If you have flown into LaGuardia Airport recently, you will see what a mess it is. We New Yorkers all agree that LaGuardia needs “a fresh coat of paint” but the process of sprucing it up will impact travelers for a long time. I was picked up yesterday morning by a van, which was taking me to my car. The driver was very apologetic that it took him so long to navigate the airport given the many road and bridge closures. He proceeded to tell me how thoughtless the re-routing was. He was full of ideas about how it could have been done better. He made me think, were people like him consulted when they developed their renovation plans?
There might be those of you reading this who think, “Come on Joyce. Have a driver give input into a major renovation?” It might seem farfetched that this particular driver was consulted but what about others. Did the architects consult with people who drive this airport daily and whose livelihood is impacted by this renovation? When hearing about situations such as this, I am reminded of the Einstein quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” It’s been my experience when working with organizations that widening the circle of involvement generates the best results.
Think about a recent change initiative you have had in your organization. How was the solution developed? Was a change management team formed? Was their work passed down to the people who do the work as the new ways of operating? How well did the implementation go? Tapping into the knowledge of those who do the work has three benefits.
- It provides a fresh pair of eyes and correspondingly, new ways of seeing things.
- It increases the likelihood that the solutions will be embraced.
- It contributes to job satisfaction.
I worked with an organization that was struggling with its training program. Everyone agreed that it was not working. People largely felt it was a check the box activity that provided little value. One approach could have been having the Learning and Development people design a new computer-based training program. Instead, this organization had an enlightened management team. They used the training dilemma as a vehicle to get more employee engagement and ownership. They assembled a team of frontline employees and tasked them with improving the existing program. This team devised a plan that included more on-the-job training and mentoring. The result? It was a major success. It worked because the frontline employees knew what they needed. It worked because this team became advocates of the program, which in turn increased buy-in amongst their peer group. And it worked because this team of frontline employees felt better about their jobs, which helped to enhance their performance and motivation to make further contributions.
A flourishing culture needs an empowered workforce. Transitioning from doing what we have always done to widening our circle of involvement can help an organization reap the desired results.