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Biohazards in the Suggestions Box

May 8, 2003
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Strategic Planning, Featured Article

    TO: All Employees
    FROM: The CEO
    RE: Suggestion Box
As we work to turn our company into a true world-class organization, we needto leverage the know-how and creativity of all employees. Beginning next week, you will find suggestion boxes located in all major work areas. Please take oneof the accompanying suggestion cards, document your improvement idea per theprinted instructions, and place the card inside the box. Thank you in advancefor helping us work smarter.

Three weeks and zero suggestions later
    TO: All Employees
    FROM: The CEO
    RE: "Big Prizes for Big Ideas"
    To encourage greater participation, we are launching the "Big Prizes forBig Ideas" program. At the end of each week, one of the submitted suggestioncards will be randomly selected, and the winner will receive a free gift fromthe "Big Prizes for Big Ideas" gift catalog. This is a wonderful chance towin a canned ham, a desk fan, a large wooden block that appears to be apaperweight, and many other exciting prizes. Remember, there’s no such thingas a dumb idea.

One week and 100 suggestions later
TO: All Employees
    FROM: The CEO
    RE: Suggestion Quality
    Apparently, there is such a thing as a dumb idea. While we have received manyworthwhile suggestions through our Big Prizes for Big Ideas (BPBI) initiative,or at least some worthwhile suggestions, many haven’t been up to par. It won’tbe possible to have a three-day workweek. Nor will we institute a "CEO for aday" program. To improve the quality of the submitted ideas, I haveestablished a BPBI Steering Committee. This group will make recommendations onhow to increase the effectiveness of the BPBI program.

One month and zero suggestions later
    FROM: The Chair of the BPBI Committee
    RE: Improvements to the Suggestion Program
    As you know, the past four weeks have seen a drop-off in the number ofsubmitted suggestions. We have chartered a subcommittee to analyze the situationand determine the types of extrinsic rewards that would be most appealing to ourworkforce; they will be submitting a recommendation report within six weeks. Inaddition, there is a strong consensus among committee members that employeesmust be held accountable for the number and quality of their suggestions. Eachemployee should be expected to submit at least one high-qualitysuggestion per quarter. This expectation should be clearlyexplained in a memo from you, and enforced through employee reviews andevaluations.

Two weeks and 50 suggestions later, after the CEO hasannounced the one-idea-per-quarter quota
TO: All Employees
    FROM: The Custodian
    RE: "Suggestions"
    As the employee who maintains the cleanliness of our work environment, I amwriting to suggest that people refrain from depositing trash and variousunidentified substances into the suggestion boxes. Having to use a biohazardsuit is especially unpleasant for me.

One week and five unidentified substances later
TO: All Employees
    FROM: The CEO
    RE: Electronic Submissions
    To ensure that we have a 21st-century suggestion system that makes full useof the latest technology, all suggestion boxes will be removed Friday. BeginningMonday, you will submit your quarterly idea by clicking on the "Submit or Else"button on our intranet. We’ve received many interesting anonymous submissions.Thanks to intranet technology, we will now be able todetermine their source.

Submitted on the last day of the suggestion box
    FROM: An Anonymous Employee
    RE: Employee Suggestions
    I’m supposed to provide one suggestion per quarter, right? Let me do a year’sworth and submit four ideas on this one card. (1) Stop the bribes (canned hams)and the forced accountability. (2) Let employees get together to develop betterapproaches. To do this, we need time away from the task treadmill. (3) Nurture asense of ownership among employees. Open the books. Involve us in goal-setting.Treat us as equals, not as equipment. (4) Give the custodian a substantialraise. 

Workforce, May 2003, p. 24 -- Subscribe Now!

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