All organizations are actually systems. They are by nature highly interdependent. And, because of the “humaneness” they are also very complex. The way to achieve a high performance work system is to keep it very simple. DO NOT LET THE “HR” PEOPLE do design work – they will create a defensive, reactive system that will confuse most everyone (except themselves)!
It’s not simple, but it’s just not that hard. Start with the end in mind. Work backwards from what is the minium critical specifications that the ultimate Customer needs (if you can, go a step earlier and study how your customer uses your product and how their product is used by their customer). Follow the value stream – the GEMBA. Map the processes that deliver value to the customer. Determine the process capability and compare it to the requirements of the customer. Are you able to meet the requirements? How much variation exists? Why does it exist? How much waste is there in the process – materials, movement, re-work, etc…? Work these steps all the way back through shipping, warehousing, manufacturing, procurement, order entry, accounts receivabale, and sales.
ONLY ONE PROBLEM – you can’t do this work alone. And you should not do this work alone. Therefore we must design a work system where employees learn to do this as part of their jobs. A system of management is required that can unlock the capability of every worker to participate in this activity of continuous process improvement. This kind of work transcends the “satisfaction” that most companies speak of in employees doing the daily routines. This work goes so far beyond “engagement” and “empowerment” and can compete with being “self-actualized”. Because when employees are given this kind of opportunity and an environment that supports learning – we actually can create PEOPLE that are capable in so many other ways. When we teach employees how to improve things, they improve everything – at home and at work, at church and in their communities. And, because the energy that they possess is so magnetic – they often teach others how to teach others.
SO HOW DO WE DESIGN THE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? Whatever you do – don’t let the HR people do design. Stay tuned for part 2.