Sorry but I only have red pills…

blueredpillThere is a great scene in the movie The Matrix (http://youtu.be/zE7PKRjrid4) in which Morpheus presents Neo with the choice to take a red pill or a blue pill:

“If you take the blue pill, you will wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I will show you how deep the rabbithole goes!”

When someone asks me for advice on agile, teams, organizations, management, etc. unfortunately I only offer the red pill. If you want to have a blue pill and hear a biased view keeping you in the dream world then I am not the right person to hire or to ask for advice.

However if you want an honest opinion and advice. And if you are not afraid to hear about the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and individuals , I can offer you the red pill and I will do all I can to get to the bottom of things and to guide people, teams and organizations to better and more enjoyable ways of working.

It doesn’t always make me popular, but then again, I am not here to be liked by everyone, I am here to change things. That’s what motivates and drives me.

Employee engagement: Step 1 it starts with vision

visionResearch has indicated that only one out of five employees is fully engaged in their work. To me this is quite shocking, this means that 80% of people with a job go to their work each day, do their trick and go home again. No passion, no intense drive, commitment only limited to what is in their job description. Thousands to millions of people spend their working time in life like this.

Now why is this a problem? It is up to the people how they fill in their position at work right? True, that is one way to look at it. However it are the people that are managing companies that should be worried about this. We live in an ultra competitive era were business come and go constantly. An era in which customers have become more and more critical, harder to lure them to your companies products and services and definitely more difficult to retain.

To succeed you need to stand out and prevent from blending in the background to eventually fade away. Now fill it in for yourself, will a company consisting of people that come to work, do their job and then switch of and go home be the company that rises above all others, or will it just blend in the background and fade away? I think we all know the answer.

The key to success is engagement. People need to live and breathe your business to fully comprehend the challenges that the company and even more important the customers of the company face. Now be aware that “live and breathe” in this sense is not referring to people that come to the office at 6 a.m. and leave at 22:00 p.m. every day, 7 days a week. The amount of hours is never a measure for someone’s engagement with the company that they work for. “Live and breathe” for me means that the employees of a company have a clear picture of what he company is trying to achieve and can map their own intrinsic motivators on that goal.

If you are able to achieve that level of engagement you can fully trust your self-organizing high performance teams within the organization to make the best product or provide the best services to your market. And then the glory awaits.

But what if you don’t have those self-organizing high performance teams within your organization? Go back a few paragraphs, you are probably working with the 80% that is not fully engaged in their work. it simply is a chain reaction. Engaged people will form self-organizing teams, which will become high performance teams and will propel your organization’s products and services to never imagined levels, delighting your customers.

This all sounds very plausible right? But how can you achieve this? It all starts at a very simple starting point, the vision of your company. Just try to ask employees of random companies about the company’s vision. Most of the time you wont get an answer at all because people have no idea. If you are “lucky” someone will point you out to their corporate website where you will find something like this (randomly taken of the internet).

“Develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of scalable and strategic knowledge management tools to serve our customers, improving the possibility of overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.”

Wow, that is really getting to you right? You can already see the CEO of a large company expressing this in a company wide meeting after which the employees burst out in an astonishing applause, cheering while the CEO walks back to his office. Not really.

A vision needs to be short, powerful and trustworthy. But most importantly it needs to be something that people can relate to, something that sticks in people’s mind, something that people can use to question what they do: “Is this contributing to our vision?”

You can only achieve this if the vision is in the DNA of the company. Don’t outsource, don’t copy, let it be the true thought behind the company. Tell the story, let them have a look through your eyes to see the company future, only then you can expect people to pick it up and do everything with that vision in mind, becoming fully engaged in their work.