A new collaborative book by members of the “Great Work Cultures” (GWC) movement aims to transform organizations and create more humanistic environments for employees to work in. Joan Blades, a prominent activist for positive change who launched the movement, praises the contributors to the book as “brilliant innovators and leaders who know how to structure workplaces that sing”.
Statistics show that the average worker is disengaged and that most workplace productivity is a fraction of what it could be. Members of the GWC movement believe, however, that workplace environments which are deeply respectful of all workers will be productive and experience very low turnover. This book is an outcome of their intention to accelerate positive change at work.
In this interview, book contributor, Bill Sanders, discusses his chapter, “The Momentum of Change”. Bill Sanders is the founder and managing director of Roebling Strauss, Inc., a boutique consultancy that specializes in delivering dramatic improvements in organizational effectiveness and innovation. An organizational process expert, Bill uses his proven holistic approach to rapidly identify misalignments between strategy, goals, process and execution, and then designs elegant solutions that close those gaps, accelerating growth, profitability and innovation. Bill’s expertise has attracted over 200 organizations including such global brands as Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, General Mills, Lipton, Hewlett-Packard, and WebEx.
Can you state your full name and your company name?
Bill Sanders: My name is Bill Sanders and my company name is Roebling Strauss.
Bill, what do you do?
Bill Sanders: I help organizations bridge the gap between strategy and execution.
Nice. What do you hope to achieve from this collaborative work?
Bill Sanders: Well, what I hope to achieve most is my own learning. I’ve been in a lot of companies, a lot of different sizes, with a lot of different ways of working. So, my being a part of great work cultures and being a part of this team, it exposes me to a lot of new ideas and a lot of new trends that are going on out there. So, this is part of my contribution back, if you will.
What is your expertise?
Bill Sanders: I’m a business transformation and process innovation expert. I help companies solve the problems that they have identified by going through and helping them realign around explicit agreement, transparent accountability, and adaptable execution.
What types of companies do you work with and help?
Bill Sanders: Well, we are very broad. Because we’re process oriented, we don’t fall into a particular vertical, so we work with everything from construction companies to major Internet retailers to event companies to advertising agencies.
There are many statistics about disengagement and the average worker being disengaged. Can you briefly tell me: Why do you think that the average worker is disengaged?
Bill Sanders: I don’t think they view work right. A lot of people view work as a means to an end. They’re just working for the weekend instead of looking at the work that they’re doing and how it is improving your skill set and your ability to grow as a human being and in a career path.
I love that! How can upper management help shift that outlook?
Bill Sanders: I think they have to start taking responsibility for the way they view the workers and the work being done. Typically, what I find in a lot of corporations is they’re only interested in the end goal instead of growing the skill set of the person that they’re working with or who’s reporting to them.
Let’s dig deeper because that connects to the next question. Wonderful answer. It is said that workplace productivity is a fraction of what it could be. What do you believe will increase workplace productivity through efforts of upper management?
Bill Sanders: When you can help connect the dots of what is being done on a day to day basis, what a particular individual’s role is, what their self interest in growing their career and growing their skill set and then maintain a culture that reinforces that, you will identify the folks that are going to get engaged and stay engaged.
I would assume that for upper management that sounds like some more work on their plate. Can you dig into that just a bit?
Bill Sanders: I don’t know if it’s so much more work as it is a change in mindset. When you go into an organization that has an issue that they’ve identified, they’re not getting the result they want or they’re not getting the result that was intended. When that takes place, something has to change and that means behaviors have to change. Well, behaviors don’t change until belief systems change which is why I got involved in the whole culture work to begin with because I saw a lot of cultures that were rejecting a lot of the changes that needed to take place. How do you change the culture? That starts with the leadership changing their mindset which is why I go back to the view of what work is and what it’s supposed to be needs to be changed first. If you change the mindset then it makes it super easy to engage with individual contributors and even teams and help them see the alignment between what the company is producing and where they want to take their career and their skill sets.
For the readers, can you name three first steps that upper management could take once they have decided to change their mindset? Three simple changes that they can implement with regard to caring more or implementing something for the employees so that they view work differently?
Bill Sanders: I would say that one of the first things that you have to see…and I believe this is a lot of what the book is about. In the past, we were looking to do mass production which means that you can have very little leeway in the degree of how something’s built and that’s led over into how something’s done, as well. So, it’s become a very top-down mindset. We now have a whole situation in our economy and this massive speed of change that we’re looking at which means that more and more you have to treat people as individuals, not cogs in the wheel. People aren’t fungible, for the most part.