Transparency – Crucial to Engagment
If there is one question that pops up the most during a lean transformation, it is, “How to I get my employees to be more engaged?” I finally decided to reflect on some of the comparisons of companies that have had great engagement (based on personal experience and reading) versus companies that do not have a great level of engagement (again based on experience and reading). The one theme that seems to repeat itself over and over again is transparency.
Companies that have good employee engagement are like the old school overhead projector. All the information is projected up through a transparency so everyone in the room can see it. When everyone can see it, they can comment on it and add or change it. The transparency allowed for easy changes by using a marker. Once the change was made, everyone could see it immediately and agree upon it. Nothing is hidden. Everything is visual. Not hidden in a computer. Easy to change.
Things to look for to understand if an organization is being transparent are: future plans being shared with the entire workforce and not just the senior staff, financial information (not just cost/part) being shared with the entire staff, and open and honest dialogue about what the organization needs to do in order to improve. There are several ways I have seen this work. One of my favorites was the semi-annual employee update. The plant manager had a meeting with every employee in attendance. During this meeting he went over the financial performance of the plant, the areas the plant needed to improve upon in order to make the financial standing even stronger, and how lean would help them achieve the improved state. I found this even more amazing because the plant did not have any employee profit sharing so showing the financial information was a risky move. It paid off though. Employees were so engaged they would come to the management team and suggest ideas to eliminate 2 positions in their own 3 position work cell.
Another facility created a visual area. This area is accessible by every employee. The area shows the metrics (where they stand and where they need to be). It also shows the multi-year plan for the facility. How machines and areas are planned to move, what improvement events are scheduled, and what investments are planned. The employees know what change to expect and when to expect it. It helps everyone deal with the change management aspect a little easier. The employees see the changes coming and can get used to the idea before it is time to change as well as see how it is suppose to help the overall company. The company does not need to put as much effort into change management because the employees have been better prepared.
I know being this transparent can be a major cultural shift. Some people are afraid to give up the control they gain by keeping the information closely guarded. The places that have been able to let go of this orthodox have experienced a great since of freedom as more and more people are able to contribute to the success of the organization.