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Ownership of Work = Engagement,
This review is from: The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer: Turning Hierarchy Upside Down to Drive Performance (Paperback)
John Smythe has certainly selected a business subject that attracts more attention and generates more discussion each day: employee engagement. At the outset, I acknowledge that, contrary to what this book's subtitle suggests, a hierarchy need not be turned "upside down" to drive performance. All organizations need order and structure as well as policies and procedures, given the importance of full compliance with applicable federal, state, and regulatory legalities.
That said, Smythe does not propose the creation of a senior-level executive position. Rather, he correctly stresses the importance of formulating and then implementing a program that will maximize employee engagement throughout an organization, at all levels and in all areas. This program will focus on preparing everyone with supervisory responsibilities to help achieve that objective. Paraphrasing one of Jim Collins' most widely cited recommendations in Good to Great, Smythe explains that, for him, "employee engagement is first and foremost a management philosophy based on the idea of including the right people in the right decisions at the right time in the right way. Inclusion in decision making and change is not a one-way ticket for employees to butt their noses in wherever and however they want. Leadership sets the boundaries and governs the process; and citizens in the process have responsibilities to behave as partners in the process."
Throughout his narrative, Smythe responds to questions such as these:
1. What is employee engagement and why is it so important?
2. What are the most common barriers to achieving it?
3. How to overcome these barriers?
4. Which four approaches to achieving employee engagement should be considered?
5. How to select the most appropriate approach?
6. Why is measuring employee engagement "a waste of time"?
7. How to identify the "key drivers"?
8. Which principles and lessons should guide and inform the design of an employee engagement program?
9. How and why does employee engagement drive implementation of strategy?
10. How to create and then sustain a culture of employee engagement?
I especially appreciate Smythe's provision of 40 "Figures" that consolidate key points within each chapter because they facilitate, indeed expedite periodic review later. In Chapter 2, for example, he explains what employee engagement means and includes four Figures: "Requisites for engagement," "Drivers to deliver a distinct customer offer and a compelling place to work," "Communications and engagement," and "Two views of employee engagement." He skillfully correlates this material with statements such as this: "I see employee engagement as being about the role and influence people have been given in everyday decision making and in broader organizational change and strategy. I see it as a practical capability which can be developed by leaders at every level to help them create value for the organization by engaging the right people in decision forming and by doing so creating an attractive workplace experience where people can influence and feel ownership."
To repeat, what Smythe proposes will not create organizational chaos by eliminating management authority altogether; rather, he proposes that the concept of "authority" be redefined, then be distributed (in effect) on an as-needed basis. If Joe Moderatz is being asked to design a more efficient system by which to allocate storage space in the Cooksey Corporation's warehouse, for example, he should be centrally involved in decisions made concerning the objectives to be achieved, the core processes that must be taken into full account (e.g. the impact of the new system on processes in other areas), and the timeframe during which the new system will be design and implemented. In essence, Moderatz shares ownership of the completion of this task. Therefore, he will feel engaged because he is engaged.
Presumably Smythe would be the first to agree that it would be a fool's errand for a reader of this book to attempt to implement all of his (Smythe's) recommendations. Although he provides a five-step "practical model" in Chapter 5, suggests several methods and approaches to employee engagement interventions in Chapter 9, and includes, in Chapter 12 (the final chapter) Johanna Fawkes's overview of recent research (largely between 2000 and 2005) in the field of employee engagement, it remains for each reader to determine which of the material in this book is most relevant to the needs, interests, objectives, and resources of her or his oganization. However, Fawkes does conclude his own analysis by noting that if he had the opportunity to work with one of the various approaches (previously discussed) to create a sustainable climate of engagement, "it would involve focusing on the supervisor's perceptions of what leading means in terms of giving their people the opportunity to contribute to day-to-day decision making and change."
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Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out The Engaged Employee Network ([...]) founded and administered by David Zinger. I also recommend Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor co-authored by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole with Patricia Ward Biederman as well as Paul Spiegelman's Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit, Sarah Cook's The Essential Guide to Employee Engagement: Better Business Performance through Staff Satisfaction, David Croston's Employee Engagement: The People First Approach to Building a Business, Richard H. Axelrod's Terms of Engagement: Changing the Way We Change Organizations, and Michael L. Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.