Catch Them Early

Alan Robinson Posted by Alan Robinson.

Alan Robinson has authored or coauthored seven books and more than sixty articles. His book Corporate Creativity, coauthored with Sam Stern, was a finalist for the Financial Times/Booz Allen & Hamilton Global Best Business Book Award, and it was named “Book of the Year” by the Academy of Human Resource Management.

Catch Them Early

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an interesting idea. It’s a simple tactic that can be particularly helpful in newly launched idea programs, or programs that are struggling to get support from supervisors and managers.

The tactic comes from Mary Jo Caldwell, the director of the continuous improvement (CI) effort for the State of Minnesota. The state’s CI program is relatively new, and vastly underfunded. Caldwell and her staff of two rely more on moral suasion and “selling” than on top administration clout and formal structures to carry their message of employee engagement to the state’s far-flung network of agencies and offices. Caldwell’s tactic was captured in a rule stating that every time a person gets promoted to the position of supervisor, one of his or her first tasks is to meet with Caldwell for one hour. When the promotion is to manager, the requirement is a two hour meeting.

While an hour or two is not enough time to alter a person’s leadership style or change long-standing beliefs, it does give Caldwell the opportunity to: promote the State’s employee engagement and CI programs in person; inform the newly promoted supervisors and managers about the resources her office can provide that will help them be more effective; and discuss personal learning and development opportunities that are available. The requirement of having this meeting shortly after being promoted also sends a clear message that the State is serious about employee engagement and ideas, and achieving that engagement is an important part of a supervisor’s or manager’s job.

Organizations with well-run CI idea programs will already have effective systems to support employee ideas and newly promoted supervisors and managers will have been working with ideas for some time. Indeed, people would not be considered for promotion unless they embraced employee ideas and engagement. So, perhaps the way Caldwell uses her early meeting tactic would not make sense. But still, it’s a simple inexpensive tool, and the timing couldn’t be better. When supervisors or managers are just starting their jobs, meeting with them to clarify their new roles in idea management is always beneficial. How could you use an hour meeting with a newly promoted supervisor to enhance their idea management performance?

When it comes to strengthening the involvement of supervisors and managers in idea management, timing may not be everything, but it is certainly helps.

 Photo by: Rhino Neal