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My boss is known in the office as someone who would always respond with his standard reply - “Put it in writing” -whenever people make suggestions or give ideas. Unfortunately, many of us abhor writing and would rather forget the whole thing than be saddled with the writing chore. But I know there’s a solution, somewhere. Could you please help us? – Lazy to Write.
The solution is as simple and commonplace as you can imagine. Let me tell you this story: There was a parish priest in a small, poor town in the far south who was having trouble with collection as no one appeared to be gracious in supporting the church’s basic expenses.
One Sunday, as the priest concluded his homily, he announced from the pulpit: “Before we pass the collection basket, I would like to request that the person who stole the goat of Mang Ando to please refrain from giving any money to the Lord. The Lord doesn’t want money from a thief."
Soon after that, the basket was passed around as usual, and for the first time in many months, everybody gave his share. What’s the moral lesson of this story? Sometimes, giving your share to a worthy cause is a task that many of us dread. But that’s the way it is. You have to put it in writing. Like what the priest has done, it takes only one simple trick to solve it: “Why don’t you offer to draft a one-page employee suggestion form?”
There’s no question about it. Getting your point across in writing can make everyone’s job easier, as long as you resort only to a one-page solution like what Toyota has been doing with their A3 approach, except that its 11” X 17” size may turn-off some people.
Instead, I recommend that you settle for a letter-size quadrant form with all the required information: problem definition, its adverse effects, the proposed solution, and anticipated benefits. After all, I’d like to believe that you and your boss don’t want to miss anything.
This letter-size approach can be established and enhanced by having a formal policy on employee suggestion similar to what most dynamic companies are doing. Check the Internet for ideas and you’re ready to go.
You have to come up with a standard form because a relatively routine memo can cause hassles if it tends to be confusing or lack the required information to put the message across.
There’s nothing devilish when the boss says, “put it in writing.” It spells the difference between success and failure of employee ideas. Of course, not every employee idea is worth looking at. But management cannot afford to ignore each and every idea. You only have to emulate Toyota for requiring its employees to give ideas as a strategy towards proactive two-way communication.
Not only that. Increasing the productivity of the organization is a lot easy when ordinary employees are encouraged to be active participants in offering ideas, like cost-cutting or improving operational efficiency.
A good formal suggestion system can help both the employees and their management, if there’s a formal system that includes the following parameters:
The line supervisor must work hand-in-hand with the employee. This partnership cannot be ignored as it gives the suggestion a better chance of management approval. The supervisor’s role must not be limited to encouraging people to give suggestions but to make them usable for the organization.
Suggestion policies and the pertinent idea form must be easy to understand. Just as you don’t want to commit mistakes, you should make the rules clear and palatable to all concerned if you want them to actively support the system.
A management committee must act on these suggestions. The composition must come from different departments who must work objectively to process each and every employee idea. They must process all ideas within 30 days. Any delay may discourage people to contribute more.
Acceptable employee ideas must be recognized. It doesn’t have to be limited to cash reward. Sometimes, issuing a commendation letter even to a minor change will have indirect benefits such as improving employee morale.
Don’t shoot for the moon to get that monumental idea. What’s important is to have the cumulative impact of many minor changes given by all employees because it offers long-lasting results.
DO YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE THIS IDEA? This blog is for non-management people who can’t raise an issue directly against his/her boss for fear of reprisal or job insecurity. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a supporting or contrary view on this advice. Follow Rey Elbo on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.
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