Organizational excellence – Initiative contribution and Credit

December 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence, Systems Thinking | Leave a comment

Though I had mentioned earlier, it is worth repeating that organizational excellence requires a fine balance between the production system which aims to continue doing efficiently what has worked so far and the innovation system which aims to find better and more relevant ways of doing things. As far as each member of the organization is concerned, the production system requires that he follows a set of proven ways of doing things while the innovation system needs him to take an initiative and think how he can contribute for the org benefit.

Taking initiative & making a contribution is possible only when a person is motivated to do so. Different persons may have different motivations; even for one person different motivations may come into play in different situations. Hence in its own interest the org needs to provide a variety of ways for members to get motivated. At the same time the org has to balance the cost & benefit of such mechanisms.

The best situation, both for the members as well as the org, is when each member understands the org needs, knows what his own interests strengths & capabilities are and hence can decide what contribution he can make. But this is an ideal situation. In reality, the org has to judge at what stage of self-understanding & self-motivation different groups of persons are. To tackle the current state, it will have to provide the appropriate mechanisms. At the same time, these mechanisms should also propel each group towards the ideal state over time. This is a challenging yet a very rewarding goal.

It is a natural human tendency to ask oneself, consciously or unconsciously, “what is in it for me?” There is nothing wrong with it and by professing otherwise it can’t be wished away. From the perspective of a member, he may be looking for ego satisfaction through appreciation from others, he may look for getting credit for what he has contributed, he may look for a competitive advantage over others or he may look forward to the satisfaction coming from a job well done and having helped others & the org. Most of the members of organizations and especially those within IT industry have their basic material needs fulfilled. So when he is looking for material benefits, it is generally not for its own sake but to satisfy various psychological and emotional needs.

From the org perspective, it costs to motivate people through material rewards. Though it may appear small for an individual, collectively for the org the cost increases exponentially and soon far outweighs the benefits. It therefore would make sense to look for the underlying emotional needs and device creative ways to fulfill them with minimum costs.

When the individuals are encouraged to take the initiative and come up with ways in which they want to contribute, it must be supported by effective communication of org needs as understood by the management. As the individuals become self-motivated and feel the power of making choices, they would inevitably start asking questions. They may come up with suggestions which might be different or even better than what their seniors may have thought of. This requires a change of mindset at all levels to be open to questions & suggestions from any level of the organization. The real challenge is that the entire org does not become self-motivated overnight. It is a gradual process. Hence, a high level of sensitivity and adaptation to changes taking place is essential.

As more and more people start taking initiative, at the system level certain patterns start emerging which leads to org initiatives where contribution from many individuals and groups is required. When this happens, it becomes necessary to underplay credit given to individuals or certain groups. It is only through the collective efforts of many that the resultant success comes. But being recognized appreciated and given credit is an important emotional need. Hence, the mechanisms put in place need to stress more on taking the initiative and making a contribution to the collective effort rather than trying to take exclusive credit for the results.

To summarize, creating organizational excellence needs encouragement for taking initiative and making a contribution to what helps the organization. But it is a gradual process which needs to be carefully piloted with sensitivity agility and an open mind. The motivational mechanisms must be cost effective and focus more on the emotional needs of the members rather than relying on the physical giveaways. It is a challenging task but if done right can be highly rewarding.

I would really appreciate any thoughts / experiences from you that either support or challenge what is said above.

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