You're Ignoring a Critical Resource: The Ideas of Your Staff

11.02.22 5:43 AM

Managers tend to have quite a few traits in common.  This is not altogether surprising, even if one considers the overwhelming breadth of industries that have managers.  One of the traits that is especially prevalent is often the trait that leads to an employee becoming a manager in the first place: the resourcefulness and intelligence required to move the business forward.  This may take many forms, be it exceptional accounting prowess and the ability to manage expenses well, or outstanding human relations management, and the ability to motive and inspire the team to perform their best.  Each of these expressions, though, is of the same talent, and is a talent that can actually become a liability.

The front line staff, as Toyota has recognized, often have some of the best ideas for improvement

Resourcefulness is often integrated with self-reliance.  An employee who is closer to the front lines often has less resources at his disposal, and fewer - if any - subordinates to assign and delegate work to, so that ideas can be brought to fruition.  The employee, therefore, often turns to the resources that they do have, in the form of their own abilities, ideas, and time.  Eventually, that resourcefulness stands out among his peers, and he is promoted.  Now, management has higher expectations of him, as they have given him more tools and resources to deploy to implement business improvements.  A critical flaw can appear here, though.  A manager born of a self-reliant resourcefulness is unlikely to immediately (if ever) embrace these new external resources to their full potential.  In fact, the manager is likely to accidentally follow old habits, and centralize his idea generation, only utilizing any new resources as part of the deployment.

The front line staff, as Toyota has recognized, often have some of the best ideas for improvement.  They are, after all, the ones executing the day-to-day processes over and over, and so are in the perfect position to see flaws, issues, or things that could be improved.  Traditionally-run businesses completely ignore these ideas though, in favor of the idea that management must be the ones to come up with the solutions to problems.  After all, management is made up of resourceful individuals who rose through the ranks with their great ideas.  Now, however, the once front line staff are removed from the front lines with their promotion, so their ideas are now (at least) one degree separated from what they once were.  The ideas cannot be as in-touch with the root problems, then, and the manager can accidentally implement "solutions" that only cover up issues, or worse, exasperate them.

Decentralizing idea generation to include all of the stakeholders is the remedy.

Decentralizing idea generation to include all of the stakeholders is the remedy.  As the manager (or owner) of a business, it is your responsibility to make sure things are moving in the right direction.  Nowhere does that responsibility say that you must be the one who generates the ideas that moves the business though.  Recognize that your staff, the ones who are on the front lines, seeing what works and what doesn't, and are running the processes through, will have unique and valuable insight on how to improve efficiencies.  Talk to them, include them, and listen to them.  They are a wealth of ideas that very well may be the ticket to greater and greater business success.  And, of course, if you need ideas, best practices, or help with implementation, BMI is here to help.

- Your BMI family

BMI can help the facilitate idea generation and implementation!