Jumpstarting Process Improvement in Your Organization: The Top 10 Essentials (Part 8 of 10) – Communicate with the entire organization

Essential #8:  Methods for communicating with the entire organization.  “Lack of communication” is often cited as the number one reason employees are dissatisfied with their job.  There are two simple reasons for this.  First, we really don’t communicate effectively.  Second, “lack of communication” is an indication that employees feel disconnected from the company’s vision.  Applying this thought to process improvement efforts, the organization must have a way to reach and connect all employees in order to achieve meaningful gains.  Communication is critical because the best ideas for improvement come from the people doing the job.  If we as the leaders can’t figure out a way to exchange ideas, then the process improvement effort will struggle.  Here are three ideas for communicating with employees.

  1. Management by walking – This concept was popularized in the 1980’s.  Walking with purpose and meeting the workforce is a good way to garner good will and generate conversation.  This art was lost as our businesses became more virtual and shop floor reporting became more transparent and automated.  Somewhere, we lost touch with people.   A recent emerging thought combines the politicking of “walking around” with reinforcing a culture of accountability.  This model facilitates a give-and-take between the front line staff and the leader.  There are 12 questions (or a version thereof) every leader should ask while walking around and those questions can be found here.
  2. Employee suggestion programs are overrated.  Yes, they are somewhat useful.  Yes, there is a place for them.  No, I’m not recommending you eliminate yours.  There are two common problems with employee suggestions programs.  First, lack of participation.  Employee suggestion programs do not engage otherwise unengaged employees.  So, if your employees aren’t already a part of the continuous improvement effort, a wooden lock box and a stack of postcards will not do the trick.  The second common problem is that suggestions are rarely actionable.  Either we receive too many suggestions to manage or the ones we receive are more along the lines of complaints.  I’ve never really seen a game-changing suggestion come through the employee suggestion box.  I have seen on numerous occasions profoundly innovative ideas come from employees when simply asked, “How would you fix this problem?”
  3. Social media – Keep your employees linked in through social media.  If Facebook were an independent country, it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.  Everyone is connected to something.  There are a number of ways to connect your workforce via social media.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and vlongs are examples.  These tools were invented for no other purpose than to facilitate a conversation.  And, conversation with our employees is what we want – both physically (management by walking) and virtually (social media).

We have more communication tools now than ever before.  Yet, seemingly we communicate less and less.  The goal is not to communicate for the sake of communication.  The goal is to use communication as a tool for collaboration, which brings about change.  Process improvement is all about changing, improving, and succeeding.  Making sure you have the proper communication tools in place will dramatically improve your level of process improvement success.

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