I bet you want your people to innovate…

You want your people to innovate, don’t you? Of course you do; yet is it easy for them?
# I bet your corporate values include something like ‘Our people are our greatest asset’.
# Ever paid a consultant for new ideas? -and do you invest to capitalise on insiders’ suggestions? (yet I’ll wager you have spent more $ on the external, than on those staff ideas…)
# Think back to the last appraisal round: how many ideas were held up as successful? -and what proportion of your staff were offering up ideas?
# And maybe you ask them to ‘Do it Right First Time’? –OK.
# Ever put up a Staff Suggestion Box? -and did you get the response you dreamed of? No…

I want you to see, that there is a strong link between employees’ concerns over have over ‘getting things wrong’ -especially when those things are the ones counted in their performance, pay and bonuses; and the level of real freedom staff have to come up with radical ideas, to develop & trial them.
Even if we count the adoption separately, its common to find that the part of working life where we place most value on ideas is as a slogan, but much less as real support for doing things differently.

OK, how many of us learnt to ride a bicycle on the first attempt? Come on now, you can’t really expect staff to take risks with an important part of their futures unless you actively support them, by making it OK to admit ‘failures’, and to share mistakes; and you’ll need to cover some loss in pay.
But consider the rewards! –once the folk who live every day with problems see that you really do want suggestions, they will flow freely. When workers own and promote their own ideas, (not via the cheesy Suggestion Box) adoption of the early offers will encourage others.
Then the organization begins internal learning (which is cheaper!) -and managers will learn much more of where to study and improve the annoying problems that are holding you all back.
Sustainable innovation begins -

    inside your organization!

Whistleblowing ain’t easy

I’ve been reading an example in today’s ‘USA Today’ newspaper of how difficult it is to go against a damaging culture, in this case alleged serious fraud in US government property arm, the General Services Agency.

Many of us know at an intuitive level when things are very wrong. Elaine Johnson says: “Moral behaviour is hard-wired into the human brain.” -however the rub for the would-be whistle blower is that acting on what we know to be right is tougher when the consequences for one’s employment are severe.

Reports to federal committee hearings say that an executive had fostered a culture of ‘putting people down’ who objected to his spending decisions. Apparently the official’s spending habits extended to taking a nine-day visit to Hawaii to attend a one-hour ribbon cutting. One employee told the Inspector General ‘he squashed someone like a bug’ for speaking out.

However oversight since the inspector’s report of May 2011 suggests the matter is a deeper problem than one person’s bad behaviour, with evidence to federal committees suggesting that lavish spending after the release of the inspector general’s report points to a ‘-culture we are going to get to the bottom of…a culture of fraud’

And once the behaviour has spread widely, being a whistle blower is a whole lot harder again. Dr Deming wrote: ‘Fear invites wrong figures. Bearers of bad news fare badly. To keep his job, anyone may present to his boss only good news.’

Beyond the alleged fraud, such a climate of fear damages the lives of all people it touches. There lie hidden and possibly greater costs than those exorbitant purchases, because they are largely external to the organisation, and not costed to the accounts.