Org Hacking
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Org Hacking

Working on Work

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Approach: From “one and done” to “continuous improvement”

WoW is a never-ending, “continuous improvement” effort. And yet, it is often approached as if it is a problem that can and should be solved with a one-time effort. There is an absolute benchmark for what “good enough” looks like, often on a 5-point scale, and a view of “success” as showing an improvement in scores from one period to the next. As if when we’ll score all 5s we’ll be done and can fire half of our HR staff…

Sensing: From ”false precision” to “focus and patterns”

Current sensing efforts collect evaluations using a 5-point Likert scale, and analysis consists of comparing the scores either across demographics or time periods. The absolute numerical score opens the door for false precision and misinterpretations of the scores. Many organizations tend to walk through that door.

Implementation: From “initiatives and projects” to “systems and mindsets”

Reactions to insights surfaced in the sensing phase tend to take the shape of initiatives and projects, often as part of the HR team roadmap, in the best cases in collaborations with the executive team and managers. But those tend to ignore the power of existing organizational systems in shaping existing behaviors and perceptions. Efforts to improve collaboration will likely fail as long as individual performance bonuses are in place. Efforts to improve quality will likely fail as long as targets/goals only measure throughput and cost. The more tangible will always trump the less tangible. Furthermore, efforts tend to focus on the external environment, ignoring the powerful impact that mindsets and internal beliefs have on driving change. Yes, my manager has a part to play in me “knowing what’s expected of me in my role” (a common engagement question). But so do I. Have I sought out clarity if the expectations were unclear to me? If I haven’t, why? What underlying beliefs led to my inaction? How can I test them out and weaken their hold on me?

Ownership: From “not my job” to “everyone’s job”

We like to say that culture, a fuzzy label for the thing we change when we’re WoW is “everyone’s job”. Yet that is hardly reflected in the way traditional cycles are run, perpetuating the dichotomy observed by Chris Argyris’ 25 years ago: “Employees must tell the truth as they see it; leaders must modify their own and the company’s behavior. In other words, employees educate, and managers act”. If only HR has capacity allocated towards WoW — real change is unlikely to happen.

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