Posts Tagged ‘Stress Management’

Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. Albert Einstein

Why is productivity in some organizations so disappointing? Despite all the innovations in technology and all the investment in training and developing employees and managers to adapt to more and more complex organizations, why does it appear (and statistics would seem to bear this out) that a significant number of workers are disengaged from their jobs and feel unhappy at work?

In his insightful presentation, Yves Morieux gives his views on the main drivers of employee disengagement. More than that, he offers 6 simple rules for driving employee engagement and higher productivity.

For Morieux, traditional approaches on how to engage employees to be more productive have up to now focused on two main management pillars:

  • the “Hard” pillar which seeks to improve productivity by working on structures, processes, systems, statistics, KPIs,…
  • the “Soft” pillar which seeks to work on the interpersonal communication and personal relationships, the traits and personalities of the individuals in order to help them adapt their personalities to the constraints of the organization

Many companies spend large amounts of money on reengineering their structures, processes and systems in order try to drive higher productivity and engagement and/or on training their managers and employees to adapt to these new structures, processes, systems.

But for Morieux, these two pillars of management are obsolete and are even counterproductive. Why?

All organizations are becoming more and more complex and by trying to improve engagement using one or both of these two traditional management pillars (work the structure and train the people to adapt), they in fact only add on more complexity.  Rather, they add on layers of “complicatedness” to an already complex environment.

For example, in the car industry, a drive to reduce repair time led to the creation of a specific “repairability” requirement which in turn led to the creation of a specific “repairability” function, the role of which was to align design engineers to repairability objectives. This inevitably led to the creation of a specific “repairability process“, a “repairability scorecard” and “repairability KPIs “to measure engineering  alignment to process objectives. But when one considers that there were 25 other competing functions each with its own process, scorecard and KPIs, very quickly one realizes how complicated it was for the engineers concerned to comply meaningfully with so many competing constraints and requirements and for “Mr Reliability” to impact positively on the “repairability” issue in a meaningful way.

The inevitable result is that rather than improving productivity, such a traditional approach only complicates things by adding extra layers of administration, back office work and non added value tasks. Costs are higher for zero results.

The secret for Morieux lies in not drawing additional boxes with complicated reporting lines or adding on extra organizational layers. It lies, as he says, in understanding the “interplay“, the connections and cooperation required between functions to deliver the required result. In simple terms, what is key is how the parts “cooperate” or should “cooperate“. As Morieux points out, “every time people cooperate, they use less resources and not more“.

Conversely, when functions don’t cooperate, they always need “more time, more systems, more processes, more teams….which means higher costs. 

But who pays for this?

Not the shareholders. Not the customers. Individual employees must eventually pay by overcompensating for the lack of functional cooperation  through higher effort and this inevitably leads to burn out, stress, disenchantment and disengagement.

Faced with such productivity problems, the “Hard” management pillar seeks to add on extra boxes to the “organizational skeleton”. The “Soft” pillar believes that if functions  like one another and fit better together, this will solve the problem. But in fact, the result is often the opposite because to maintain the relationship, functions will seek to add on extra organizational layers expecting these extra layers to resolve the conflicts or deliver the tough trade offs required which they don’t want to address themselves  for fear of endangering relationships.

These two approaches are therefore obsolete in a complex organization because they only generate unnecessary complicatedness and Morieux offers instead 6 key rules for smart simplicity :

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

We need to go beyond the job descriptions and the organization charts and understand what others really do operationally so that we know how different functions depend on and interact with one another. The designer should understand the consequences of his design for the customer services team and for the repair teams before he commits a design and generates costs further down the line.

Rule 2: we need to reinforce the role and powers of the  integrators.

Integrators are not middle offices but managers who must  “have an interest in and be empowered to make others cooperate“. How do you empower managers? Firstly, by removing unnecessary organizational layers. When you have too many management layers, you have more and more managers who are  “too far removed from the action” and who need “KPIs and score cards” to see reality.  What they see is not reality but a proxy of reality. Secondly,  you also need to simplify the management rules because the bigger and more complex an organization becomes, the more you must give discretionary power to managers to solve their problems at their level. Quite often, we do the contrary and we end up by creating huge systems of rules which freezes initiative and drains local managers of responsibility. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules but it is vital to ensure that the rule book is lean and that managers can act effectively and quickly.

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

If you want more employees to take initiatives and “engage” more with the organization, you must give more power to everyone so that they feel they can use their initiative and intelligence to good effect and that they have all the cards in their hands to make a difference. Only then will they be ready to take risks and really seek to cooperate meaningfully with others.

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

You must expose employees to the consequences of their actions by constantly creating feedback loops, thereby creating a shadow of the future.  This is what the car industry did when they told  design engineers that they would move to the after sales service three years on so that they would have to live with the consequences of their own designs. If you empower more people, you must also ensure that these empowered people get effective feedback on their actions so that they are constantly  adapting their behaviors to organizational expectations and can clearly link their actions and organizational results.

