Monday, January 16, 2012

People have the power!

I was dreaming in my dreaming 
of an aspect bright and fair 
and my sleeping it was broken 
but my dream it lingered near 
in the form of shining valleys 
where the pure air recognized 
and my senses newly opened 
I awakened to the cry 
that the people / have the power 
to redeem / the work of fools 
upon the meek / the graces shower 
it's decreed / the people rule
-           - Patti Smith and Fred Smith, “People Have The Power”

A very frustrated group of managers was reviewing the annual employee survey on the company’s organizational climate. The message was clear; this was not one of the best places to work. The numbers were so bad, indicating that a soul-killing or two might even have occurred.

It was not for lack of concern. These managers genuinely care about people and the climate of their company. They cared deeply, and that is precisely why these numbers cut to the quick. One year before, they sat in the same room and looked at a better set of numbers on the same survey, swearing then that they’d make improvements.  So now, after making their best efforts for a year, they were at wit’s end.

That is when they admitted they had failed and gave the job of rat killing to others.  They gave people the power.

They formed a team and got out of the way.  Not the kind of team you use so that you can check off the ‘we did something’ box and then ignore the problem forever after. It was the type of team that can really make a difference; full of motivated people representing the various groups of employees quite well. They could choose their own methodology, had authority to make changes, the resources to do the work and the support of the company’s President to back them up if there was resistance.

A year later, all the employees celebrated when the same survey showed they were the best business unit in the corporation.

Why did giving up and giving another group of people responsibility for killing rats work?  Because tending the culture of a company is not the job of the managers only, it is the responsibility of everyone who receives a paycheck from the organization.

“People have the power to redeem the work of fools.”

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