Improving things at work

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Improving things at work

Post by happyhighlandcoo » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:29 pm

Sorry for boring work questions but my workplace is becoming increasingly dysfunctional and I really want to tackle some of the issues to make things better for the staff team. I'm on the leadership team but not the boss so I'm in a position to help drive change.

1) I want to have a session with staff for them to share what they think is going well and what needs to be improved and how. Any creative ways to do this to get people sharing and making productive suggestions rather than just moaning? My idea is to have flipchart paper on tables and they go round and do a bit of a SWOT analysis on various things (and can add their own things). Reading I've done online says SWOT isn't the best way to do an analysis but I can't find better headings.

2) How can I politely and professionally improve the way my boss does some things eg the way meetings are run or the way things are communicated? We're not that efficient and I want to make it better. People get frustrated with this but nobody is willing to raise it so I'm going to try as the impact if we can change it will be huge!

3) What do you do in your workplace to build enthusiasm and team spirit? Not necessarily social stuff but to not focus people and enthuse them about core business.

Sorry, this is very dull. Thanks for any ideas!

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by Ruby » Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:07 pm

Are you the middle manager in this scenario?

1) I think this sounds good, tbh.

2) Not sure.

3) I relentlessly stick up for my staff and have their back. If they're in the wrong, I will tell them but also try to give them a way to save face. I also buy them chocolate and write them thank you cards every few weeks - or after a particularly hideous week. I know that this is a bit simplistic and very much NOT on brand for me but the first time I did it at my new work, one of my staff cried because no-one has ever thanked her.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by Estrella » Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:14 pm

1) We did something like this with our sector-wide opinion survey results - post-it notes for things we should “stop”, “start” and “keep doing” - grouped around themes where results were lower (e.g. excessive approval processes, work/life balance)

3) We do this thing in our fortnightly meetings where we have to have a “brag” basically sharing something we are proud of that we’ve done in the past fortnight. Either at work or personally which is actually really nice as it serves as a way to get to know what’s going on in peoples’ lives too.

Another thing which is big in projects is to celebrate the wins/successes. No matter how small they are. We have a board where we stick them up and will talk to them at stand up.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by Beena » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:01 pm

1) We recently had a brainstorming day where we looked at similar issues and De Bono hatted rather than used SWOT. I'm usually very sceptical about these things, but have to begrudgingly admit that it did work.

2) I'd be tempted to have a polite/professional/frank conversation, maybe?

3) Anything you do here needs to come from a genuine place. It might be the sector I work in, but disgruntled staff can sense air being blowing up their backsides and it makes matters 100x worse. I agree with Ruby about having their backs. Also following things up and being honest/open. And if you ask for input, listen to it.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by happyhighlandcoo » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:25 am

Thank you. I'm on the SLT but I'm still on the front line so have a good handle of both sides, which is a great place to be, but tricky. The SLT isn't that well functioning (see question 2) so I really want to address it for the benefit of all.

All ideas for 1 sound good, thanks. I'll look into how we could use De Bono, a bit creative and a transferable skills perhaps.

I think I'm just going to have to step up and be a critical friend to my boss for 2 as you say. My sister said to make it about the practice not the person so it seems neutral and remains highly professional. It will be worth it in the long run, I hope...

Thanks for the ideas on 3. I'll have a think about the brag thing. I guess this can be part of 1 with ideas from the teams too.

Thanks for the ideas. Like I said, it is a tough place to be but I'm hopefully in a position to make things work better.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by olive » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:33 am

1) Similar to Est we did a stop, start, keep doing in my last place too and it worked really well. Especially as post it notes meant people wouldn’t write war and peace out.

