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How to have a healthy organization

  • Written by Nelson T. Dy
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 266

It makes sense

(Part 1 of 2)

JUST as there is no single secret to a healthy body (it takes exercise, diet, rest, sleep, spirituality, community), there is no single secret to a healthy organization. Like a shrewd fitness coach, the manager has to marshal and blend certain elements that make up for organizational well-being. Here are what work for me:

A healthy organization is a happy organization. Shortly after I was assigned as factory manager, I had a “getting to know you” with the operators. I asked each guy:  What makes you happy at your work? Contrary to what you may think, none of them asked for higher pay. Most of their responses were in two categories: opportunities to learn and workplace camaraderie.

You can see which levers I have been pulling. I opened the door for the operators to level up:  Microsoft excel, technical skills, statistical tools, kaizen and so on. My hidden agenda is to have a boring plant so people will be excited to learn new things. Our HR, meantime, has done a fine job in employee engagement: organizing basketball tournaments, team-building, monthly birthday celebrations.

But these are big tickets. The manager has to maintain the cheer through little touches such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’  Listen to them with respect. Appreciation, recognition and encouragement keeps the spirit buoyed up. The only condition is to be sincere, not manipulative.  Even kids can smell a phony a mile away.
    
A healthy organization is an honest organization. Distrust is the cancer of any enterprise. We can pretty much put up with incompetence, market downturns or natural disasters. But once the manager loses the trust of the worker -- and vice versa -- it’s the end of the road. Sure, broken trust can be rebuilt. But it won’t be the same again. The tinge of suspicion will always be there. Just ask any betrayed spouse.
    
So how do we foster honesty at the workplace? You set the tone. You model honesty. Yes, you declare honesty as one of the core values of the company. But it is more caught than taught. For example, you admit it when you screwed up.  You don’t blame the worker, the other department, the supplier or the customer. This sends the signal to the worker “It is ok to admit mistakes. Don’t cover up.”
    
You don’t give false hope.  If the merit increase or promotion won’t happen, say so. No “I will see what I can do.” You are a manager, not a politician.
    
You correct people caught in the wrong. No looking away. No conspiratorial wink. If a worker has been caught doctoring production data, give a stern warning. But also teach him the right way to measure and record the data. If he continues the infraction, document it and implement disciplinary action. Make the tough call.
    
You keep your word. As the good book says, “Let your yes be yes, let your no be no.” If you say you will raise the concern with HR, Sales or even the COO (child of owner), do it. Write the email. Knock on the correct doors. Pitch the case. But manage expectations. Promise no guarantees.
    
To be concluded next week. Meantime, comments are welcome via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.