January 21, 2005
Excerpts: Contagious Success - Part VIII
The first thing companies often do when they confront a serious challenge is to hire a team of consultants. While consultants can provide valuable insight from the viewpoint of outsiders, I would suggest that the first thing companies should do is consult their own employees. Because employees know the company well, they usually can figure out how to solve the problem.
For this to work, you first need to offer amnesty to employees for telling the truth about what needs to be done. Promise them that they will face no negative consequences for offering their ideas. The reason they dont come to you in the first place is that they fear they will be at the top of the list when the next downsizing occurs.
I have shared the results of my research on high performance with many audiences around the world. At an event in Japan, a young man came up to me after my presentation and told me the following story. He said that he worked for a manufacturing company that was trying to reduce cycle time. The company had engaged three strategy consulting firms to solve the problem to no avail. Management decided to hold a contest and sent out a Request for Proposal to the internal staff. His workgroup responded and got the assignment. The group members were afraid of offending the companys leaders by challenging some existing practices so they asked a senior-level manager to coach them about how to best approach management. With the coachs help, they were able to respectfully suggest ways to solve the problem. Senior management listened, and the group accomplished the goal.
While the type of coaching the group received is difficult to find, the bigger problem is that many companies dont ever turn to their own employees when they need smart thinking.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.