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Sustainability: Moving from Common Sense to Common Practice
2016 International Conference
Leesburg, VA - National Conference Center

September 18th - 21st


TOC as a Driver for Employee Engagement

Ashton Fourie - Change Management Coordinator,Huisman Equipment in China



Do not wait for a change of environment, before you act; get a change of environment by action. You can so act upon the environment in which you are now, as to cause yourself to be transferred to a better environment. Hold with faith and purpose the vision of yourself in the better environment, but act upon your present environment with all your heart, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. (William D. Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich)

Organizations are systems created by-, operated by-, and maintained by-, people; with the purpose of providing something value to society. Sustained success hinges on the performance of people in providing this value to society. This can be presented as an interactive triangle – the example in Figure 1 being for that of a for profit organization


Our experience of our working environment is made up of interactive dimensions, such as:
  • Time: The past, the present, and the future
  • Control: Tasks, Actions, and Events. Ranging from tasks where I am 100% in control, to events where I perceive to have no control, e.g. a natural disaster. More or less in the middle are collaborative tasks and actions.
  • Task Engagement: Ranging from work I absolutely love, and am good at, to work I loathe and struggle with.
  • People and relationships: Ranging from people with whom I like to spend as much time as possible, to people I will avoid in every way I possibly can.
Many managers intuitively understand that there must be a correlation between the work environment and employee engagement; and between such engagement and performance. The empirical evidence to support this was, however, not always easily accessible. In the book "First Break All the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Manager’s do Differently,” the Gallup Organization published one of the largest research studies into what drives human performance.

They distilled their findings into twelve simple questions, which, when positively answered by team members correlates highly with exceptional performance. Teams that consistently answer "strongly agree” to most of these questions, consistently outperform the ones that do not. These teams have created an environment that attracts, retains, and engages the best employees, AND brings out the best in those employees.

The twelve questions are divided into a hierarchy of four levels. The first of these levels are questions that relate to whether or not individuals have the information, clarity, equipment and materials that enable them to do a good job. The second level is whether their contribution is clear, and whether they get recognized for that contribution. The third level is about whether they belong, and whether this is a high quality, high performance team. High performance employees seek out high performance teams. The final level is whether this is a place where they can grow.

The questions and levels are simple and easy to understand. However, it is one thing to understand that environments where these elements are already present correlate highly with success, but how do you ensure that you build this environment, and that you build it in a way that connects engagement with success? Even if you do know how to build this environment where most people truly answer "strongly agree” to most of the questions most of the time, this can take from several months to several years, depending on your environment.

The TOC tools provide a uniquely powerful systematic approach to resolving this challenge.

At the first level, tools such as CCPM and DBR create unprecedented clarity regarding priorities, making it very clear what every individual needs to be working on. The full kitting principle ensures that everyone has what is needed to do their work right.

The success that TOC creates in terms of on time delivery, creates the sense of accomplishment and clear insight into the value of my contribution, and provides opportunity for managers to identify and give recognition for excellent performance, which drives the second level.

The TOC focus on Throughput, the connection to the final goal of the company, and the concept of FOCUS which drives organizational harmony, together create the alignment to build on the above individual engagement drivers by creating the connections between individuals and across teams to align the entire organization. Applications such as the S&T trees and the visualization of the CCPM network enable employees and teams to connect their efforts to a clear understanding of customer requirements, and provide visibility on how meeting these requirements drive current and future success. This provides the third level where all have a high experience of being part of a team that is committed to good quality and high performance.

Finally, the fact that all TOC concepts and applications are built on a common set of Thinking Processes, and the Socratic method of knowledge transfer provide a unique and unprecedented platform for employee development. These enable people to understand clearly both the theoretical concepts, and the practical applications in their environments. Employees across different disciplines can easily communicate with, and share understanding of their environment and its cause and effect relationships. A well-structured TOC skills development program provides a strong, clear connection between learning and growth, and on-going company performance improvements. This provides the fourth level: A place where people can learn and grow.


To finally clinch the unique power of a TOC approach to creating a workplace that attracts, engages, and retains high performance employees, we look to the power of the S&T trees. People’s experience of their environment, interestingly enough, is influenced mainly not by what they are experiencing in the moment, but by their hope of the foreseeable future. We do not engage in the current situation for the sake of the current situation. We engage in the current environment for the sake of what we believe we are creating, and our recent experiences influence our future expectations. The S&T tree allows a connection between the past, the present and the future.

Some people can easily buckle down and work through a very difficult and unenjoyable period of several years, for the sake of building a better future they envision at the end of that. Other people need to see that what they are doing today, will make tomorrow better.

The S&T tree allows us to start with a vision of a better environment that may be five years away, and keep breaking it down until it is very clear to us what we must do TODAY and THIS WEEK, to already see progress towards the better future. This allows us to visibly see recent achievements towards the future we are building; tasks we are working on for building that future right now; and what we are going to be working on tomorrow and next week to build that that future.
 


Ashton Fourie - Ashton’s passion is the integration of design, purpose and calling with performance and success as a foundation for living a successful, fulfilling and meaningful life; and about the way this scales from individuals, to teams, to organizations, and to societies.

He has worked in operations, strategy, and change management for 25 years in various industries – Financial Services, Information Technology, Healthcare, Defense, Non-Profit sector, metal production, and heavy off-shore steel engineering to manufacturing. He is currently working for Huisman Equipment in China – a large off-shore equipment engineer to order manufacturer, who makes some of the biggest and most sophisticated off-shore equipment in the world. As Change Management Coordinator, he is responsible for the strategic management process, and the coordination, planning and execution of company-wide changes, developments and improvements that are identified by this process.

He holds a masters degree in Managing and Leading Innovation and Change from York St. John’s university in England.

In his free time his favorite activity is spending time with his wife, son and daughter – doing things like cycling, roller blading, going to the beach, travelling, watching movies, and enjoying the endless possibilities of food that living China offers.




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