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

This means “removing the buffers that make functions self-sufficient”. There is too much dysfunctional self sufficiency in organizations, largely fed by increased organizational layers and sub layers. Remove these unnecessary layers and interfaces which interfere with meaningful cooperation and we will encourage greater productivity. Above all, seek to design your organization in a way that creates interdependencies between functions so that only cooperation can deliver the required result.

Rule 6: Reward those who cooperate, blame those who don’t cooperate

Rather than promoting a culture that blames failure, we should promote a culture that rewards cooperation and blames non-cooperation. Morieux cites the CEO of Lego who believes  that “blame is not for failure, blame is for not helping or not asking for help“. This indeed changes everything because it encourages us to be transparent and to cooperate.

These 6 rules have profound consequences for organizational design, for finance policies, for human resource management in complex organizations. Above all, if we implement these 6 simple rules, we will manage complexity without being paralyzed by complicatedness. We will create more value at lower cost. We will simultaneously improve performance and job satisfaction because we will have removed the root cause that hinders both : “complicatedness“. This is the real challenge facing all leaders of complex organizations.

Curbing email rage at the office: some golden rules

February 6, 2010

Email is an important communication tool today in all organizations. However, abuse and misuse can contribute to poor performance and poor team spirit. Organizations often neglect to set simple rules and guidelines to help managers and employees communicate more effectively through emails. Managers and team members often fail to understand the negative impact bad practice can have on colleagues and subordinates in this important area. Here are some golden rules I would always promote and include in an email-users charter for all organizations:

  • Always remain calm and cool-headed. Expressing anger and frustration in writing only makes things worse and aggravates the problem (supposing there is one in the first place). Talk to the person directly if there seems to be an issue. Don’t react to an email that seems to offend because it’s only stoking the flames.
  • Always remain polite. Using insulting or derogatory terms serves no purpose. Think twice before reacting and again, putting something in writing only makes things worse and only devalues the author of the comments.
  • Always be positive. Don’t berate or criticize ideas expressed by someone in a previous mail. Again, comments made in writing have much more impact and are more enduring than anything said in haste. Be hard on the problem and not on the person. Be direct and frank by all means but do not criticize the person.
  • Keep it simple and use normal police and characters. Never put whole sentences in capital and/or bold letters to ensure your reader gets the point. THIS IS OFTEN EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING AT SOMEONE BY EMAIL. People can read and don’t need to have the important points highlighted. Such practice also sends the message that you don’t trust them to understand the point you feel is critical.
  • Keep it short. Don’t confuse emails with internal memos. Emails should be short and to the point.
  • Don’t write if you can speak directly to the person. If the person is in the next room, note the point down and go and see the person. Direct contact is always best.
  • Limit the number of persons you copy. Putting the world and his wife on copy creates information overload. If you have to copy others, be selective and decide on who really needs to know (think RASCI if necessary for important subjects).
  • Set limits as to when to send emails: if the user has a blackberry or other means of sending mails out of office hours, he or she should wait until a civilized moment to send a mail. There is no point in sending an email at 1 am in the morning if the person won’t open it before 9 am the same day. This doesn’t give the right message to team members and invades the private sphere because it supposes that the team member receiving the message is prepared to do the same. If you have to work late, OK. But save the mail and send it at the appropriate moment. If the message is really urgent, use the phone and apologize for the disturbance.
  • Solve the problem, don’t write about it: If there is a problem, don’t hide behind emails. Step in and address the problem or speak to the person responsible. Don’t hide behind an email because the problem will remain unsolved and only get worse.
  • Use Globish : if you work for an international organization and need to communicate with team members in different countries, use simple English and avoid slang, irony and abbreviations as readers from  different cultures won’t necessarily understand the slang or abbreviations or be able to decode the subtext behind irony or understatement.

What golden rules would you promote?

Personal Success Factors: some golden rules

February 20, 2009

Work is more and more stressful and leaders have a responsibility to do all they can to reduce the impact of stress on themselves and their team members. Key is maintaining a good work/personal life balance. Also critical is the relationships a leader creates and maintains at work with team members,his/her managers and internal customers. Here are some simple golden rules and suggestions to help you get the human relationships right both on the personal and professional level. This list is not comprehensive and is open to debate.

Look after yourself
• Don’t forget your family is your number 1 customer.
• Keep in shape: keep fit!
• Don’t smoke! Keep well.
• Always take your holidays. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy!
• Dress well! Look the part. Pay attention to your appearance.
• Practice a sport and/or a hobby regularly.
• Reinvent yourself every year: learn something new or do something new. Develop your creativity. Be a work in progress and not a finished article.
• Read and study continuously. Keep on learning.
• Laugh, enjoy yourself.

