Value Stream Mapping the Engaged Employee

I inspire purposeful engagement in meaningful work.  In business settings, I see this as a three-part equation:

1. The organization’s role in providing a safe, responsible, resourced environment.

2. Management practices and culture that support productivity and engagement.

3. Individuals who are skilled in and accountable for their own motivation and engagement toward the work in which they’ve chosen to participate.

There’s literally a ton of guidance available on the first two.  It’s this last one that has me thinking.

In the workplace, I’ve found what I think is the best thing since sliced bread to build these skills – to build the self awareness, resilience, and talent-driven initiative in employees to meet business goals.  But what if we could get them earlier?  How are engaged employees made?  Where do they come from?

Enter: Value Stream Mapping. Wikipedia says that Value Stream Mapping is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information currently required to bring a product or service to a consumer. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as “material and information flow mapping”. It can be used in any process that needs an improvement.

Our Process Needs an Improvement

The engaged employee is the product.  The new workplace is the consumer.  The new economy is the market.

What is the flow of materials and information currently being used to bring an engaged employee to the workplace in this new economy?  I contend that there isn’t any.  Or at least not that much.  And definitely not on purpose.

Employees come from college (or not) and high-school (or not) and elementary school (usually) and homes (arguably).  Where in that value stream do we intentionally build capability in self awareness? Resilience? Identification of unique personal talent? Articulation of one’s contribution?  At best these are electives.

Why That’s Not Okay

In an industrial economy, that was fine.  There wasn’t much call for multi-career adaptability or innovation-at-all-levels initiative.  But the new economy and workplace demand it.

More importantly, recent research shows that these skills are physiologically imperative to lasting motivation and engagement and, ultimately to the achievement of gratifying work.  We literally cannot learn, grow and adapt if we are not resilient in the face of challenge.  We cannot be as productive, innovative and satisfied if we are not actively applying our natural talents to our work. The research also shows that we can build greater self-efficacy and, that by doing so, we can more reliably tap into and even achieve our potential.

How to Improve the Process

1. As business leaders, students, parents and educators we have a responsibility to respond to the new demands of our economy, workplace and workers. (Download Llama Groomer workshops and curriculum 01212011 PDF to see an example of what I mean)

2. Skills in self-efficacy and being accountable for tapping one’s potential (we could call it “self-actualization” if that didn’t sound so woo woo but check out the definition – it’s not so far fetched!) should be introduced earlier and developed purposefully throughout individual’s development.

3. The idea of “success” should be broadened to include the many career paths our new economy allows now – including those that do not require college preparation, those that are better supported by a trade education or those that could be attained with a new track of entrepreneurial or business basics.

4. Organizations should demand, hire for and manage performance to these self-efficacy and self-actualization skills so that those in their employ are purposefully engaged in meaningful work.

It just means bringing your best self to what you choose to do.  What do YOU think?

5 thoughts on “Value Stream Mapping the Engaged Employee

  1. I find it really amazing that such thinking is so uncommon. It seems obvious to me that everyone is responsible for fulfilling their own potential. (The concept is definitely not “woo-woo!”) As individual’s we invest our lives in our places of work and consequently it seems self-evident that we should maximise that investment. That is why I hate the expression “work-life balance.” Work is not only an integral part of life but a major constituent and thus should be seen as integral and not as something to be put in the scales with life. (In essence work-life balance as the term is used is no more than a time management issue, and rooted in the conventional wisdom (carried over from the industrial ers) that work is a function of time.
    I understand what you mean by saying the employee is the product but disagree to the extent that the employee is also the producer. Thus (apart from a better educaton system as you imply) the solution is to start recognising people as the assets they are and valuing them as such and trading them in much the same way as sports stars. Toyota encourage this in an informal way and there is no reason why it cannot be implemented more widely. Many might see this as dehumanising but I think it will, paradoxically make the workplace more humane!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Bay! I’d like to hear more about the “trading like sports stars” concept. Not only would organizations see and appreciate the value a star brings but the stars themselves would be clear on and articulate about what they bring (cue Cuba Gooding Jr and Tom Cruise: “Show Me the Money!!!!!”). Am I understanding the concept? Tell us more!

  3. I don’t know whether space will permit! Suffice to say that it is not something I talk about a lot, because it it is the ultimate of my vision.
    My proposition is simply that people are assets and as such they need to be accounted for as assets. Although it is a cliche to talk about people as assets, accounting practice treats them purely as a cost. This means you get behaviour that does not conform to philosophy when it comes to managing people, and this breeds disengagement.
    This can be easily overcome by valuing people as assets (and I have a means for consistently and fairly doing this) and putting them on the Balance Sheet. This will change attitudes and act as a catalyst for reshaping the way we manage people. Everyone’s value will be calculated and recorded and increase (or decrease) as they develop and progress. Increasing their asset value will become a partnership between the individual and their employer and when a person reaches a plateau in the organisation they can negotiate a “trade” which allows them to move to another organisation where they can continue to progress and a new opportunity created for someone else. It means, however, that the investment the employer makes in the individual is not lost and doesn’t walk out of the door with them – or get completely ignored by making people redundant!
    There is more to it, but that should give you a simple overview.

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