I really liked this tweet by Sandy Kemsley 😄 As Sandy noted, someone clearly intended to comment on the need to monitor employee sentiment – and yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized companies should monitor employee “sediment” too.
Somehow the above reference to sediment triggered a memory (from ‘sediment’ to ‘dirt’ … ‘soil’ … ‘plants’) of an article I read about “potted plant syndrome” in the workplace:
There was a boss who complained that everyone around him was a “potted plant.” He couldn’t understand why his managers wouldn’t take charge of an idea or come up with solutions. In his management meetings, if a manager suggested how to handle a problem or come up with solution, he would tell them how they could do it better or differently. Or, he would argue that they were wrong.
He didn’t realize he was killing commitment and innovation.
The boss was a one-person idea prevention department. His staff was tired of standing out with an idea only to get it shot down, so they stopped offering them. The oblivious boss had sown a staff of “potted plants.”
And now a quick true story of employee ‘sediment’…
A business professional (we’ll call him “Rick”) met with a company leader to discuss how he wanted a certain SaaS tool to work. Rick listened and asked questions, teasing out from the leader the specific desired outcomes and results he was looking for. In the course of the conversation, the leader drew his thoughts and answers to the questions on a whiteboard.
The next day, Rick presented the plan describing how the actual production implementation would work, delivering the end results the leader had described. Rick’s plan included a time-saving idea involving a simple update to certain existing data that would provide the desired end results much more quickly with fewer workflow steps. Even better, Rick also noted a flaw in one of the leader’s primary assumptions as to how the solution should work; however, Rick’s proposed data update would resolve that issue as well.
Instead of being pleased, the “leader” was angry! “I told you exactly what I wanted!” he sputtered. “What is this?!”
And only then did Rick realize the unfortunate reality that the “leader” never wanted Rick to propose an innovative solution; no, the “leader” wanted Rick to merely replicate his desires, wishes and assumptions, exactly as instructed on his whiteboard… flawed assumptions be damned. Just… wow.
Did this “leader” want fries with that?
Keeping his snarky fries remark to himself, Rick simply obliged and completed the project to the “leader’s” precise (and faulty) specifications. Sure enough, the system processes the “leader” had mandated proved to be so needlessly complicated, the end users rarely followed them.
Not long afterwards, Rick, not terribly interested in becoming a “potted plant,” chose to move on… to much greener pastures.
If a company doesn’t want “potted plants” for employees, they should stop burying their ideas.
Monitor employee sediment, indeed.
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“I’d Like to Have an Argument, Please” – An Innovation Message from Monty Python
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