Rules. Which ones really hinder employees, do we understand why, and can we solve them? How do you as a works council, HR, manager or CEO ensure that employees actively think about this, come up with ideas and help set priorities? After all, they know exactly what it is that frustrates them every day.

I remember a lecture on Mintzberg and the usefulness of bureaucracy to manage chaos in growing organizations. Today, it is thought that we need to be flexible, embrace bottom-up decision-making, servant leadership and agility precisely because markets are so fickle. Onward! Right? Down with rules, then? Freedom and trust so we can be creative and solve problems together? As Seth Godin pointed out in his book and TED talk Tribes, people are most easily led in the direction they always wanted to go. In a McKinsey study on stability versus agility, the authors state that modern leadership is the art of removing procedures, structures, and rules that get in the way of change, and keep what is needed.

And which rules and procedures should remain? Which ones are in the way of people changing in a direction they have wanted to go for a long time? 

The remarkable thing is that we don’t really appreciate change. At least, not if we have no influence on it, have no part in it, or have no co-ownership of it. We shy away from change when we have no role in it, according to, for example, research from the American Psychology Association on Well-Being. Stress increases as employees see the values they implicitly live and work by threatened. And vice versa. Values are therefore smarter to deploy than rules! Netflix discovered this much earlier. They follow a very simple rule: Avoid Rules! People over Process! However, a close examination reveals that Netflix only allows rules if something can lead to irreversible damage. Netflix apparently allows a margin of error, so to speak, to learn. Fail fast often is what start-ups and gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk sometimes say. So do we. And rules hold back this learning process.

In his book Doorbreek uw bedrijfscultuur (Break through your company culture), Rudy Snippe talks about the self-referential ability of organizations. They maintain their own system, and rules, and confirmative bias ensures that people are mainly open to signals that confirm them right and do not threaten their already existing perception or views. Managers or employees who say: “this is the way it has to be, because those are the rules, don’t ask me why” or “it doesn’t work that way here” are not wanted by anyone, except your competitor. Well, not even them..

There is evidence that €5 billion of administrative burden is wasted in the healthcare sector in the Netherlands alone. It’s quite bold to state that this ‘can therefore be scrapped’, because rules also provide structure, support accountability and make risks transparent and manageable. And last but not least, the legislator also wants to see all kinds of things complied with, such as requirements for a license, tender, etc.

Do we leave it at that? No, definitely not. What if you had a smart dialogue twice a year and asked your employees which rule they think could be abolished and why? What if you could let employees respond to each other’s ideas, and you would know which ones could potentially be abolished, and more importantly, why? What if you also asked which rule allows them to do their work in a stable and structured way?

One of our clients tackled the ‘rules’ topic by simply asking its employees (nearly 3,000 employees) to name rules that only bother them and the organization and do not benefit the client. The outcome was clear and could be divided into:

1 rules that hinder employees from doing their jobs and unexplainably still exist;

2 rules that are inconvenient, but serve a purpose;

3 rules that need to be looked at more seriously but have the appearance of not being so.

Anything under 1 can be simplified or removed after further analysis. Note the chain effect: ask the question where the rule got its origin. Do we still understand if the rule is outdated and unnecessary? Conduct further dialogue in a small(er) group if necessary.

Anything under 2 is explained in more detail. Apparently, the main thing you need to make clear to employees is that these rules exist and why compliance is necessary. Realize that they apparently didn’t know that. Therefore, go over why they didn’t know that? Why are there rules that are unknown, untrained, and/or untraceable? You can also train important rules smartly with groups of employees via dilemmas. Contact us if this appeals to you.

Finally, anything that falls under 3 should be analysed more closely. You can have deeper dialogues with the group that identified these rules to clarify what to do with them. Again, what is the origin, why don’t we understand why we have these rules?

You get the idea. Clearing clutter and making important rules visible are both necessary. Something you simply can’t pass up. You don’t want to wait for this: you either want to get rid of rules or see them enforced. There is nothing in between, in our opinion. So neither work, nor the customer, nor your employee falls between two stools.

How do we proceed: We can set up a program with your organization or department for the above challenges. You will have the first results with groups of 10 employees up to 10,000s within 2 weeks.  You will be amazed to see the results: a quick return on investment. This will not only be reflected in money and agility, but also in higher employee satisfaction and commitment. The best companies in the world, have a foundation based on the commitment of employees. At the time, not the CEO of IKEA, but an employee came up with the idea of removing the legs of the LÖVET table, in order to develop “flat packaging” as a smart, customer-friendly logistics solution. Don’t underestimate employees, they have ideas, they want to improve their work and they know which rules can be thrown out and which ones are badly needed better than anyone.

