Lean Organisations

Do You Really Want Contract Workers?

It started before the “Great Recession” but that period of economic history has seen it proliferate even more. Certainly reports suggest the trend of hiring contract workers is growing. Yet it is something you need to think about very carefully.

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What’s Accountability Got To Do With it?

Like most people I have been appalled by the recent report on child sex abuse in Rotherham where, for those that may not be aware of it, over 1400 mostly children, some as young as 11, had been sexually abused over a 16 year period. Shocking though that figure is for a single town, what I find even more shocking are the circumstances that enabled this to take place. What were those in authority doing?    

It seems there were 3 prevalent attitudes that enabled things to develop on the scale they did:-

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Redundancy: When will they ever learn?

It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.  

This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.


As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (4)

Day 6: The Return

Thus it was that 5:30 a.m. the next morning saw me sitting on my computer bag trying to fit in all my newly acquired clothes, before squeezing in my laptop.

Forcing-clothing-into-an-over-full-suitcase_Image credit photo_7917768__jlombard_123RF Stock PhotoAmazingly I managed, and was able to wander down to reception to check out wheeling only my computer bag and carrying a shopping bag with the now much-hated new shoes. These I was delighted to hand over to the even more delighted bellboy, who I had previously established wore the same size and who had even offered to go out and buy a new pair for me!  Then, feeling even more denuded than when I arrived, I took a taxi to the airport.   

Fortunately no-one queried my slightly awkward, bulging hand luggage (I would not have been liable for my actions if they had!) and I had an uneventful flight to Paris. With a little time before catching my connecting flight, I stopped at the Air France Customer Service Desk to once again ask about my missing luggage. After all, as my suitcase must have made the initial flight but hadn’t made it to Tunis, Paris seemed the most likely place to find it. Based on my poor customer experience to date I thought that I should personally make every effort while there, and envisaged repeating what we had done in Tunis.

Once again, however, things did not work out as I hoped.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (2)

Days 2 and 3: The Saga of Socks and Shoes.

Unfortunately over the next couple of days things got worse.

At the end of Day 2 there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I had not expected such poor customer service and this was bad news, made worse by the fact that I had packed my proven, comfortable shoes in my suitcase. This had given me a problem.

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Work-Life Integrity is the Answer

A common theme in articles I have been reading this week is employer brand and the creation of places where people want to work. These were perhaps best represented by this article in HR Magazine. Yet I cannot help wonder why it all appears so mystical and mysterious. Surely it is obvious?

Work-Life Integrity_000008482342XSmallAfter all, if we only have one life, it seems self-evident that we should all want to make the most of it. And work is large part of life. Thus you don’t need some academic writing in Harvard Business Review to tell you that, “People want to do good work”, “in an organisation that makes a difference” and “in a place that magnifies their strengths.” For anyone with an ounce of humanity that should be a no-brainer!

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The Case for Employee Engagement

Sometimes it is easier to define something by describing its opposite. Perhaps that applies to Employee Engagement too. Maybe it is easier to depict employee disengagement.

And of course, when describing anything, the old adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." I was reminded of that this week when I had reason to look at one of the cartoons from my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People.”   

Employee Disengagement

Ironically, although the picture does a wonderful job of portraying employee disengagement and its consequences, it is far from fiction. It portrays something that I was told once really happened!

This is the kind of situation that can actually happen when people are over-regulated or not valued enough to be allowed to use their own discretion. And that, I am convinced, is the root cause of the lack of employee engagement, and even the active employee disengagement, that is so rife today. You might not have a production line like this, but I am sure that, if you opened your eyes, you could identify any number of examples of employee disengagement that are costing you or your organisation a bundle.   

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Talent Wars or Talent Waste?

Are people’s capabilities diminishing? Our own observations would suggest otherwise. Likewise science would probably point to the opposite. So why has talk of the “War for Talent” come to the fore over the past 15 years? How can there be a shortage of talent in a world that has more people than ever before?

Something has to be wrong somewhere.

The root of the problem lies in the implicit distinction between talent and people. You can’t actually separate the two. Think of it like this: if your car runs out of fuel the only way you can get it restarted is to refuel. So why do we view 'talent' differently? If you have a shortage of talent the only way you can alleviate that lack is to develop new talent. I am sure you will agree that seems pretty obvious. Yet many people still don’t ‘get it.’ Unfortunately management seem to top the list. They still seem to remain adamant that it is something you go out and buy.

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Collaboration, Collective Intelligence & Employee Engagement

Engaged Employees_000012107875XSmallDo you ever give collaboration any conscious thought? I hope so, because it is integral to virtually everything you do, and certainly a key aspect of any leadership role. After all, collaboration literally means “working together” and no organisation can exist unless people work together. So you could define management as “the art or science of enabling people to collaborate more effectively.”

Actually this definition of management may be more powerful and profound than you realise, for it makes people paramount: it makes them the centre and the circumference of management and reinforces the fact that, as a leader, managing people is the most important aspect of your job. It is powerful because it exposes something you possibly never consciously recognise: that your people are your brand! Your

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3D Motivation!

Individual Objectives = Organisational Objectives

This simple equation encapsulates the essence of employee engagement. Doesn't it? After all isn’t that what you as a manager or business leader want? You want your employees to have objectives aligned with those of the organisation. And you want them to realise the success of the business and its survival depends on them achieving their objectives. Don't you?

This may possibly even be the biggest challenge you face. Unfortunately, trying to create this alignment all too often leads you down the track of thinking that you are responsible for motivating your people in order to create that effect. This is a track that can be a dead-end.

From the time of Aesop we have traditionally recognised two fundamental forms of motivation – the carrot and the stick. Even now these underpin all marketing efforts, only in modern parlance they are called ‘toward motivation’ and ‘away motivation’ respectively.

Yet there is a 3rd motivational force that is not widely enough recognised or acknowledged.

The missing linkIn my book “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” I used this diagram to depict it. This looks at motivation from the perspective of the above equation. So instead of looking from an away or toward perspective it looks at it from the individual and organisational perspective. Thus you have individuals looking to fulfil needs and wants, while you have the organisation looking to stimulate such desires through traditional carrot and stick methods.  

However, individuals actually have a level that transcends needs and wants. For example think of a marathon runner. What makes them persist in heading out to train in all weathers and at all times of the day or night? There may be any number of terms for that, but I have called it devotion. (In the context of the individual and their relationship to the organisation, you may call it engagement.) Whatever it is it is both personal and innate to the individual.

This makes it very difficult for the organisation to try to address. What can you do to create devotion to the organisation? You have to find something that reaches the individual at an intrinsic rather than an extrinsic level.

That is why I am so excited by the research undertaken by social scientists and psychologists and championed by Daniel Pink. In highlighting autonomy, mastery and purpose as the primary, universal intrinsic motivators this work underscores precisely the points I was making in "Lean Organisations Need FAT People." Not only does my model of employee ownership embed the equation: Individual Objectives = Organisational Objectives through a sense of common purpose and shared values, but it also lays a solid foundation for greater autonomy and mastery.

If you are serious about business success you have to build employee engagement and this offers you the perfect recipe. It is motivation in 3D!