In large projects or small, the need for the big idea is the same: one project, one big idea. That's one reason why organizations that tackle large projects have disproportionately smaller needs for new or big ideas.
Since large projects are more accessible to large organizations, those that tackle large projects tend to have more people, many of whom are very capable and creative. In large organizations, we find more people with new ideas that have more trouble finding truly receptive listeners. That causes some of them to try harder, further annoying the people whose jobs are to generate and champion ideas. Tensions develop, and frustration builds. Sometimes, good people leave.
There is a better way. It begins with the recognition that capable, creative people have good ideas — lots of them — and those ideas often apply to parts of the company other than their own. Here are some tips for crafting a large organization that can deal with unsolicited cross-functional contributions.
- Assign process and problem owners a responsibility to listen
- Sometimes people who "own" a particular process or problem can feel that contributions from others are infringements on that ownership.
- Make clear to everyone that responsibility for a process or problem includes responsibility to listen to and evaluate ideas from elsewhere in the organization.
- Make originality a pre-requisite
- Devise measures to control repetition and redundant suggestions. Deprecate rehashing of settled debates. One possibility: make previous contributions available to anyone contemplating making a contribution. Make the history anonymous if necessary.
- Requiring originality dramatically reduces the load on recipients. By assigning contributors responsibility for determining that their contributions aren't redundant or repetitive, we reduce the flow of contributions and improve their quality.
- Recognize that for new ideas, "not your job" is a toxic concept
- Recognize that for new
ideas, "not your job"
is a toxic concept
- When we tell people, either explicitly or otherwise, that thinking about a particular process or innovation isn't their job, we're creating frustration and tension, and discouraging initiative.
- Sometimes, only the internal customers of a process can really see where it can be improved. And sometimes only people far enough away from a problem can see the solution. Contributions from afar are often critical to success.
- Provide non-bureaucratic, responsive contribution channels
- Since great people are always thinking, give them a way to pass their thoughts along. It can be as simple as an email address or a wiki. Or it can be an actual appointment with a person.
- Whatever you do, be certain that people feel heard. Automated responses are ineffective. Mechanisms that just listen without evidence of active consideration fool nobody.
Unless you own the idea-management process of your organization, beware. If you offer these ideas — or anything like them — they'll likely be received as unsolicited contributions. Tread lightly. Top Next Issue
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenTWuRIWubHNVAfRkCner@ChacHvwGjYdMQcjvMGicoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Corrales Mentales
- Perhaps you've achieved every goal you've ever set yourself, but if you're like most of us, some important
goals have remained elusive. Maybe you had bad luck, or you weren't in the right place at the right
time. But it's just possible that you got in your own way. Getting out of your own way can help make
- The Paradox of Confidence
- Most of us interpret a confident manner as evidence of competence, and a hesitant manner as evidence
of lesser ability. Recent research suggests that confidence and competence are inversely correlated.
If so, our assessments of credibility and competence are thrown into question.
- Risk Management Risk: I
- Risk Management Risk is the risk that a particular risk management plan is deficient. It's often overlooked,
and therefore often unmitigated. We can reduce this risk by applying some simple procedures.
- Management Debt: I
- Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths
— that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on
management debt? How can we pay it down?
- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: I
- When we address others, we sometimes use filler — so-called automatic speech or embolalia —
without thinking. Examples are "uh," "um," and "er," but there are more
complex forms, too. Embolalia are usually harmless, if mildly annoying to some. But sometimes they can
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 15: Entry Intimidation
- Feeling intimidated about entering a new work situation can affect performance for both the new entrant and for the group as a whole. Four trouble patterns related to entry intimidation are inadvertent subversion, bullying, hat hanging, and defenses and sabotage. Available here and by RSS on May 15.
- And on May 22: Newtonian Blind Alleys: I
- When we decide how to allocate organizational resources, we make assumptions about how the world works. Often outside our awareness, the thinking of Sir Isaac Newton influences our assumptions. And sometimes they lead us into blind alleys. Universality is one example. Available here and by RSS on May 22.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmFeQBXclUhNbMoxyner@ChaceXVCORQaNmAiBhzToCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.