In Patrick Lencioni’s “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees), the author correlates job satisfaction with performance. He focuses specifically on three areas where employees begin to loathe their jobs; irrelevance, immeasurability, and anonymity. Lencioni offers actionable advice on diagnosing and addressing these issues. I could not help but think of job satisfaction in the context of systems, workflow management and what it is we do to help solve pain points for our customers.
The clients for whom we’ve build custom software usually have a few common problems that we see in a lot of different industries. Experts Exchange wrote about business transparency recently on a larger ethical scale. I think transparency in business starts on a micro-level with the business processes that make up your daily workflow. Typically clients feel like there is a lack of transparency in their work processes. This leads to having to continually check on the status of work, redundancy and a lack of awareness as to how things are getting done and who is getting them done. People like recognition and validation for their work. If their boss doesn’t know exactly what they do and lacks the visibility into their daily work, recognition falls by the wayside and it employees feel defensive about what they do and uncertain about how they are being evaluated. Not good. This lack of transparency or clarity goes well beyond process efficiency. Employees may feel that their work is perceiveds as irrelevent because nobody knows exactly what they do or how they’re doing it. Therefore they feel irrelevant.
Clarity and Definition
Businesses usually have defined workflow management processes, steps, teams and procedures. Challenges arise during the execution of tasks. This is usually a communication issue where the person responsible for task 5 did not realize that the person responsible for task 4 completed their work. Unnecessary delays in competition can occur when people don’t have clarity on when their work is ready to be completed. This lack of clarity can lead to a sense of anonymity. I like the quote “Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan.” When work processes are not crystal clear, there is a shared sense of the whole and it is harder to feel and act accountable to a task if you’re not clear when you’re to begin, and nobody else sees it either. This sounds like an opportunity for employees to skate and cast blame on others for missing deadlines but in my experience, people like to achieve goals and they like it to be known that they were particularly instrumental in the swift and accurate completion of their responsibilities. This might be a stretch but as the son of a Catholic school teacher, I was a frequent alter-boy, serving mass in front of hundreds in our parish church. My tasks followed a very clear, predictable chronology and were dependent upon the completion of other tasks by my counter point and the priest. There was no uncertainty in who did what and the congregation saw it all. I felt a great sense of satisfaction for publicly keeping the wheels on the alter so to speak.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The custom software that we build for our clients helps collect and aggregate data so that they come away with the reporting and tools necessary to evaluate their work, their process and their people. Part of being a leader is helping your people make sense of their landscape. Providing them specific direction that will help them focus their efforts on tasks that will lead to measurable results is what it’s all about. When your systems are hard to track and you lack the tools to measure performance, people become disengaged and disincentivized to knock it out of the proverbial park. If nobody can clearly see the difference between you’re a players and your C players, why would you work so hard?