2) We had a huge meeting culture which did my head in so I went for the blunt approach. I suggested we had a meeting agenda updated each week to make the meetings more productive. I also enforced a lot of rules :look: like not carrying the agenda over so we would only discuss anything that was necessary and stick to time. Obviously there was stuff that came up each week that needed be updated/ shared weekly but that was covered in a quick round the table. The agenda was a shared template so anyone could add their items rather than it fall to one person each week so everyone took ownership of the meeting. If you take minutes I would create a template and a rota for who is taking them. Only the women seem to volunteer to take them until I pointed this out. :lg:

3) ask people to share their wins/ successes no matter how small. If one of my team did something well I always asked them to share it with everyone else. Be it in the meeting or circulate a piece of work - but not in a way that would generate more work! Chocolate, a tea/ coffee round and acknowledgment always went down well. We also had a board where people pinned up any positive feedback they’d received but it was defaced as it was the same twat pinning emails from his client each week. :lol:

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by viggy » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:52 am

I'd be tempted to use feedback from 1) to help shake the conversation for 2) - a general acknowledgement that meetings aren't the best use of time in their current format and suggestions of what to "trial" instead. I'd also probsbly lob in a "if we want the staff to embrace change, we need to be seen to be open to change ourselves, this is an easy win".

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by FiveO'Clock » Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:07 am

As someone who's had middle management try all of the above suggestions for #3, I have to say none were well received by the majority.
Am definitely not a fan of being given food as a reward myself, and the bragging thing was difficult for all, despite being Americans. :))
My current manager's manager makes an effort to publicly acknowledge us when we've had a success and that is very nice.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by sally maclennane » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:07 am

I have been involved in a lot of sessions with stop/start/keep, and while it can be cathartic to do, I'd caution against raising expectations. Think about how you will respond when people inevitably want to stop doing things that can't be stopped eg doing paperwork. Also, in my experience, you do these sessions, and then never hear anything again about it, so it starts to feel like tokenism.

Sorry, that all seems very negative and may just be where I work but it's easy to do all the talking about change, it's much harder to actually see it through.
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Re: Improving things at work

Post by Ella77 » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:09 am

I think those are really good points, sal.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by absley » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:19 am

1. I quite like a two-stage approach where you start by getting people to talk about what a highly successful team/department/organisation would be like - breaking it down into something like what would we be doing and how would we be doing it (making sure you address internal and external interactions) or split into key characteristics, activities and interactions. Then do an exercise that asks people to consider where the organisation is now and how things need to evolve - I also like stop, start and continue.

In terms of how to run this, give everyone post-its and get them to do 3-5 thing notes for each (1 item per paper) and then gather these up and stick onto a wall, clustering them, so you can pull out themes. Ask people to write additional notes if they think of things that are missing, and add these at the end. Make sure it's followed up/ reported back on.

2. I like Viggy's approach but if that doesn't happen then I think Beena's right and you just need to be brave and bring it up.

3. For me this is partly about knowing how what I am doing fits into the bigger picture and partly about having my contribution acknowledged. I think senior managers making the effort to know what the broader team is doing and then acknowledging/thanking them can be really impactful.

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by Gannet » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:21 pm

To get some feedback in the first place maybe an anonymous suggestion scheme as to improvements and what is seen as bad practise.

In my role I do see the worst of it but I also see the areas that are a shining example, it is really under the direct control of management and with some of our characters it doesn't not matter one iota as they are going to use "management discretion" and make a decision that errs on the side of most divisive and morale sapping as that is their MO and they will not change. In another area a guy introduced free tea and coffee, small gesture but went down very well, he got an almighty bollicking from other managers as they saw this as giving too much away to the staff - 50p a week it works out at. Some of the managers complaining get one or two free holidays a year out of the air miles they get from taking more expensive flights to build them all up on one airline, but that is OK wasting a £1K or 2 to go on your preferred airline so your points get you VIP class and a holiday to the far east for nothing

In our more senior areas the management want to implement things and refer to the work facing execs as the clay layer, whatever they want to try will stand or fall upon the whim of this area of management. You need to have a willingness for them to step up and implement things to make a positive impact. Climbs down off soap box

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Re: Improving things at work

Post by happyhighlandcoo » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:41 pm

Thank you, these are really helpful ideas which I can definitely put into practice.

Thanks for your points about actually taking action based on the feedback, Sally. Definitely essential and also highly likely as I'm in the position of being a leader whilst also still on the front line so the suggested changes usually benefit me directly too.

Sorry for the knobs at your place, Gannet.

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