It goes without saying that leaders can’t be across all the roles in an organisation unless the organisation is very small. People are employed in an organisation due to the key competencies and characteristics they possess and it is a rare person indeed that would have a complete understanding of every role performed in an organisation.
So why is it that leaders rarely involve employees in the decision-making process?
I’m not talking strategic decisions here, but where a decision will impact directly on how people will continue to do their job, why is it that leaders often fail to solicit input from those who must live with the decision and make it work?
I know organisations are not democracies – God forbid! Can you imagine if you ran your business along the lines that we see our parliaments run?
Endless debate, no decisions, lots of money spent, no agreement, spiteful name calling and, most importantly, very little result (actually, it does remind me of a few dysfunctional places I’ve worked at) – but neither should they be akin to a totalitarian state!
It has always surprised me that it is rare that the people that need to do the jobs are not asked their thoughts on how the job might be done better.
I once had a manager tell me that “working in this organisation is like holding a beach ball in front of your face – you will only ever see two or three of the coloured panels in front of your face. You will never be able to see the whole ball”.
This clumsy analogy was designed to let me know that, in my lowly position, I wasn’t ever going to be able to see the bigger picture. That I’d never be in a position to see the whole strategic direction of the organisation. So why not? Simply because the senior executives had never really tried to explain it.
Employees at the lower levels in this organisation truly did not understand how what they did contributed to the overall success, or otherwise, of the organisation. Very poor business communication skills indeed!
So, back to my original point. Consulting employees on how they may be able to do their job better or structure their team or department in a more efficient way is an opportunity to have the big picture conversation and exercise those business management skills.
They might be a small cog in a big machine but if that cog doesn’t work the whole mechanism can come to a grinding halt.
Employees like to know that they are making a difference and this is a great opportunity to let them know how they are contributing to the overall success and future of the organisation they work for. They may come up with ideas that are unworkable or don’t fit the strategic plan, but this is an opportunity to then explain why that is the case and point out the reasons why. If that is the worst that happens then at least the employee is better informed as to how their role fits into the grand scheme of things.
They will also more likely get an idea of why certain decisions are made, the decision-making process employed, what other teams do in the organisation and how inter-related and reliant teams are on each other to get the job done and arrive at a final, successful outcome.
That certain thing can’t change simply because of the knock-on effect. And that is the worst case scenario. At best, they may come up with some gems of ideas that can improve productivity, they will have greater buy-in as they had a hand in designing the process (and now have a vested interest in its success), arrive at some cost-saving strategies and even improve job satisfaction through feeling a direct connection to their workflow and the organisation as a whole. They are, after all, the experts in their jobs a lot of the time.