Monday, March 9, 2009

Field Suggestions

As I've discussed before, the best place to find out how things are really done is the field - your front-line staff. They're the SMEs. Books and manuals are the basis of how a job is done, but experience tops it off.

If you really want to effectively improve a process or business, you've got to get input from the people who actually do it. Be open to suggestions - gasp - yes, suggestions from your line-staff. Just because you're a manager doesn't necessarily mean you're an expert.

You need to encourage staff to make suggestions that can make improvements on anything from customer service to process flow to product marketing. The key word here is "encourage". Just mounting a suggestion box on a wall is not enough. It doesn't matter how small or insignificant of an idea someone has - encourage it. The smallest idea can become the biggest improvement.

Don't forget to respond to your staffs' suggestions. Respond quickly. The longer it takes, the more they feel as if it's just a canned response. Especially if it's something that you're not going to implement. Acknowledge the time they put in to develop the idea and to write it up for submission.

And by all means, let the group or the whole know that suggestions are being considered and implemented. Publicly acknowledge the staff who make suggestions and the changes that come from them. Once staff see/hear this, you'll start to get more suggestions (that's a good thing), and more thought-out suggestions. Staff will definitely begin to feel more valued, appreciated, and motivated.

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