Author: Don Kennedy
Of the factors that influence successful outcomes, there are many we tend to not feel comfortable talking about.
One of these is when you as manager realize that a large portion (and probably the majority) of the people working for you do not share the same goals as you. Sometimes they are not even aware of the objectives that have become your day to day existence.
When you are in meetings where quantities such as overheads, profits and production rates are continually discussed, you may not realize that all your subordinates are not present at any of these meetings and are not receiving the same information. It seems obvious to you that all the topics being discussed as critical will also be obvious to your subordinates.
If you are higher in management, then you may be assuming that your subordinates would be running back to spread the message of what is being discussed. But see the above paragraph!
This problem is more prevalent in the past decade than previously. At one company, I held a two day workshop addressing the problem of the workers not considering the impacts of productivity, quality and the client’s perspective. Two months down the line, I was talking to an employee and they were unaware of concepts because they were on vacation during the workshop. Within 6 months, 15% of the workforce had hired on since the workshop. It was clear that within a short time a significant portion would not have heard the message.
If one follows Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management, it could be proposed that workers do not need to know concepts critical to management. If their day to day deliverables are clearly spelled out with all processes well defined, they can just do what is expected of them. If one believes, however, that an empowered employee is more valuable, then you as manager have to be vigilant that the message is being heard. Decades ago, I heard a radio announcer say that he was always surprised when people would phone in and say he was not telling the time enough when doing the play by play for sports games. He felt he was being too repetitive by continually going back to mention the time on the clock. From his perspective being tied up in the game, he felt the message was being told too often. Many listeners (and especially those that tuned in late) felt the message was not being told enough.
One workplace example is safety. It has been found that just telling the worker once that it is important not to be seriously injured or killed on the worksite is not enough. Great strides in accident reduction have been realized by holding daily toolbox talks reminding people of the message. Frequent repeating of the message does work.
Biographical details – Dr. Kennedy spent most of his career on heavy industrial projects in the fields of oil & gas, pipelines, electrical power generation and mining. He has also lectured at universities on financial and project management. He has written two books and dozens of articles on the practical application of management theories, with special interest in how our own misperceptions often lead us down paths of fantasy.