How to improve your workplace?

We often think of workplaces as well organized with perfect workflows. It can be true for most organizations or at least some of their departments. How is it in reality? Well, as long as you do not look at the whole process you cannot spot organizational issues. You may already have a Quality Management (QM) book which explains and describes the procedures your organization has (should have). Is your QM process close to your everyday workflow? Are you satisfied with the way things are done?

In organizations, we may starts with big ideas on how things should be done. We write procedures and imagine assessments to check that everything is alright. We anticipate our needs and create idealized version of reality. Let me explain. In a perfect world, things will be done as written in the QM book, delay will not exist, last minute issue either. Unfortunately, in real life there is always something happening that was not planned: an ill employee, losing an important client, new competitors...



Here is how a perfect world would look like:
  • Perfect timing
You asked for the report to be on your desk at noon today but in fact it was ready yesterday. 
  • Flawless Humans
Your employees are engaged and provide the best service ever which impacts the customers loyalty and foster your brand fame. Your leaders promote equity, employees wellness and help each other to create a strong organizational culture that drives your company to success.
  • Perfect anticipations
You have planed all possible events and communicated the procedures to your employees along with perfect training. 
  • Perfect demand and offer
Your clients ask exactly for the services or products you can offer. In case of atypical demand you  have the means to satisfy your customers demand. R&D is your second nature. 
  • Perfect environment
The environment in which your organization evolves promotes your development. Laws are supporting you, competitors are not to scary, the economy is stable. Your dreams can become true.  
  • Flawless two-ways communication
Obviously, every time you communicate people understand what you mean and interpret every silence as wisdom. On the other side, you have the capacity to understand everything communicated to you. There are no language barriers, no misunderstanding.

This was the description of a perfect world but we all know that this is most of the time not the case.
In reality we have:
  • Usual time issues 
Your department was under so much pressure that you did not have the time to write the yearly report. 
  • Normal Humans
Leaders and employees are subject to emotions that can surface in the workplace at any time. Your employees may not be engaged and your leaders can be bossy bosses who do not foster wellness and slef-development in the organizations.
  • Inability to anticipate everything
We are not able to predict the future. We can only anticipate possible trends and get ready to react to impromptus events. This means that organizations have to be flexible enough to change directions when necessary. It sometimes easier said than done.
  • Variable demand and offer 
The demands varies in function of the environment in which your organization evolves. You may also lose some of your top talents which will impact your offer. 
  • Evolving environment
"The only constant is change" What ever is out there, it changes continuously. Laws are passed, competitors come and go. Economy collapse and grow. Global warming is real. Globalization too. Nothings seems to remain the same expect change.
  • Difficult communication
Communication is probably the most difficult area we have to deal with. It seems like we cannot understand what the other person says because we do not listen. On the other side, the person cannot understand us because they do not use the same frame or language to interpret the world. We have a tendency to have a one way communication which do not foster real exchanges.

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There are ways to get closer to the workplace of our dreams. We should be more realistic and accept what is. We have to look at our workplace realities and find solutions that fits its employees, environment, communication and culture. Otherwise, any attempted change will fail. 

Systemic way to improve your workplace:

  • Observe reality and take notes 
It can be tempting to make assumptions on the problems' causes. It is then important to observe the current process in your organization. I encourage you to talk with the people involved in the process you are looking at in order to get their point of view and have a better understanding of the problem. Do not hesitate to create visual workflows by using for example the Swim lane diagram. 
  • Describe your dream
Take the time to dream about your goal. Do it in group with all the employees who are involved in the area you want to improve. Ask them what would make the situation better for them or ask them where do they face difficulties. There is probably a solution to your problem and talking about it may help to surface it. You can then create a Swim lane diagram of the dream process.
  • Identify gaps between Reality and Dream
Now that you have a clear understanding of what is and what could be, you can use the Swim lane diagrams and compare them. Where do the differences lay?
  • Investigate on action that could be taken to achieve the dream state
 Do you need to invest in a new software? Should you reorganize your workflow? What actions should be taken?
  • Create a step by step model of improvement
In this section, you should carefully think of breaking down the big project in small and accountable steps. You should create a check list of steps to be taken.
  • Implement the model
Now, it is becoming real! You will start implementing the change with the help of your employees. Find your Change agents in order to spread the change willingness.
  • Check if it works. Otherwise adapt the model to your needs
You may take time to check if the improvement process is smoothly or if some problems emerge. You should be ready to modify the model you created because your aim is to create improvement not to follow the process from A to Z.
  • Celebrate small success and recognize employees work
Every time a box is checked on your to do list you should celebrate it or at least mention that you are done with it. It will help people to see the evolution and keep engaged with the change.
  • Do your best to achieve your dream. It is normal if you do not fully achieve it.
Sometimes you cannot achieve exactly what you were aiming for. It is totally normal and acceptable as long as you did not worsen the initial situation. If the situation is worst it may be because you neglected the human aspect of the change or that the communication was not clear enough.

There are various Areas of Improvement that you may wish to look at. I would suggest you to improve one area at a time and to start with one that do not need to much amelioration in order to test your process.
  1. Time management
  2. Relationships between employees and leaders
  3. Innovation capability
  4. Environment assessment 
  5. Communication
Do not forget that in the end the result and the people well-being matters more than the process. You should be ready to change your model and to rethink your process in order to ensure the success of your change as well as the happiness of your employee. Now, Enjoy the journey.

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