How effective is workplace harmony? Let’s answer that with another question. What happens when the water in a brook flows into a rock? The rock forms a barrier that causes the water to change its course.
Likewise, people in managerial positions often become impediments to the workflow. They do this by looking for something wrong; interrupting the work by asking unrelated questions just to establish authority.
Recently, while visiting a distribution and fabrication plant during its busy season, we observed first hand the benefits of true workplace harmony. Since it was the plant’s busy season, there was a generous amount of meaningful work for everyone to do, every day. Delivery dates had to be realistic and met. This was a time to focus almost singularly on outstanding customer service.
Two hourly workers functioning in a crew-leader capacity directed the day-to-day activities. Work flowed as smoothly as an orchestra playing a concerto—in perfect harmony. We wondered, why?
The leader. Well, first, the crew leaders knew exactly what they were doing, what they wanted to accomplish, the skills of the individual co-workers, and how much time they had to work with. They realized the importance of being fair, and concentrated totally on the mission at hand without fear of a person in management coming along and disrupting matters. As for the quality, nothing left the plant that was not of the highest quality, a quality on which the crew leader would have insisted had he been working alone.
The two crew leaders were poetry in motion. Without bias or hidden agendas, they discussed and assigned the daily work, then went to work themselves, either on an individual assignment or working with the crew. They had no need to create work, pretend to be busy, or falsely exert authority. They played no mind games. The gamesmanship, we observed, had been totally replaced by workmanship.
The team. The fact that people liked their work was evident, but more impressive was that they liked working together. They saw the results of their efforts each day and were provided with customer feedback. Since there was plenty of work, the hours flew by, and people were able to maintain a high energy level despite working long hours.
The agenda. This provided us with an interesting insight: it is not work that tires people out; it is frustration. And frustration is generally introduced by the boss, the system, the policies, or the work environment. The key to eliminating frustration is to focus the work group on one agenda.
Chemistry develops when people begin to enjoy doing things together and accomplishing things in teams or groups. That’s when camaraderie starts to develop, inclusive or exclusive of those in a supervisory position.
To do. What were the key factors to this plant’s success, strategies that any manager could implement?
• Remove impediments (typically the people who hinder the effort).
• Supply sufficient meaningful work.
• Select crew leaders who are skilled with people and knowledgeable about the work.
• Ensure that crew leaders aren’t working from a personal agenda.
• Encourage workers to leave personal agendas in the parking lot.
• Let each person participate in decisions involving her and her work.
• Be generous with praise.
• Don’t overlook errors; point them out and learn from them.
Excerpted from Creating a Culture of Success: Fine Tuning the Heart and Soul of your Organization by Charles B. Dygert, Ph.D. and Richard A. Jacobs, P.E. Copies available at your local or online bookseller.