Have you ever walked through the office and felt like your staff was boring holes in the back of your head with their eyes? It's similar to that feeling you get when your wife looks across the breakfast table during her first bout of morning sickness, glaring at the man who "did this to her."
If you're wondering what could be wrong, make no mistake. It's you. "You're not paranoid, they really are out to get you." If you're wondering what it is you've done, here's a tip. It might actually be something you haven't done. It might be a failure on your part as a manager to get into the trenches and feel what they feel. And you might actually deserve the treatment you're receiving.
Who Stuck Me With This?
One of the odd things about business is that decision makers are usually not decision implementers. The people who decide what everyone will be doing, and the technologies they will have at their disposal to do it, are rarely the people who use the technologies. The result is frequently staff resentment, and a true Technology Misfit in the organization.
You get misfit on two levels. First, you have lowered staff morale, which will always reduce efficiency. Second, you could very well have procedures and technologies that are inefficient too. But you can't know that, because you don't carry out those activities day to day. You don't have to experience the tedium caused by inefficient methods and tools.
Get Your Hands Dirty
How do you overcome this form of inefficiency, and take your organization to a new level of Technology Fit? The answer is simple. Use it before they lose it! As a manager you need to get your hands dirty, get into the processes yourself, and actually do the things you're asking your staff do. You need to experience how your technology decisions feel from the staff perspective. You'll probably be surprised.
Sure, you can't spend every day in the trenches, but you need to plan to get in there for at least a few hours, at least once a month. This will make sure you are in touch with the pulse of your business at the grass roots level. You need to get around to the various departments you're in charge of, and ask your staff to show you how to do what they do. Then you need to do it. You need to feel what they feel, so you can address your technologies with intelligence and experience. There is no shortcut.
What You'll Gain
You will increase your Technology Fit in several ways if you do this. First, you will increase staff morale and performance. As the saying goes "People don't care, until they know how much you care." Staff will sacrifice and work very hard for a leader they can see is willing to get his hands dirty and identify with them. This removes their sense of "being subjected" to the tasks and technologies you've chosen. They will be inspired by your commitment to understand what you're asking of them, and to improve it where you can.
Second, you will be applying your greater skill to the analysis of your business problems. Day to day workers often have strong processing abilities, but are less able to analyze inefficiencies. If they have these skills they are often promoted out of processing positions. This is why as a manager you must ensure you get back in there yourself. You are able to analyze and recognize problems and inefficiencies, and make strong decisions on what must be done.
You Can Change Things
Finally, you will be able to identify true Technology Misfit and make rapid adjustments, because you have the authority to do so. When workers point out inefficiencies it is frequently perceived by management as complaining. Since workers usually don't have the authority to make changes themselves, valid analysis often does deteriorate into complaining when management doesn't take it seriously. Whenever you feel like your staff are "just complaining," take that as a sign it's been too long since you got in there yourself.
I've seen this tip make significant changes within an organization. And it doesn't have to cost you much. Sometimes what you'll find is silly processes that can be improved just by doing them differently, or by using the technologies you already have in a slightly different way. Occasionally you will recognize that a more significant improvement could be made by the acquirement or development of new tools or software solutions. This kind of investment makes the most sense when you stand to recover hours of wasted staff resources.
Want to get rid of that sense that your staff are out to get you? Take my advice. Use it before they lose it!
Kel Good is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Developer who specializes in consulting with business decision makers and managers regarding the Technology Fit of their organizations. Visit his web site at www.customsoftware.ca.