulation because a product and process that is generating a profit today may be tomorrow’s buggy whip. Change in our environment and change in rules we are measured by all point to need to be adept at change.
To me, an agile organization is one that is proficient at change. It can do anything it wants, whenever it wants. There have been lots of different operating strategies presented over last few years to help us transform our organizations to higher levels of performance. These strategies include, LEAN, TQM, Continuous Improvement, SMED, Process Reengineering, Mass Customization and others. Sadly many of efforts to implement these strategies have failed not because strategy was wrong, but rather because agility was missing in organization. Agility is a people issue not a strategy or process issue. Successful adoption of operating and transformational strategies will happen much faster and with less expense as an organization becomes more agile.
Like evolution and mutation in living organisms, organizational adaptability or agility is a core survival requirement. Achieving agility in an organization is contrary to way most of us were trained to manage. Most management training even today is still based on work of Frederick Taylor. It is an approach to management that worked well at beginning of Industrial Revolution, but is sadly out of date in today’s highly sophisticated world where computers, cell phones, internet, radio and television are commonplace and workers are better educated and more involved in their world than ever before.
As I witness changes in organizations, I become more convinced daily that all of process improvements in world will not by themselves solve problems facing organizations. It is time for a new approach to management that involves people in issues that affect them leading to engagement, creativity and commitment in workplace. Jack Stack in his book The Great Game of Business makes case when he says, “…productivity depends on people. I don’t disagree that machines can make you more competitive. They can absorb overhead. They don’t take breaks. They don’t go on vacation. They don’t sit around wasting time. What machines can’t do is figure out how to make money. Only people can do that. If you have people who know how to make money, you’ll win every time.” For too long, we have relied on a leader – who by virtue of position, greater experience, wisdom or skill, is relied upon as problem solver and that leader fails to ask for or accept input from team members. Psychologist Patrick Laughlin and his colleagues at University of Illinois recently released a new study that shows that approaches and outcomes of cooperating groups are not just better than those of average group member, but are better than even group’s best problem solver functioning alone.
Learning from Your Employees' and Customers’ ComplaintsWritten by Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, Management Consultant and Trainer
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Listening to complaints, whether they're reasonable or not, is a part of every manager's job. Sometimes complaints can be overwhelming. However, when we take them in stride with an open mind, we can learn much from our employees' and customers' feelings about workplace. After all, a complaint is nothing more that a person telling you that his (or her) needs haven't been met. As dissatisfied customers, they are giving us a second chance to correct something that should have been done properly first time around. (In this case customer happens to be your employee.)
If you listen to them patiently and attentively, their complaints will alert you to a real or potential problem, or tell you of a better way to handle a situation.
We are not use, however, to coping with complaints. We let our emotions rule our thinking usually. Consequently, we let complaints wear us out because we take on complaint as a personal attack on us. It is not!
The next time you are faced with an irate employee, here are some steps to consider: