Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for August 2009

Tribes, Society and Engagement

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 (whew…I wore myself out thinking about that title)

If this post is of interest to you and you haven’t already discovered David Zinger’s Employee Engagement Network, do so! This post was originally added there, modified to be posted here.

Father Jim Roselli is a fellow member of the EEN. His background and interests were intriguing to me, and I noted him: I am looking forward to a dialogue on religion and engagement, and the potential power of engagement as it relates to society and social groups (tribes!).

Copied from a note Fr. Jim sent me: My interest in Sociology/Social Anthropology goes back (‘way back) to when I was in my twenties and read a book entitled “Hunting Bands.” It was an examination of tribal behavior in modern corporations, and it really affected my outlook. The six basic human needs are air, water, food, clothing, shelter and companionship. These are best delivered by, and balanced human beings are best produced and nurtured in, the basic human social group: the nuclear family, consisting of a lifetime-committed husband and wife and their children. The fundamental post-basic social unit is the tribe, or clan: an efficient and effective way for families to share their knowledge, skills and abilities with each other.

Father Jim’s note hit a bit of a button for me.

First, is it a fair statement that the basic social unit (nuclear family) has diminished in stature and importance? Single parent households and dual-income, multiple job households as well. More emphasis on careers and making money than on basic parenting, which is the traditional primary means to “socialize” our children.

These are broad generalizations, but I believe statistics and an army of “experts” have mad it quite clear that the family unit is in trouble, even in “normal” and outwardly successful two-parent households. Nuclear is melting down. Ultra-busy parents abdicating their socializing duties to the outside—schools, youth clubs, soccer coaches (I have been in that role! I am a COACH, not a surrogate parent! Blood boiling at the memory as I type….)

At the same time, the other institution critical to socializing our young is sadly diminishing in stature and importance as well—organized religion. There is a giant void in too many young peoples’ lives where these two powerful influences used to be. And I feel that this is one of the key root causes to all the social problems in the world—seriously! We have lost our ability to instill strong values and social / behavioral expectations in the younger generations, and it is beginning to bite us in the behind big time.

The post-basic social unit for too many youth is gangs, which provide all the basic needs noted by Father Jim. Not to say that gangs are an acceptable alternative, but what happens where there is a void? Something will rush in to fill it. And let’s not be ostriches…this is not just a poverty / inner city issue.

There is an unacceptably high level of social disengagement-we do not have a strong set of shared values or social expectations. Not to mention that too many people simply are not at a high level of “satisfaction” societally.

I have stated elsewhere that…

1. Engagement is contagious. You can catch it from others just as you can “infect” others.

2. Engagement ripples the surface of the pond…it spreads by association. If I am an engaged person at work / in my position, I am probably engaged elsewhere. And it will show, and will trigger #1.

Is engagement important? YES, on many levels—personal, professional, societal.

Other posts you may find of interest, related to the greater good that engagement can help bring about:

America’s Promise, Crisis in Education. From America’s Alliance: “Many students who ultimately drop out of school say they become disengaged during the middle-school years. The choices young people make at this age could set them on a course for active citizenship and engaged learning – or down a path of risky behavior and potential failure.”

Education Goes to School?  …high school kids are disengaged in both their education and in thinking about their future. This hypothesis is well-founded: try Googling “National Survey of Student Engagement.” For many students, education is perceived to be irrelevant to their future. The underlying issue: students are not engaged in any kind of “future thinking” to even know what is, and isn’t relevant to them. An even deeper issue…teachers, and parents too, are also disengaged. Just wanted to throw that in to cause trouble. And it IS a generalization, there are exceptions. So please don’t beat me up too much.


Written by Craig

August 10, 2009 at 3:29 am

Sniglets-Management System Excellence

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Sniglet: something that is a prerequisite to achieving something else)

It’s tough to do everything right in a management system startup, but doing just a few things up front can dramatically increase your chances of achieving an end result that is effective and well-received by those who need to make it work. These thoughts are examined more deeply in other management system posts, but I wanted to highlight them in Cliff Notes fashion.

Set Scope Wisely, Strategically

Fashion goals that are clearly aligned with the rest of the company’s strategy, goals that people can easily connect to. You already have a vision, mission and strategies. Use them to craft your quality policy and objectives.

Shamelessly Sell the Benefits

You MUST have a good pitch. Whether you believe it yourself doesn’t matter, your constituents must believe that the management system will be good for them. Not cod liver oil good…tastes horrendous going down, fixes what ails you. Rather, they must believe that the management system will result in their work being done better, smarter, faster, easier.

Communicate and Demonstrate

People must continuously hear what is happening and why, and future plans and current status. And they must see the management system in action.

Watch Your Language!

The ISO glossary of terms includes several confrontational words with negative connotations: compliance, audit, conformance to requirements, nonconformance, corrective action. No wonder the townsfolk board up their windows and hide the women and children in the cellar come assessment time!

Andre Agassi once said “Image is everything”. While that may not be gospel, a good image sure helps.

Broad Ownership, Broad Improvement Focus

The management system is much bigger than “product quality” alone. Position ISO as a tool capable of managing all aspects of the business, ensuring that goals are met, desired results are achieved, and customers’ expectations are exceeded. Deemphasize the “Q” word!

Engage the Troops

Engagement is that magical state where people put forth exemplary effort AND are getting maximum level of satisfaction out of their role…they are busting their butts and are darned happy to do it. It all centers around two of the most basic concepts around: the people doing the job know it best, and involvement builds commitment.

For background on the work-in-process Flawless Execution project, go to the FE Home Page. For more information on this topic go to the Flawless Execution Systems page.

Written by Craig

August 2, 2009 at 4:37 pm