Set your course
• Accept to do the difficult job nobody else wants to do: develop your willpower and determination.
• No goal, no medal. Give yourself SMART objectives.
• Always keep within budget.
• Build your internal and external client base and take care of it.

Manage your communication
• Ban all irony, sarcasm and bitterness from internal memos, mails, communications: always be positive. Never badmouth or criticize others, no matter what!
• Always call people by their first name.
• Send hand written letters whenever possible. A personal touch is appreciated.
• Be careful of your image and appearance: smile!
• Don’t use bad language.
• Be direct: say it as it is while remaining correct.
• Never speak in anger. If angry, hold your fire.
• Never put in writing offensive or negative comments. What’s said is quickly forgotten, what’s written sticks.
• Don’t overuse emails. If you can give the message directly to the person, do so.

Manage your work
• Set aside 30 minutes a day for thinking and planning
• Note down your ideas systematically
• Isolate yourself once a month to plan ahead and organize yourself
• The idea may be imperfect, not the implementation. Execution is everything. Don’t be half-hearted. Do it well or not at all.
• Practice the 6P rule: Personal prior planning prevents poor performance!
• Insist on the company products, not on the paperwork
• Don’t try to build an empire. Focus on getting the job done.
• If it works, keep it. Don’t change for change’s sake.

Manage yourself
• Always be prepared to go the extra mile: always say yes and figure out how to deliver the expected results.
• Always keep your door open.
• Don’t bury your head in the sand: deal with problems immediately.
• Always be ready to do a favour.
• Reduce your business knowledge gap: constantly learn the business
• Do your homework and close out open tasks. Get the fundamentals right.
• Don’t panic, don’t get angry. Practice keeping calm.
• Learn to speak and write well.
• Be a lender, not a borrower: give other people credit for success
• Hard work comes before glory
• Search, correct, try again. Be creative and don’t be afraid to fail.
• Hurry up at your own pace. Decide in haste, regret at leisure!
• Stand back, observe, listen. Seek to understand before being understood.
• Collect your errors carefully and proudly. 7 times down, 8 times up! Only those who have never tried anything have never failed!
• Live the present moment to the full. Plan tomorrow, forget yesterday. I’m better than I was yesterday, not as good as I will be tomorrow!
• Keep out of power struggles.
• Refuse to join the club of the forever regretful: join the club of the forever optimistic and persevering.
• Never underestimate an opponent.
• Don’t be discouraged by those who try to kill ideas.
• Look on work with the eyes of a sales rep. Don’t forget to sell your ideas.
• Be a super sales man, whatever your role.
• Support your company fervently.
• Arrive at work 45 minutes before everyone else and leave 15 minutes later than everyone else.
• Don’t make staying late a habit.
• Don’t bring work home.
• When you travel on business, wherever you are, in a train or plane, use the time and work!
• When away from home for work and if alone, don’t waste time in the hotel restaurant. Have dinner in your hotel room and work.

Manage your boss
• Trust your manager
• Be loyal. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.
• Don’t buddy up with your boss(es). Business is business. Build a professional relationship.
• Give all the credit for success to your boss and the boss of your boss. They’ll reciprocate.
• Never surprise your boss. Always keep him/her informed.
• Never let your boss make a mistake.
• Imitate, study and take care of good bosses
• Get your boss to visit the team to thank team members regularly and personally.

Manage others
• Trust your team members.
• Recruit the best according to 3 criteria- integrity, determination, intelligence.
• Pay your employees more than their market value: Pay more and you’ll get more
• Give surprise bonuses for work well done and vary the method.
• Treat each person individually.
• Be polite and say thank you.
• 10 things to say to make people feel at ease
– please
– thanks
– Introduce a team member to your boss by “you remember Mr X…”
– you did a great job
– I appreciate the effort you made
– I keep hearing lots of good things about you
– I’m delighted to have you in the team
– I need your help
– Well done, congratulations
• Don’t spread rumours and don’t tolerate people who spread rumours
• Point the spotlight on the good idea, not on the person
• Never forget the spouses & families of your subordinates
• Teaching others means continuously studying and leading. Accept roles which allow you to train others.
• Let people know where they stand. Be clear and direct.
• Set SMART objectives and follow up regularly on progress
• Don’t use bad language and don’t tolerate bad language in others.
• Never take things personally.

Manage your network
• Get yourself recommended by senior managers in the organization.
• Keep a file “connections/relations” and update regularly.
• Every Friday: have lunch with someone outside your service.
• Build a network of allies within your organization
• Keep in touch with your network and help out when you can.

Manage your Career
• If you have a choice, always choose the best paid job
• Avoid if possible functional work, always seek operational responsibility
• Don’t wait for HR to plan your career. You are responsible for your own career development

What principles would you add or subtract from the list above?

Jeffrey Fox: The 75 laws
Stephen J. Covey: The 7 Habits of highly effective people


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