Creating The Space For Participation
– Take baby steps first
A high percentage of organisations develop a military rationale, whereby only a very small number of people make all of the decisions. There is little wonder, then, that people aren’t keen to get out of bed and come to work on a Monday morning. – Ricardo Semler
In a Nutshell
Often, in big companies, employees feel sidelined. Yes, they have jobs and tasks on a daily basis but don’t feel inspired or empowered enough to go out of their way and accomplish bigger things. This is because the decision-making power in companies usually rests with a very small number of people, who don’t like sharing their power.
Managers often feel like their employees aren’t ready enough to make important decisions. When Semco realised that employees feel empowered only by empowering themselves, they wanted to open up the space for others to make decisions on behalf of the company. When they decided to do this, they did not involve the managers and supervisors in the process because they knew that these people would be the first to protest.
So they decided to imagine situations where everyone could be involved – irrespective of the level of an employee. Of course this was a huge challenge to accomplish, but with the leadership willing to make the effort, it did happen. They decided not to structure a very official, formal program and implement it in a top-down manner, but instead, look at every opportunity in their real life situations at work and try to add some level of participative decision-making to promote more bottom-up decisions.
They also decided to start with very simple things, because Semco was at the base a manufacturing company and most of the employees were factory employees. So for the program to take off, it needed to be very simple. And the results they reaped over this little effort was incredible. The important lesson to take from the following example is that employees like challenges and want to feel like ‘partners’ rather than people who ‘work’ in a company. Involving them in decision-making opens up the company in a way where people are treated equally and are motivated to do better. They understand that their opinions matter, and so, in the process of finding answers for the company, they too grow.