Imagine an environment where every meeting and every interaction create value for the organization. How much would that improve performance? How much would it reduce waste and rework? And why aren’t more organizations striving to attain this objective?

Organizations can only be as effective as the people who work there -- and the interactions between them. Many work processes depend on the ability of individuals, teams, and groups to interact effectively, bringing their best thinking and their unique perspectives to make problems visible, solve them faster, and create better solutions. It makes sense, therefore, that any organization committed to higher performance would seek to enhance human interactions. Yet very few actually do.

There is a framework for making this happen -- and it has consistently generated performance improvements in Fortune 50 companies.

The Human Dimension of Process Improvement

Many work activities -- kaizen events, tier and shift-change meetings, brainstorming sessions, staff meetings, ad hoc teams, and others -- require a high degree of participation from every individual if they are to make problems visible and identify the best solutions. Participation, however, may not be forthcoming if team members believe their input will not be heard and used. Many organizations have a history of not soliciting input or, if it issolicited, not communicating back to people why a decision was made or how their input was used. This sense of organizational indifference sparks widespread cynicism. Why add your input when it never seems to make a difference?

Moreover, people may carry a great deal of fear about contributing their thinking: fear of retaliation for raising certain issues, fear of “being volunteered” to solve the issues they raise, fear of being labeled as a “troublemaker” for raising concerns, fear of contradicting supervisors, fear of slowing down processes. This fear prevents people from speaking up.

In order to change these dynamics, people need to know that their perspectives are wanted and will be heard. They require a safe space in which to raise issues or concerns and make problems visible without fear of negative consequences. All of these conditions thrive in an environment of inclusion: inclusion seen not in the traditional way, as a separate program or a “nice thing to do,” but as the very foundation for everything the organization does -- how it engages people, conducts meetings, makes decisions, solves problems, and even develops strategy.