Fancy a challenge? Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 What are right questions to ask employees? And how do you get more insight from the participants’ answers? How and why did they come to their choice? What is the real underlying story? Or does that linger under the surface?

The right questions will lead to a successful round of questions

Asking the right questions sounds simple, but it’s not. Countless surveys you have ever distributed as an organization show this. The response rate is low, the answers hardly give the desired results and the frustrations of employees only increase because they have the feeling that ‘nothing is being done’ with their response.

Therefore, we won’t use the word survey. We talk about challenging, listening to each other, working together, where the approach is to engage in a conversation with each other. In question rounds, the right questions are critical to making a question round successful. By successful we mean; whether the outcomes lead to solutions that contribute to the purpose of the questions.

Coming up with questions is difficult

We found that many organizations struggle with asking the right questions. To this end, we conducted research in recent years at dozens of organizations with many tens of thousands of employees, examined studies and designed 100s of questions. We asked them how they are doing, what could be improved or even what needs to be improved.

The 2nd unique round of CircleLytics is used to challenge and inspire each other to think deeper about the questions presented. Organizations such as Fivoor, Inspectorate for Health Care and Youth, Movisie, Unilever, Municipality of Utrecht, HR Community, RSM (global) and several others engaged in a dialogue with employees and their network in this way.

In recent months, dozens of organizations have surveyed 10,000 employees about how they are doing, and what could or should be improved, including what work can be done at home, or not, and why? How much of the work should be done at home, how much at the office? What do employees want, what do they demand? How much room does the labour market allow for not meeting the employees’ demands or wishes? Will employees continue to have the same wishes and demands when it comes to working at home or in the office? What if this changes? What is the influence of the government and social developments when it comes to choices regarding working at home or at the office?

Together with several client organizations, we designed questions, did research and read studies. As a result, we designed top-notch dialogue questions for you and your organizations. You can use these unchanged, enrich them or you can make a selection.

People, society and organizations are currently facing unprecedented circumstances. Insecurities regarding health, finances, jobs and a future for you and your environment go hand in hand. In addition, home and office work must be combined and that in itself is complex enough without corona . Societies and countries are also under pressure to keep their heads above water, to be accountable to parliament and citizens and to ensure that healthcare is or will be up to standard, to offer confidence to all. And then there is the labour market, accessibility of offices, cost of office space versus working from home, etc. Organizations are already making different choices, like Lloyd’s and Goldman Sachs do in this article.

In this sense, we are part of a great experiment in which many people and agencies have opinions, point to each other and are constantly confronted with new, mostly uncertain information. Uncertainty and forms of social isolation can lead to stress and mental problems that transcend normal absenteeism. This can result in a serious loss of confidence, commitment and productivity.

CircleLytics has developed top-notch questions that allow the leadership of the organization, HR, the works council and all employees together to determine what is going well, and what can or must be improved. Contrary to the various corona surveys, the CircleLytics questions reveal the scores: why and how employees think about ‘how to do better’. This provides deeper insights into how to make sound decisions compared to using scores from an old-fashioned survey. It also results in collaboration: employees learn from each other and listen to each other. Something that is desperately needed in these times of little social interaction.

People need trust and connection. You increase this by taking them seriously, showing them that their opinions matter and connecting them in the 2nd round.

We designed a set of questions for dialogues with managers and a set for dialogues with employees. These questions are incorporated into CircleLytics and can be used immediately. We recommend that you don’t limit the dialogue with your people to just one because conditions, markets and uncertainties are constantly changing. You can enrich the questions with matters that apply specifically to you.

An example question:

“To what extent is information from leadership clear and available to you?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“And please indicate what improvement you see for a higher score next time.”

Or:

“And please explain your score with a recent, clear and telling example.”

Another example question:

“What is the biggest challenge in leading your team when you work from home?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“Describe a situation that other executives can learn from the most.”

or you can give even more direction to the participant:

“In answering this question, don’t focus on video conferencing/IT but on the social side of your work.”

The first round of questions will generate scores and quality answers. These serve as input for the second round of questions in the Circlelytics dialogue. This is how we challenge participants to think more deeply about the questions presented earlier. They learn from each other and listen to each other. This brings about collaboration and creates support for final decisions. A dialogue emerges and the power of an organization’s collective intelligence now comes to the fore.

