Friday, January 18, 2008

Bottom Up Workplace Productivity

Below is generalized copy of an email I sent to all employees in my company, and has gotten a very positive response from the CEO and workers. The seeds of it are a political framework summed up in one line of the email: All great societies become that way because the little guy wants to do better than their bosses asked.
Bosses = Authority figures of any kind.



I would like to propose a [COMPANY NAME] BottomUp Productive Workplace Group.

The concept is well documented and formulated in academia and in writings on the web. I'll be happy to show examples at another time, but prefer to keep it short here.

This group would be all the non-managers at [COMPANY NAME] who want to join in. Not sure how often people would want to meet, and the most likely time slot would be when we are off the clock but conveniently around each other -which is lunch time.

To cut to the chase, here is list of what I believe it should be, and not be:

  • NO:
    1. Aimless complaining.
    2. Aimless bad mouthing managers or anyone at [COMPANY NAME].
    3. Chatter about hobbies unless those hobbies have a roundabout connection to [COMPANY NAME] culture or business.
  • YES:
    1. Visions for how we can do directives from managers better, faster or easier. Note that this is opposite of "revolution" or other forms of disobedience. All great societies become that way because the little guy wants to do better than their bosses asked.

    2. Focused criticism of a given SOP, with a mandatory "better idea" that one can offer. The person offering such ideas needs to point out some practical details, not just unfocused day dreaming.

    3. Fun ideas about anything creative for [COMPANY NAME]. What should we invent? What the booth should look like at the big demo? If we as group think an idea is especially shiny, we can present it formally to [CEO and CTO]. It is not expected that our ideas will be usable by [COMPANY NAME], but there is always the chance. ( This is how some of Googles best products have happened, with employees creating on personal projects. Google awards one million dollars to teams that create such new ideas.)

Perhaps it would help telling why I thought of this. First, a good bit of my schooling was in this. Second, this week there was a management meeting. I noted those not in attendance, and they are a valuable resource within [COMPANY NAME]. Said another way: [COMPANY NAME] has an abundance of people with interesting perspectives, useful skills, and intelligence. I guarantee all of you [CEO and CTO] want to make as much money as possible (as I do also). Once they see non-management providing more profit through greater efficiency, quality, and general smartness; they will be receptive and acknowledge your contributions.



B. F. said...

I would refer you to my master's thesis, but I already cut and pasted it here:

Basically you have invented your own "strategic planning" process, and just like all other strategic planning processes (open space, brainstorming, etc.) it's value can be measured by how much dialogue it's likely to produce.

I give your process a big thumbs up, because what ground rules you do set are focused on keeping the conversation relevant AND positive, so it sounds like it will produce conversation very rich in dialogue.


LanceMiller said...


Just reread your Bohm Dialogue wiki entry.

The core strategy content of my piece is obviously opposite Bohm's -my "rules" against free association. But then again my goal is specific
( heighten performance of the whole company).

I could see Bohm Dialogue (which is a lot endless noodling and psychological self-discovery in a group environment) being the right thing for a community that has suffered through a traumatic

B. F. said...

By "dialogue" I am talking about 2000's scholarship ("Post-Bohm Bohm-Dialogue in the Wikipedia article.) In that sense dialogue is the existence of the 4 principles of dialogue, and dialogue is therefore a property a conversation can have more or less of.

The whole 1970's free-association 20-man meeting thing is old-hat and now considered to be little more that the original experiments that generated the "principles of dialogue" that the dialogue conversation property is based on.

Your "don'ts" rules here are hardly more that encouraging people to follow the principles of dialogue, so it's actually a very tight match with the latest generation of dialogue scholars (like me & Gerald.)

LanceMiller said...


This is really good history to know. Thanks for the clarification on where I stand ( which is, as you said,
as a proponent of the practice ).