In the mid-90's the Ford Foundation sponsored cutting-edge research on work-life challenges. Fifteen years later, the outcomes of the three year project are more relevant than ever. Artemis Management Consultants spearheaded one of three projects supported by the Foundation. Barb Miller has written a workbook: ReInventing Work: Relinking Life and Livelihood to Benefit Business and Staff. Organizations can indeed thrive at the same time that people can have a personal life. The methodology in the workbook encourages teams to:
1. Examine their habitual work processes - Overtime, work evolves but old practices are often not eliminated as new work is added to the plate. For example, we worked with a finance department. Staff was burning out putting in long hours creating a multitude of reports. We worked with them to devise a questionnaire for their internal customers. What reports were still valuable; what information did they receive that they did not use; what information did they not receive that they wished they could obtain? By determining what their internal customers really needed, the finance department was able to reconfigure its work, delight its customers and decrease work hours and increase job satisfaction and morale. Sounds simple... but few teams take the time to step back and examine the work and the work processes. Time and money can be saved by organizations. Productivity can increase. Work can become more meaningful and more targeted to the needs of the organization.
2. Challenge Cultural Assumptions: Every organization and every team creates a set of norms, expected behaviors. Sometimes these norms support the achievement of business goals and sometimes they are counterproductive. Here is an example: A sales team developed the habit of pulling all nighters to write proposals for perspective customers. They were greeted in the morning with cheers. "Wow, you are so committed to your work to be willing to stay up all night." When the team examined this norm, they discovered that they did not produce the highest quality work in the middle of the night. Their proposals were not always accepted by potential customers. They were tired for the next few days and therefore their productivity decreased. The team agreed to an experiment: they would no longer stay up all night to get their work done. They would focus on their proposals during the work day and leave work at 5:30. After two months, they found that they were more productive, more of their proposals were accepted and they were able to leave the office at the end of the work day to have dinner with family, attend classes, exercise or just go home and be a couch potato! Thus, a win-win. Their business improved at the same time that they were able to improve their personal lives.
This methodology has been used successfully by Hewlett-Packard, Intel and others. Our workbook has been translated into Japanese and Hebrew. Given today's economy and the work values of the Millennial generation, this methodology is even more compelling today. Organizations are desperate to increase productivity and employees, more than ever, want a meaningful job along with time for a personal life. Challenge your team to examine it's habitual work processes and cultural assumptions. Let us know the outcomes you achieve.
Barb Miller, President, Artemis Management Consultants - BMiller@ArtemisManagement.com