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Create an Engaged, Committed Workforce

5/16/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Alan Severance

Last month I talked about the good results that come from aligning your company’s strategy to its goals. Further benefits come by aligning the company’s DNA, its core capabilities, and operating approach with the employees’ mindsets and behaviors.

Think of your company or organization as a living entity with its own DNA. What makes up this DNA?

As with other living organisms, the DNA contains many linked strands. They include the mindsets and behaviors of the people in your organization, both individual mindsets and behaviors and the sum of those mindsets and behaviors. An organization’s main strands are its strategic execution, how it manages its external environment, and how it develops its people. Why is this important to understand? Simply put, the more that your people recognize and adopt your organization’s strategies as their own, the more engaged they become in actively seeking the identical goals for the company that you have established and that you yourself live out daily.

The people who consciously want to be in THIS organization become your best possible associates. They become truly engaged in their work focus, doing their best to continue the strategies of the organization that they thrive in! They have deliberately chosen your organization as the place they want to live their work life because of the organization’s DNA. They will be adding value daily to your strategic goals; their behavior will be consistent with the strategic drivers of the organization. There can be no stronger commitment.

Once when I was “blessed” by Corporate with high-powered consultants to teach us all about Just In Time, our whole organization bogged down from the lack of understanding of what we were doing and, more importantly, why we were doing it. To fix this troublesome impediment to progress, we brought in a change agent who created a people-centered approach to adopting the new way. We formed a task team comprised of long-term hourly employees who were passionate about their work and equally passionate in their belief that management had lost its collective mind.

Of course, a strange and wonderful thing began to happen. The more this group understood why senior management was making such a strong effort to change and improve, the more comfortable they became. They understood that their future lay with a stronger, more competitive company. They became committed to the new strategy and began to help their colleagues understand why it was important. Soon all the high-powered consultants found that the people were now learning in earnest.

This kind of transformation happens whenever senior executives figure out that their employees’ stake in the company’s future is as important to them as the executives’ own, and then work to create the alignment. An acquaintance of mine, hired as COO of a local firm in 2009, brought his vision of Lean to his new job. He began his transformation efforts by announcing to the entire workforce that he was going to make the company as recession-proof as possible and he needed their active help in getting Lean. Skeptical employees bombarded him with questions, waiting to see if he would walk the talk. One employee in particular, dubbed a troublemaker by both colleagues and supervisors, accosted his new COO and challenged him to deliver. The COO began a dialogue with the employee and discovered the reasons for his discontent—he cared about his job, had ideas that his supervisors ignored, and didn’t think the company knew where it was going. (Have you ever have an employee like this?)

Assured that the new vision for the company was sound and that employees would be respected, this troublemaking employee accepted Lean ideas with energy. Three years later, the output from the first shift of the department he worked in was sufficient to shut down the two remaining shifts and move people elsewhere. I recently visited and found that the area was organized and impressively clean—a very difficult task given the nature of this operation.

Company culture is the human component of alignment. This mindset is the sum of the people, development behaviors, and processes, and it tells newcomers that “this is the way we do things around here” To succeed with alignment, understand your drivers, then create a culture that supports them.

The best results always come from this close alignment of workforce behaviors with your strategic drivers.

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