Yes, it is important to involve your workers!

A few days ago I participated in a Workshop that was lead by the head of production of  a global company and his managers – shift leaders, heads of maintenance – for their workers: machine operators. People working in the factory halls, in shifts, producing a tangible product. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the Core Purpose, Strategic Directions and the Behaviours and Key Principles of working together with the workers. The contents where exactly the same that have been shared and discussed with the employees and the Management Levels.

For most participants it was the first time to be part of an interactive cross departmental workshop, the first time they were presented strategic topics and the first time it was discussed with them. And the first time they presented their ideas in front of the Top Management, that also participated partly.

Discussions in small groups, personal reflections in pairs everything. And they came up with proposals and concrete ideas about their contribution on implementing the strategy. In the break one of the Workshop leaders told me: you know what, we had these workshops on our level and we really felt we need to roll this out to all colleagues, ALL of them. When we all understand the WHY and WHAT of our doing and strategy, we will save a lot of discussions and people will understand what needs to be done and WHY.

And this is the reason why the shift-leaders took initiative to roll-out all relevant topics to their colleagues, they volunteered to prepare and conduct the Workshop themselves. Many of them presented  for the first time in front of people and they were so proud of themselves and their colleagues applaused them and thanked them. (One of the most moving moments was, when a shift leader shared her thoughts and reflexions on her leaving the comfort zone, encouraging her colleagues to try out new things and get new results – this was excellent).

And the audience challenged the strategy, they put very smart and thoughtful questions, speaking up in front of 40 people without a problem. Wow, this was not easy 🙂 Why am I telling this story and why do I think it is so important to share it?

Because in almost all organizations and projects I worked so far the workforce, so to say the workers, were spared out. But these are the people who effectively produce the products! They have hundreds of small and big decisions to make every day even if “just” operating a machine. For some reason it was not considered of importance to enroll them in strategic topics, to listen to their ideas and to give them clear signals of appreciation. There were excuses like “we have 3 shifts, we will never have them here at the same time.. we would have to stop the machines.. this will cause extra hours..why should we bother them.. is this even of relevance” . Yes, it is. Yes, and it is possible: the Machines stood still and it costs extra money. And I think there was never any money invested for a better purpose than this time.  For me this was one of the biggest achievements I have ever seen in a project: when the rubber hits the floor, magic happens.