This weekend I’m snuggling up with Breaking Things at Work by Gavin Miller, and hope to have a review for Sunday, as well as some thoughts on just why the Luddites were right about why folks hate their jobs, and if there are lessons to learn in this new phase we are entering into of virtual and hybrid work.
Here’s a great interview with Gavin Miller from On The Media
A very interesting study in Nature this week on “Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation.” And while I don’t think the results will surprise many, I do think we are not close to settling the question. This is a fairly good-sized study, with a good methodology, but I think more research is needed in the area. I’m thinking we will see a few more studies around the topic.
The results suggest that there is a unique cognitive advantage to in-person collaboration, but the authors do acknowledge there are a whole lot of other factors in play.
This is the big question for many. How do we get the benefits of in-person while maintaining the flexibility and benefits folks are used to. I think, for those work environments where virtual work is possible, the answer is going to be to structure times to maximize the tangible benefits of office-based work, including:
“Serendipitous collaboration,” a term coined by Dana Sitar in Inc. to describe informal interactions that result in innovative ideas, problem-solving, and new approaches. For me this includes plopping in a coworker’s office for a quick problem-solving session (maybe with a little healthy venting on the side). Speedy, efficient interactions that simply don’t happen in a remote environment — and that build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
More productive meetings. Even though we’re becoming more skillful at remote meetings, there are just certain meetings that benefit from in-person..
Connection and loyalty are difficult to promote in employees working remotely. The sense of team is not the same when team members see each other online as opposed to seeing them and speaking with them multiple times a day.
High-functioning teams have outstanding communication and shared experiences — both of which are difficult to manufacture long distance. Creating a relaxed, and informal environment, diffusing tension, and engaging in an extensive discussion where every team member is heard are all much easier to do in person than virtually.
Businesses operate thanks to human ideas and energy. People are the power behind every business; successful businesses find that fulfilled, happy employees drive fresh ideas, work harder to accomplish goals, and remain loyal to their employers.
The human element (and the need for and value of human connection) can’t be overstated as an ingredient for success and growth. I think we’re entering a new phase, and there are a lot of questions to be answered. What I hope is that bad decisions won’t become enshrined because of cost-cutting or just organization laziness. That approach already gave us horrible open offices.
Which espoused values and desired behaviors will best enable an organization to live its quality purpose? There’s been a lot of writing and thought on this, and for this post, I am going to start with ISO 10018-2020 “Quality management — Guidance for people engagement” and develop an example of a value to build in your organization.
ISO 10018-2020 gives 6 areas:
Context of the organization and quality culture
Planning and Strategy
Knowledge and Awareness
This list is pretty well aligned to other models, including the Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Framework (NIST), EFQM Excellence Model, SIQ Model for Performance Excellence, and such tools as the PDA Culture of Quality Assessment.
A concept that we find in ISO 10018-2020 (and everywhere else) is the handling of errors, mistakes, everyday problems and ‘niggles’, near misses, critical incidents, and failures; to ensure they are reported and recorded honestly and transparently. That the time is taken for these to be discussed openly and candidly, viewed as opportunities for learning how to prevent their recurrence by improving systems but also as potentially protective of potentially larger and more consequential failures or errors. The team takes the time and effort to engage in ‘second order’ problem-solving. ‘First order’ problem solving is the quick fixing of issues as they appear so as to stop them disrupting normal workflow. ‘Second order’ problem solving involves identifying the root causes of problems and taking action to address these rather than their signs and symptoms. The team takes ownership of mistakes instead of blaming, accusing, or scapegoating individual team members. The team proactively seeks to identify errors and problems it may have missed in its processes or outputs by seeking feedback and asking for help from external stakeholders, e.g. colleagues in other teams, and customers, and also by engaging in frequent experimentation and testing.
We can tackle this in two ways. The first is to define all the points above as a value. The second would be to look at themes for this and the other aspects of robust quality culture and come up with a set of standard values, for example:
Don’t be afraid to take a couple of approaches to get values that really sing in your organization.
Values can be easily written in the following format:
Value: A one or two-word title for each value
Definition: A two or three sentence description that clearly states what this value means in your organization
Desired Behaviors: “I statement” behaviors that simply state activities. The behaviors we choose reinforce the values’ definitions by describing exactly how you want members of the organization to interact.
Is this observable behavior? Can we assess someone’s demonstration of this behavior by watching and/or listening to their interactions? By seeing results?
Is this behavior measurable? Can we reliably “score” this behavior? Can we rank how individual models or demonstrates this behavior?
For the rest of this post, I am going to focus on how you would write a value statement for Speak Up.
First, ask two questions:
Specific to your organization’s work environment, how would youdefine “Speak Up.”
What phrase or sentences describe what you mean by “Speak Up.”
Then broaden by considering how fellow leaders and team members would act to demonstrate “Speak Up”, as you defined it.
How would leaders and team members act so that, when you observe them, you would see a demonstration of Speaking Up? Note three or four behaviors that would clearly demonstrate your definition.
Next, answer these questions exclusively from your team member’s perspective:
How would employees define Speaking Out?
How would their definition differ from yours? Why?
What behaviors would employees feel they must model to demonstrate Speaking Out properly?
How would their modeled behaviors differ from yours? Why?
This process allows us to create common alignment based on a shared purpose.
By going through this process we may end up with a Value that looks like this:
Value: Speaking Out
Definition: Problems are reported and recorded honestly and transparently. Employees are not afraid to speak up, identify quality issues, or challenge the status quo for improved quality; they believe management will act on their suggestions.
I hold myself accountable for raising problems and issues to my team promptly.
I attack process and problems, not people.
I work to anticipate and fend off the possibility of failures occurring.
I approach admissions of errors and lack of knowledge/skill with support.
A question I ponder a lot – “Is the Process Owner supposed to be wise?” This is followed closely by “What is wisdom even supposed to be?” followed by “Darn that pyramid.” Honestly, I more and more think “darn that pyramid.”
No answers here, I really just wanted to share a comic I like.