Ask it!

Ask managers and employees the right questions, show that their opinion matters and connect them in the second round of questions, so that you can respond as an organization to the real needs that are felt by employees. The right questions help management, Human Resources, the works council and all employees to gain more insight into what is already going well, what can be improved and what really needs to change. And make sure you repeat these rounds of questions regularly, because circumstances are constantly changing.

Looking for more information on these dialogues for your employees and/or managers and are you ready increase your insight immediately? Then email us and start your Proof-of-Concept today.

 

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The hard truth is that if you want to take your organization into the future with innovations, your organization needs to be a learning organization:

On the basis of a unique data set covering 2000 Danish private firms, it is demonstrated that firms combining several of the organizational traits of the learning organization are much more prone to introducing new products than others.” (Peter Nielsen and Bengt-Åke Lundvall, Aalborg University).

One of the critical ingredients for creating a learning organization is ensuring that there is a feedback culture.  Because let’s face it, how do you learn without asking for feedback?

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Based on our experience we’ve compiled 5 questions you need to ask yourself to evaluate if you’ve got a feedback culture:

  1. Has your leadership identified and communicated the most important competencies needed for the future?

Yes, it’s important to have a vision.  Steve Jobs, ex-CEO, of arguably the most innovative company of this decade, Apple Computer, has been quoted saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be”.  Having a vision is knowing where that puck is going to be.  But getting to the puck requires identifying those competencies you need in your organization to get there.  Identify your most important competencies and monitor how good you are by getting feedback on them.

  1. Does Your Leadership Regularly Ask for Feedback on strategy, obstacles or ways to accelerate progress?

Do your most senior leaders continually ask for feedback?  “Walk the talk” and demonstrate that without feedback you don’t learn.  This starts at the highest level (McKinsey). Leaders who don’t ask for feedback regularly, are really saying to their employees: “You don’t need to be open to learning to get to my position.” It also works the other way around: people perceive you as more competent when you ask for their feedback and opinion. Gallup and Bersin of Deloitte already explained to their management that making employees’ opinions count actually drives their engagement. That’s what we call a win-win!

  1. Do you have an easy tool for getting frequent feedback, askingopen questions that matter most?

We believe that the days of just-a-survey-and-a-dashboard are over. In our mobile device lifestyle, we handle 65% of our emails on our mobile device.  That means that your request for feedback, ideas, solutions, will be handled safely on any device, at the employee’s most convenient time. Make sure your employees can take their time to respond; slowing them down will crack your puzzle faster.

Evidence also shows that firms seldom learn and innovate alone.  Innovation requires open cooperation and an inquisitive mind (read for example the book “A More Beautiful Question” from Warren Berger).  Learning is very much an outside-inside process.

 

  1. Do you embed feedback into your business processes and easily enable growth?

We’re in a learning economy now, which means that globalization, deregulation and information technology has created an environment with more intense competition, rapid transformation and change. A VUCA world. To compete in such an economy, the ability to identify the competencies you need, and attain them (whether by yourself or by adding others to your team) is crucial to the performance of organizations.  Make sure continuous feedback and dialogue becomes a habit, instead of an incident.

  1. Do you have a way to enable the sharing of knowledge and insights to improve collaboration?

Organizations can learn only as fast as the slowest link learns. Change is hindered unless an organization can enable knowledge to be shared. In feedback and learning organizations, knowledge flows freely, and talent becomes visible and what we call “liquid”.  “The best performing teams have talent that comes together in a complementary way. Teams must tap the potential for many minds to be more intelligent than one mind, the collective intelligence. If teams learn, they become a microcosm for learning throughout the organization” (The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge, MIT), or superorganism as others call it. We believe this can only be achieved when social collaboration mechanisms are in place, an ecosystem for people to accelerate their growth, together.

Our first step, together with you, could be to evaluate your feedback culture in your organization by engaging your employees in a series of pulse dialogues. Collect their feedback and thoughts, and make them rethink matters like: “What’s the main obstacle in the organization we could take away together so that it become open to feedback and why do you think so?” or “What’s your best example of compliments in our organization that made a difference for your motivation?”, etc. This will clarify how, when and in what context feedback and recognition can be introduced, and identify the work that needs to be done. Feedback is worth a lot, yet very complex, no matter what others say.  Together, we will work out the steps to introduce a sublime feedback culture.

MaurikDippel, co-founder of CircleLytics.

+31 (0)611 78 80 47

 

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