Don't run through the next red light because you missed a signal earlier. Barring intervention, you will wind up losing solid workers fed up with being taken advantage of. Before engaging in redesign, consider the following steps:
Interview a sample of employees. Individual interviews are best, with both senior and junior employees. Explain to them that management is dissatisfied with the current distribution of work system and is soliciting ideas. If interviewing all employees proves impractical, select a representative sample. You might even run small feedback groups to glean both sides' viewpoints on the current situation: the advantages and disadvantages, the efficiencies and inefficiencies, short- and long-tem consequences, etc. If using a group forum, everyone should feel comfortable giving input.
Convene joint meetings to share the data with junior and senior employees. (You also may need to allow time for junior employees to vent their frustration, including with management, for allowing these inequities to exist. Clearing the air should help people see why changes are needed. It also should stimulate clear-headed approaches to changing your operational procedures, job duties, and so on.
Start small, perhaps with a department or two, to see how your new delegation-of-duties format is working. Conduct a brief trial-and-error run to highlight bugs. Have the entire company, and not just department supervisors, meet regularly with senior managers to monitor how things are progressing. Hopefully, some kinks will come to light that can be addressed.
Report back to relevant staff within a month or so of the starting date. Share the results: the positives, the glitches, any unanticipated discoveries, and other notable information. Laying a proper foundation helps your employees support the operational changes.
This problem-solving process democratizes operational processes and should yield a more current and productive redesign system. What's more, you should expect stronger work teams to emerge, displaying greater cohesion and camaraderie.
SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, LICSW, The Stress Doc, Washington, D.C., January 27, 2006.
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