Agile, kanban, leadership, People, Team

Top three signs a company is masquerading as employee-focused #halloween

Everyone says their company is employee-focused. Everyone says that their most important asset is their people. Everyone says that they have a flat structure and that there is an open door policy for everyone. So how can you tell the difference between the companies that are employee-focused and those that merely say they are employee focused?

I find there are three signs and they all involve a Suggestions Box.

Suggestion Box

A suggestion box? Isn’t that a sign that the management is honestly interested on improving and engaging the employees to improve the company? Not always.

In fact, there are three signs related to suggestions boxes that illustrate how committed management is to being employee-focus. These are:

1. You have a Suggestion Box

Although many people take this as an indication that the company is honestly interested in their employee’s suggestions and ideas, that is not always the case. In fact, a Suggestion Box reinforces a hierarchical structure. They may be interested in your ideas, but only after a review process. A suggestion box says:

“Thanks for your suggestion, we will review it and let you know if it has merit. Don’t call us, we will call you”

The suggestion box, still sets up an us and them structure between employees and management. This was re-inforced to me during an awesome keynote by Mark Graban at SDEC13. Mark pointed out that several Lean hospitals have moved towards suggestions Kan-Ban boards so that everyone can see their co-workers suggestions and see the progression of those ideas from submission to completion!

That shows the engagement and commitment the hospital has to their employee’s ideas. Brutal visibility.

2. The Suggestion Box is not actively used

An even worse situation is if you have a suggestion box and it is not actively used. This usually results from suggestions being submitted and dismissed by management. Employees soon discover that there is no action taken on their suggestions, so why should they bother? Even worse, lack of suggestions sometimes indicates a lack of trust in management. There may be suspicion about whether people making suggestions will be labelled as trouble-makers.

3. You have an anonymous suggestion box

Oh boy. If a company has an anonymous suggestion box, it almost is an acknowledgement that management can’t be trusted with knowing who submitted an idea. And that employees feel they need anonymity to be safe to submit ideas.

Summary

I love the idea of a suggestion Kan Ban board. It provides brutal visibility as to the suggestions submitted by employees and shows employees that management takes their ideas seriously and are implementing them. It requires absolute commitment by management to implement employee’s ideas though. Any filtering, removal, or dismissal of ideas by management will be visible to everyone.

About Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

Discussion

One thought on “Top three signs a company is masquerading as employee-focused #halloween

  1. Great idea to have a suggestion Kanban board – but seriously wonder how many companies will have the guts to have one such board !!

    Posted by Srinath | November 1, 2013, 5:47 am

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