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The managers of two different groups I worked with recently both feared that their employees wouldn’t contribute ideas and that the session would be a dud. As it turned out one group identified 36 opportunities for improvement and the other 20 ideas. The opportunities for efficiency and customer impact were very high. The managers were surprised that they hadn’t been aware of some of the issues before they came out during the session.
Most of the frustrations were system based – either IT systems or the procedures that governed day-to-day work processes. Staff identified numerous situations where double or triple entry of redundant information were required. Employees simply accepted that this was part of their job. The manager saw something completely different – by reducing duplication it would create extra capacity to handle more work.
Managers mistakenly think that staff are against streamlining workflow. In reality employees find time consuming workarounds painful but tend to accept them as unchangeable.
Another potential road block or bottleneck in the process occurs when management thinks that they have to do all the analysis, prioritization and follow-up. Instead of taking the list away from the group, empower the team to sort the ideas themselves using criteria that management would use. Then have small working groups go and meet with IT or other departments to see how to get the improvement implemented.
Employees will be more likely to buy into change if they have had input into designing the solution.
How to unleash the power of innovation in your department:
Using an outside consultant can help the process. My role was to introduce the concept and get the brainstorming underway. You can certainly do this without outside help but both managers appreciated having a neutral facilitator assist with the process.
Chances are you and your team are so busy taking care of day-to-day business that you haven’t stepped back to see the opportunities to reduce waste, streamline processes and remove frustrations. Getting your team involved not only generates operational savings, it empowers employees to have a say and feel a sense of accomplishment. Contact us to see how we can help.
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