Change the system to get better results
REY ELBO Rey Elbo is a consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management. Chat with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, X (Twitter) or email firstname.lastname@example.org or via https://reyelbo.com.
The Manila Times
THERE’S one imperative lesson that I learned from politicians — “to win the game, change the rules.” It’s an old paradigm — “to win power, change the Constitution.” Fortunately, when applied to corporate management, it can be good examples of how to think outside of the box. Unfortunately, however, like a double-edged sword, it could either kill or make someone live. So, how do we ensure maximizing out-of-the box thinking without “killing” the motivation of people? In problem-solving and decision-making, I’ve long advocated that management must take a good look at their own system to discover all the non-value things. Improve or change the system to get better results. Imagine one Batangas factory worker, named Aldo (not his real name), who wanted the company to approve his request for a permanent transfer to a day shift. Aldo’s wife is a call center agent who works the night shift in their Makati office. Aldo was hoping to change work shifts so he could stay home at night with their two young children. When Aldo’s boss replied there was little or no chance of him changing shifts, he was greatly irritated. “You told me it’s possible to make the change after passing my probationary period.” Aldo’s boss replied there’s no vacancy yet for the day shift. Aldo was not convinced: “That’s not true. You hired one day-shift worker last month.” How do you resolve this issue with Aldo? My answer to that is to review the system. Why does the factory have two work shifts scheduled for different workers? If there’s a need to maintain that, you can improve the system by removing the permanent schedule. Instead, do a rotation where two sets of workers are assigned to work the day and night shift on an alternate basis. It may not be a 100-percent solution, but at least, it shows that management is willing to help Aldo in his quest to eliminate the perpetual work scheduling. Adhocracy The applicable buzzword is “adhocracy” — a term popularized by Robert Waterman but credited Alvin Toffler for the principle behind it. Waterman defines adhocracy as “any form of organization that cuts across normal bureaucratic lines to capture opportunities, solve problems and get results.” In Aldo’s case, line supervisors and managers must do the thinking. In business, adhocracy describes ways to circumvent the mind-numbing bureaucracy that characterizes many mature organizations and encourages individual creativity as part of a team commitment to corporate renewal. Waterman cites almost the mythical story of Steve Jobs and his design team marching off to a separate building, hoisting the skull and crossbones flag in defiance of Apple Computer’s bureaucracy to successfully design the Macintosh. In private corporations, how do you solve management problems or inefficient systems without violating auditing standards? Think. Use your coconut, but don’t recklessly use the word “impossible.” I say, it’s easy to play and work with adhocracy. Let me repeat the good rule of thumb: Change the system to get better results. Don’t go with the crowd. Even if certain things are being done by thousands of employers, it doesn’t mean they’re correct. Take the exit interview as one example. Why wait for employees to resign before management understands the problem why they’re resigning? No matter how good your interviewing skills are, the exit interview can always be beaten by a proactive engagement dialogue between management and their direct reports. Even if management has clearly understood the people’s issues brought to them, they must act accordingly. The sooner a management problem comes up, review the existing systems and procedures to determine their logic under the current context. If the system is still reasonable, then explain the whole story to the workers and convince them that the current solution is the best option they can do under the circumstances. Just the same, allow the workers to give reasonable solutions as soon as they become apparent. Change management To be successful with adhocracy requires the application of serious change management. If some workers have certain complaints about a policy, procedure or plan, be open-minded to discuss things and solve them all with the help of the concerned workers and with management projecting objectivity. One caveat though: “Talk about problems more than feelings” of everyone, says Nick Tasler in his 2016 article in Harvard Business Review. “Research shows that actively and repeatedly broadcasting negative emotions hinders our natural adaptation process … Look for practical advice about what to do next. By doing so, you’ll zero in on the problems you can solve, instead of lamenting the ones you can’t.” It’s better to get enough mental energy toward having a win-win solution.