Takeaway: Our work structure encourages or discourages engagement. We need simplicity and directness designed into all we do. This encourages engagement.
Businesses systems and work activities can become complex and cumbersome. Activities work better when tasks are structured around three basic characteristics:
Let’s look at each one of these.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
At the heart of genius, you will find simplicity. If someone can’t explain something complex in a simple way that you can understand, it usually means they don’t understand it that well themselves.
We must strive for simplicity in all that we do. Complexity is our enemy. Complexity leads to self-sabotage. When something is too complicated, we lose confidence. We may not fully understand all the steps or actions that we need to take. Our efforts are diminished in the wake of uncertainty.
This is when we procrastinate. We feel it is often best to do nothing rather than proceed and make mistakes. We become overwhelmed. We hesitate and move slowly so we can abort efforts quickly if needed. We can seem to be one step away from pulling the plug at the first sign of trouble.
We need simplicity. When we have confidence and a clear understanding of our tasks, path, and goals, we can go ALL-IN. We proceed with confidence and understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Simplicity versus complexity is the difference between proceeding with confidence or hesitating with uncertainty. We are making the difference between a good day and a bad day.
Directness and simplicity go hand in hand. No beating around the bush. We want directness in speech, intentions, and actions.
As we seek to remove complexity and minimize waste, we must find the most direct way to perform all needed activities. We want to create flow; Flow of work, information, processes, supplies, services, and products.
Flow means unhindered movement as needed. No unwanted stops. We want information and activities to flow throughout our business at a rate that meets customer demands.
For flow, direct paths are desirable.
We need directness. Anything less wastes time and energy. We need clearly defined responsibilities and ownership throughout the organization. We want customers, employees, and suppliers to have direct links to required information, people, resources, and services. We need open-door policies and to encourage communication.
We must strive to create direct paths and minimize layers of complexity. This will help us see problems sooner throughout our organization and supply chain.
We want a business that is self-monitoring and self-regulating. We need to remove walls and silos and create ease of information flow and decision making. We want to show respect and value to everyone’s time and effort. This encourages engagement.
Engagement is encouraged by simplicity and direct paths, but there’s more we can do to encourage it.
We must continually strive for the win/win in all we do as a business. We need to consider what is best for customers/employees/suppliers. If we do this, it will keep us from bad judgment and decisions that can be destructive to these relationships.
Lack of engagement is not natural and a red flag. We are social beings (consider the social media phenomena) we want to engage and be involved when we feel valued and important.
According to the Gallup organization, in 2014, a whopping 87% of employees say they are not engaged at work.
“A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that thrives and one that struggles. When employees are engaged, they are passionate, creative, and entrepreneurial, and their enthusiasm fuels growth. These employees are emotionally connected to the mission and purpose of their work. When employees are not engaged, they are indifferent toward their jobs — or worse, outright hate their work, supervisor, and organization — and they will destroy a work unit and a business.”
Nektar Data Systems takes advantage of all three characteristics; Simplicity, Directness, and Engagement. It was designed with these in mind.
By using simple electronic forms; data collection, and easy work flows, information sharing become easy. No wasted time or energy with paper forms creating extra work; fighting bad hand writing, incomplete information, redundant work uploading into electronic data bases, etc., all goes away. Simply fill out an e-form on your smartphone or tablet, done.
Businesses can waste time and energy with out-of-date systems. Employees battle inefficiency that discourages engagement. Technology can perform much of the heavy lifting for us regarding many aspects of work:
- Data collecting
- Information sharing (Getting the information to those that need it)
- Safety reporting
- Monitoring and allocating resources
- Maintenance efforts
We need information gathering and retrieval to be simple, direct, and encourage engagement. With mobile devices, employees can add video and pictures to reports. They don’t have to worry about the information getting to the right manager or department; the software does this for them.
I have seen employees engage in data collection and use, simply because it is easy to do, compared with their old paper system. They put more faith in gaining needed support. They enjoy the faster response time.
How’s your work flow? Are all activities designed around simplicity, directness, and engagement? Or are you bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape? Are you still using paper forms for data collection and reporting?
Good things rarely happen by accident. We must design our business activities for optimal efficiency. Our work systems should encourage engagement, not discourage it. If you’re not using mobile devices and apps for data collection, reporting, and to regulate work flow, you could be missing out. Here is a great opportunity for you to streamline work and boost performance and profit.
So where do you go from here? Implementing these principles, in our experience, should be done in very small increments. Don’t try to fix your organization in one shot. Ease into it. This will help gain the confidence of your workforce and your own confidence. Ask your workforce for their feedback. Nothing engages workers more than asking for feedback and then using it. This builds trust and grows those relationships. At the end of the day, no matter how much technology we throw at it, we still need people. Start easy and build on your successes. Slow and steady wins the race.