Recent political and social events are telling us that people in society are feeling powerless. One simple example is the decreasing attendance at the voting booth, particularly among the young. It appears that a great many people have “given up”, just want to do their job, whatever it is, and call it a day. Volunteerism is on the decline for this reason. There is a parallel effect inside organizations.
The Effect of Power Down
Despite attempts at other designs, most organizations today continue to operate under the traditional functional hierarchy. This is the pyramid structure that stretches from the base, where most of the employees that “do” are located, to the peak, where a single person “directs” the strategy and activity of the organization. In between are those who “manage”, i.e. who try and interpret strategic direction from on high to those in the trenches below. What emerged in the 20th century was the Paternalistic Organization, whose role it was to ensure a “career” for the participants in the organization.
Over the past 40 years or so, the Paternalistic Organization has eroded to the point where in many respects, it’s “every man for himself.” If you can’t be productive, then out you go. The problem with this kind of focus on productivity is that most organizations don’t have the means to allow their employees to be productive and contribute fully to start with. Management theorists have spoken about the need to “empower” or “enable” employees. In practical terms, this should mean providing the employee with the working environment and the skills-set that will give them the best chance to contribute in a very real way to the organization. However, by the time executive management figures out the strategic direction of the organization and managers interpret this into operational terms, the employee who is delivering the product or service of the organization is severely limited not only in what he or she can contribute but the means by which to do so. In harsher terms, it is the organization itself embodied in its management that is limiting the employee’s capacity to contribute. Nor does the employee get any sense that whatever he or she does will actually be accepted or appreciated by the organization. Rewards schemes are paltry attempts to “improve motivation” or “nurture innovation” inside most organizations that neither wish to understand the employee’s motivation nor endure any form of innovation. If you then pile on other social constructs such as legacy-based conflicts between men and women (where women are still paid less than men for the same job), you end up with an organization that has to keep a huge contingent of employees that are operating far below their potential because they feel that they can’t.
The Question vs. the Answer
Human beings are pushed towards having an answer, or the solution to a problem. The issue of productivity in the organization needs careful framing of three key questions first, i.e.:
- Why does the organization exist?
- What does it deliver?
- How does it deliver?
Anyone reading these questions would think: “Oh ya, we do that… It’s part of our planning process.” The reality is that most organization that ask these questions – if they do – provide a quick and automatic response, rather than thinking them through. The “Why” is absolutely essential: it is the one question whose well-thought out answer will inspire and drive productivity. The “What” shouldn’t be answered until the fundamental purpose of the organization is clear, much less the “How”.
RANA exists to remodel organizations in such a way as to give employees a meaningful voice:
- Remodel means helping the organization get to its inspirational “Why”;
- Meaningful means that the employee has the capacity to contribute ideas and measurable effort to the organization.
This requires a change of emphasis from the top of the organization downward. And this in turn requires transforming the way the organization thinks about itself. In so doing, the word “productivity” will start to make more sense. Far from being a vague concept and efforts at “making employees more productive”, it becomes a way of marrying the purpose of the organization with its people at all levels:
- People will work in teams with accountability for tasks and authority to make decisions;
- People have control over the tasks they are charged with and how they perform them;
- People are constantly informed as to how they are contributing;
- People are looking for improvements continuously;
- People feel pride in producing a high quality product or service at the best possible price;
- People trust their management to make the best possible decisions for the organization;
- People feel free to offer advice based on their line level experience.
RANA’s approach to helping client organizations remodel themselves follows seven simple and powerful steps:
- We ensure the organization is clear on Why it is in business.
- We focus the organization on it its Core Competency, that which makes it unique.
- We inventory the organization’s work processes, i.e. how people are doing things.
- We ensure that each process contributes to the why and the core competency;
- We ensure that each process has a someone who owns it;
- We train the owners in how to exercise their accountability and authority;
- We make sure that all employees are fully informed and involved.
The means by which RANA delivers its Business Transformation service to clients are:
- Facilitation of work groups: In order to begin the process of transformation and to see it through to success, all levels of management from executive management to line level workers need to work together in teams to contribute their ideas. RANA’s expert facilitators ensure that ideas are captured and integrated to the transformation plan.
- Learning: There are some fundamental concepts to understand and master when it comes to a process orientation leading to success. RANA provides short workshops that provide just in time learning to all levels of the organization.
- Coaching: People work better when they are given personal attention. RANA provides coaching at all levels of the organization, dealing for example in how process ownership, accountability and authority feed an overall culture of productivity.
- Project leadership: For some aspects of the transformation, the organization may not have the skills to make a change; RANA can field experts who can set things up for passing on to employees.
- Research and development: Some organizations may need processes that are unique to their organization. RANA’s extensive data base of processes and its linkages to others provides a valuable source of information to the client organization.