I do a fair amount of marketing consulting, and we spend hours talking about value propositions. So I thought I would share the value proposition for Management by Design.
And today is a good day to have this discussion, because the Conference Board just released their latest numbers on worker satisfaction (see I Can’t Get No…Job Satisfaction, That Is – Research Report #1459-09-RR). They found that only 45 percent of Americans are happy with their jobs. In the toughest economic climate in the memory of any worker, having a job and receiving pay doesn’t equate to happiness. The money isn’t seen in the same way because of inflation and health care costs, and they find their jobs uninteresting (interest in work is down 18.9 percent since 1987).
I thought long and hard about this problem, including looking at the day-t-day, seemingly mundane issues of meetings, workspace and technology. Most companies fail miserably at designing an environment that attempts to meet the needs of their workers (I use worker rather than employee, because not all workers are employees anymore, and in many cases, contract employees are treated as second class citizens, which exacerbates happiness issues for those observing that attitude).
I love art and I love poetry. Art and poetry are designed. They are finely wrought, constantly reviewed by the artist and the poet. Art is meant to engage and to interest. In the workplace, or the workplace experience if you live a virtual work-life, precious little time is spent thinking about what engages you, what you want out of the experience, what you need to know to succeed. So I created a methodology that draws on the lessons of design, and asks managers and leaders to start considering the design of the workplace experience.
From pay, to how and why we hold meetings, to understanding the impact of technological change on expectations and self-esteem, to how mechanistic we feel in cubicle farms, to shutting out social media, not understanding strategic direction, the lack of transparency and dozens of other factors that cause workers around the world to distance themselves from the work experience, to retreat from full engagement—too reduce innovation and decrease productivity, as CBS news reported yesterday:
If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity. And it could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers. (see Survey: More Americans Unhappy at Work)
Management by Design was written to address issue of business continuity, knowledge transfer and retention and employee engagement. It may not be the best or only answer to these questions, but it is broad and inclusive. It looks at everything from how we first consider an experience to how we use rhythm and motion to provide a context for progress. Management by Design looks at the tools we have to shape the experience, and asks how policy and practice, technology and space should be modified by applying simplicity, flexibility, forgiveness and equitability to them. The book asks, I ask, how we design in engagement, through emphasis and variety. And above all, how we communicate intent, gather feedback and create experiences that not only meet organizational goals, but the goals, the needs, the passions and desires of those we engage to fulfill those organizational goals.
So what is the value proposition for Management by Design? I think it is a business that survives and thrives, organizations who recognize the deep human needs of their workers and create experiences and use that knowledge to bring out the best from them, to create experiences that aren’t designed to create innovations, but experiences that give birth to innovations as a by-product of their design. Management by Design is a blueprint for rethinking everything you do by asking questions you haven’t considered, and therefore suggesting answers you may not know you need. But when you consider only 45 percent of the American workforce is happy, and you look to the high turn over rates of Millennials and the knowledge locked in the heads of Baby Boomers (the Conference Board report stated that 22 percent of workers don’t intend to be in the same job in a year), the emergence of new employment models and the broadening inequity of pay—these are questions you can ill afford to dismiss, and answers you will desperately need in the future.