29th June 2020

    AUTHOR: Andrew Leith

    With organisations focusing on being more agile, particularly in uncertain times such as these, the top down, one size fits all approach to improving business performance is now arguably redundant. In a world where employees are encouraged to work smarter and not harder, is it not time that these same employees were trusted, and genuinely engaged, in solving the important problems that their employer might be facing?

    Traditionally, the leaders of a business have taken it upon themselves to collectively solve critical challenges and to implement the “right” solution without any real consultation outside of the management team. This process is commonly completed with the assistance of remotely working consultants, to roll out a range of generic solutions, that may or may not actually fit the business. Nevertheless, a solution is agreed and resolved by the leadership team and is pushed down through the ranks with the tag line “get on board”.

    But is it time for this seemingly archaic approach to be shelved and to rethink how organisations address these times of change?

    When engaging with operational staff within an organisation, it is always inspiring to hear the ideas these individuals have about how the business can do better. Some of these ideas are quite out of the box, while others are more modest, however, all are insightful and have the potential to create meaningful change. Living and breathing the systems and processes, these individuals are generally motivated to look for better ways of doing things. So why not harness this and use these employees, who are the life blood of the organisation, to help improve the way the business operates.

    In a world where technology is changing at a rate of knots, why not engage with the people within an organisation who know technology the best. The younger generations are born into a world where everything revolves around technology, so why is it that the leadership team, who are typically not as proficient with technology, the ones who commonly try to solve these challenges? Would engaging with junior staff members, who typically are more in tune with the digital world, yield greater insights as to how the business might better integrate technology into the business?

    In this alternate approach, while the leadership team may not be responsible for developing the ideas or solutions, they still do play a vital role in leading engagement with employees across the organisation. When embarking upon such change initiatives, a systematic approach to defining the problem and consolidating ideas is still important. However, the way in which the process is completed must be tailored to the organisation but must also be flexible. Knowing how to engage with staff and to extract meaningful information, upon which to design solutions, is a skill and this may be an area that requires external assistance. Regardless, it is evident that an internally focused process with wide ranging engagement of staff at all levels, can yield significant value for the business.

    So, is it time that businesses rethink how best to approach the uncertainty and challenges of the next few months or years? Could it be that the solution being sought to those important challenges is already within the organisation and embedded within the workforce? Before organising that leadership battle room meeting, business leaders should consider whether a walk through the offices and having some genuine conversations with staff may be a more productive use of time.

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