In my culture evolution diagram, I show a staircase with steps from defiance to compliance, then compliance to involvement, then from involvement to excitement, and finally from excitement to engagement.  The big step from compliance to involvement is likely the most critical to creating a new culture.

It is not that difficult to get people involved.  I’m sure if you ask them to help, they’ll help.  But where I’ve seen this go sideways is when leaders open the doorway with a broad “tell me how we can improve this place” without first having built a couple of systems that will help you handle the flood of input.  See, mixed in with a few really good ideas from the team, you’re also going to get a ton of input you can’t really do anything with.  Things like complaints.  You’ll also get a bunch of ideas that will need some analysis before you know if they’re good ideas or not.

When the flood of input comes and systems are missing, they overwhelm the leadership and cause long delays in feedback to the team.  Let’s just say you get 100 ideas or problems identified every day for a week.  (It may not seem likely to you, but I promise you they are there.) If you haven’t designed, tested, and deployed an idea management system, this will collapse under the volume of input.  The Idea Management System should require evaluation and analysis that includes the person who submitted the idea or surfaced the problem.  If a management team or engineering is supposed to review all the ideas, your program will grind to a halt under this new burden on already very busy people.

Steps to a culture of engagement

When people don’t get feedback on their ideas or problems, they will conclude that management doesn’t listen, or they’re just paying lip service to having people involved.  And then they stop sending you ideas and stop identifying problems.

What kind of system will allow you to handle 100s of ideas and problems everyday?  How hard is it to build?  How much training will everyone have to do?

A Visual Daily Management System provides the structure needed to take this step.  The huddle boards, with the right metrics for the team, will allow problems to surface very quickly.  A problem register let’s everyone know that their problem has been noted and that we’re working to solve it.

We might also want to have an ideas register that has the same effect for those ideas our team members want to share.  The more visual we can make the ideas and problems, and the more we focus on keeping involved the person who submitted thC4 Board for capturing problems and idease idea or problem, the better.  I really like the results we’ve been getting with C4 Boards in several companies.  On these boards, there’s a column for New, then to indicate where the team is in the various stages of problem solving.

Most places still have some trust issues throughout the organization, but it’s our job to make it a little better day by day in many places.  Making the involvement of our team members more visible will only serve to improve the trust.  It will also pave the way to excitement and provide a strong foundation for full engagement.


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