With the roles of participants clearly defined, expectations are created. The challenge is to let participants know what is expected and to avoid any surprises throughout the process. Participants resist surprises involving assignments, application tools, or action plans. Also, when a questionnaire, interview, or focus group is scheduled on a postprogram basis, participants often resent these add-on activities. The approach is to position any necessary actions or data collection as a built-in process and not an addon activity.
Identifying Measures Before the Program
For some projects, the participants define the specific business measures that need to improve. For example, in a supervisor safety program implemented in all plants, participants are asked to identify the safety measures that need to improve, but only if those measures can be changed by working with their team using the content of the program. Although this approach may seem dysfunctional, it represents the ultimate customization for the participant, and it applies to many programs. The implementation of lean Six Sigma, for example, requires participants to identify specific business measures that they want to improve by making a process more efficient or effective. Impact measures are identified and become part of the project undertaken by the participant. In the classic GE workout program, pioneered by GE's former chairman, Jack Welch, the participants identified specific projects that needed to improve. All types of process improvement and performance enhancement efforts have this opportunity, ranging from negotiations, creativity, innovation, problem solving, communication, team building, coaching, leadership development, supervisor development, management development, and executive education, among others. This creates the expectation and often comes with a pleasant reaction, because the participant focuses on the measure that matters to them.
Involving the Managers
In addition to creating expectations directed to participants, the participants' managers may be involved. Participants may be asked to meet with their manager to ensure that the manager has input into the involvement in the program. Sometimes this includes an agreement about what must improve or change as a result of the program. One of the most powerful actions that can be taken is having the managers set goals with participants prior to the programs. Another opportunity for manager involvement is to develop a module just for the manager. This is usually a shortened version of the participant module.
Messages From Executives
In addition to immediate manager involvement, having others in executive roles to create expectations can be powerful. In most organizations, the top leaders are often highly respected, and their requirements or expectations are not only noticed, but are often influential. Figure 6-1 shows an opening announcement from a CEO about a safety project. The opening speech was recorded and presented virtually, clearly positions the expectations for business connections, removing any doubt of what was expected. The message is clear: Participants must learn new approaches and tools that they will use or implement; but ultimately, success must be achieved at the business level.
Figure 6-1. CEO Message and Expectations
Thank you for taking the time to become involved in this important e-learning project.
I am confident that this is the right time and the right place to achieve some major safety improvements. Although we have a safety record that is among the best in the industry, there is still room for much improvement, and it is unacceptable in our minds and in your minds. There is no way we can be pleased with any lost time injuries, let alone a fatality in our workplace.
We have a dozen business measures that you are reviewing in this particular project. The focus of this project is to improve as many of these as possible. The measures will be ranked in the order of the seriousness in terms of pain and suffering for employees and also cost and disruption at the workplace. We expect you to make significant improvements in these measures.
During this project, you will be exposed to a variety of techniques and processes to achieve success. You have our support to make it a reality. Here are our SMART goals for the next two years.
Fatalities 50% Lost time injuries 12% Accident severity rate 12% OSHA reportable injuries 13% OSHA fines 18% First aid treatments 23% Near misses 16% Property damage 29% Down time because of accidents 18%
I have confidence in you to accomplish these goals with this program. You have my full support. You have the full support of our safety and health team. And you have the full support of your operating executives. There is nothing that we won't do to assist you in this effort. If you have a problem or issue that you need to get resolved and you are having difficulty, contact my office and I will take care of it.
The improvement in these measures is on your shoulders. Only you can do this. We cannot do it at a distance and our safety and health team cannot do it alone. It is your actions with your employees that can really make a difference.
Good luck. We look forward to celebrating these successes with you.