Magazine article Supervisory Management

Throw out Your Suggestion Box!

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Throw out Your Suggestion Box!

Article excerpt

Does your department have a "brainline"--a point at which employees are supposed to do as told without thinking much about it?

Many managers wish their employees would come up with more ideas to make the operation more efficient, to improve the product, to make the work processes safer, or to make the work-force happier. Often, though, managers inadvertently set up brainlines that stand in the way of their staffs coming up with ideas. One of the best ways to get rid of the brainline--and to achieve continuous improvement in your organization--is to implement an Employee-Driven Ideas System (EDIS) on a departmental level (although you might want, as well, to encourage a company-wide effort).

With an EDIS in place, your organization can get a variety of ideas, from those dealing with total quality to cost savings to job preservation, to product improvement, to better working conditions.

The EDIS differs from the old-fashioned "suggestion box" system in several ways:

First and foremost, under EDIS, employees generally retain responsibility following up on and implementing their ideas, instead of turning them over to a "suggestion committee" for action. Since the employee retains control of the idea, the idea likely survives in its original form, rather than being butchered by others who may not understand the work process or procedure as well as someone who does it daily. And unless the idea is very complex, the system lends itself to quick implementation. An idea is approved by the employee's manager or someone else at the lowest possible level, and the author is expected to get right to work putting it into action.

Most important, in removing the brainline, a manager, instead of saying, "Good idea; we'll do it," says, "Good idea; do it!" And in the process of the employee making his or her idea work, the employee learns a variety of management skills that he or she might otherwise not learn.

See why EDIS is critical to an organization's continuous improvement effort? It keeps people thinking creatively. As their ideas improve the department's work and subsequently the company incrementally, they will continue to come up with new ideas, always working from a higher level of quality.

The bare bones of a successful EDIS is fairly simply described. The following rules can be used in practically any operation:

1. All ideas are equally important.

2. All employees are eligible to submit ideas.

3. All ideas will be responded to in five working days.

4. Employees will implement their own ideas whenever possible.

5. Ideas may deal with anything to improve the department (or if implemented on a company-wide basis, the entire enterprise), not just savings. …

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