Individual Work Practices are critical to business and organisational sustainability – don’t ignore them!
Risk Management, Continuous Quality Improvement, Making Ethics Work, Key Performance Indicators, Good Governance… effective introduction and implementation of these concepts or tools are dependent upon individual work practices. More importantly, the evidence of effective strategic thinking is in the detail of individual work practices.
Effective individual work practices are dependent upon:
- role clarity,
- adequate information and resourcing,
- a workplace environment in which adult learning is understood and practiced,
- individual job satisfaction, and
- adequate and appropriate supervision and support.
Planning the introduction, implementation and monitoring of any concept, system, package, tool, policy, procedure, decision, etc., must begin with the person in any position who will have responsibility – or whose contribution is required – to achieve progress in organisational or business performance or improvement at any level of activity within the organisation or business.
Yes, it is as simple and as complex as this. You could say ‘It is so simple that it is so hard!’
In fact all concepts, policies, procedures, systems, packages, tools and decisions, are dependent upon individual work practices. Which means knowing and understanding who does what, why, how, when, where, who with, who for, and at what cost.
Start with the concept or desired impact or outcome – but continue your analysis and planning until you can speak to each person with any level of responsibility in clear language and style, to convince each one of the importance and value of their role.
People need to know (a) the art, and (b) the science when receiving verbal or written instructions, and individual work practices are indeed instructions:
- ‘art’ is the doing, which means knowing what to do and what not to do
- ‘science’ is the understanding and appreciation of the practical implications of what you do and don’t do.
From my own experience in the 1980s, I had to finish some copying after work-hours. Before leaving for the day, the Manager of the complex told me that I must make sure to turn the handle on the Gestetner Machine to vertical when I had finished. By the time I had finished, I simply switched the machine off and left – forgetting her instruction.
Next morning, the Manager called me into her office, and said ‘You didn’t turn the handle to vertical last night, did you?’ It was then that I remembered her instruction – but it was obviously too late. ‘Well’, she continued, ‘this meant that ink continued to flow onto the rollers for some time, and this morning I’ve had to strip the machine and clean it sufficiently for others to use it today.”
As I considered this mistake, I realised that if I had understood the reason for turning the handle to vertical, I would have understood the importance of this instruction.
This experience is always in the back of my mind when drafting or editing an instruction or procedure: that the instruction or procedure needs to explain both the art (the doing) and science (the understanding) of any task.
Now, back to Individual Work Practices.
Some current examples on this website (you’ll find all of these, and more, under Nonprofit and SME Content) that demonstrate the critical importance of individual work practices:
1. As I’ve indicated in my Making Ethics Work Checklist, where ‘ethics’ is treated as a core business activity, improvements will include workplace behaviours, individual job satisfaction, and organisational performance.
2. As I’ve indicated in my In-house Risk Register Workshop outline, practical strategies are offered – and then developed – to guide the design or review of work practices to include risk scenarios, risk assessment, risk probability, risk consciousness and risk management.
3. As I’ve indicated in my Consultation and Consultative Decision-making Model, consultation and consultative processes are extensions of the verb ‘to consult’. This verb, our dictionary tells us, has three specific meanings and applications:
- to ask advice from someone,
- to refer to something or someone for information, and/or
- to have regard for and consider a person’s feelings and interests.
The outcome of effective consultation and consultative decision-making includes effective individual work practices.
4. As I’ve indicated in my Definition of a Quality System – each person working within an organisation is responsible for the quality of their own work – and for continuous improvement in the quality of their work. If everyone is to be responsible for the quality of their own work, each person needs to know:
- the needs, aspirations and interests of their clients, customers or service-users, and the needs of the people they work most closely with, ie both internal and external ‘customers’,
- how to consistently plan and deliver products, components, programs or services to the desired level of quality, and consistently monitor the quality of their interaction with others,
- how to measure the quality of their own performance, and
- how to make improvements in the quality of (i) their performance, (ii) their research, planning and delivery, and (iii) their interaction with others.
5. As I’ve indicated in my Definition of Effective Communication - responsibility for effective communication always rests with the sender – not the recipient. For instance, a request can be expertly analysed and prepared. However, if the request is not effectively communicated to a person or group, then the desired result will not – and cannot – be achieved.
Therefore listening, questioning, explaining, clarifying, encouraging, facilitating, challenging, convincing, verifying, comforting and supporting must include the right words, the right tone of voice, and the right body language. Otherwise, chances of effectively communicating with another person or group of people are slim.
6. As I’ve indicated in my three Management Group Activities – Role Clarity/Individual Job Satisfaction, Effectiveness of a Statement of Philosophy, and Effectiveness of Internal Policy and Procedure Manuals – Managers are well advised to plan and resource adequate supervision and support for the people for whose performance they are accountable. Organisational or business performance is the sum total of individual performances – and individual work practices are the key to improving organisational or business performance.
I’m grateful for the many encouraging comments received from near and far to articles on my website – and almost always these messages express thanks, pleasure and even surprise at finding clear, useful and practical content and presentation.
As I’ve said above, start your planning with the desired impact or outcome – but continue your analysis and planning until you can speak to each person in clear language and style to convince each one of the importance and value of their role.
Your focus should be on individual work practices:
- ensuring role clarity,
- providing adequate and appropriate information and resourcing,
- a workplace environment in which the principles of adult learning are understood and practiced,
- monitoring individual job satisfaction, and
- providing adequate and appropriate supervision and support.