Undercover Documents

19 June 2009

One of the fascinating things about consultancy is to see what information documentation employees find important, compared to what is officially published by the organisation.

On one occasion, I was directed repeatedly to a single-sided A4 document written by a single employee, which powerfully described how they saw themselves working five years hence. In a few paragraphs, the paper described the technologies, processes and interactions the employee might use. It was written informally and described a day in the life of the employee - it encapsulated the "work smarter, not harder" ethos and even outlined time set aside for research and thinking.

What was fascinating was that at the time I encountered the document, it already been circulating for three years and yet it was still pulled out on a regular basis to inform discussion as to the direction of the future direction of the business. The lesson here is that employees have powerful ideas on the future state of an organisation. As a manager, if you are able to align top-down initiatives with such ideas, then change initiatives become easier for all parties.

Ask your staff to generate some ideas in a workshop environment that envisages how they would work in three- or five-years hence. If you are an employee - don't wait to be asked! Form a small group and produce such a document yourself, then talk it though with your manager.  Keep the language informal but positive and not more than one side of A4. Point out the differences between the current situation and your ideal future situation. Encourage your manager to share it; even if he or she is not directly empowered to implement change initiatives, ask for the document to be made available to those that are.

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