Shared Engagement Creates Champions

By: Joe Koczwara, June 12, 2014

Recently there has been increased interest regarding employee engagement. Topics range from employee satisfaction to who ‘owns’ employee engagement to perceived value.

Why satisfaction isn’t the same 

This is a recurring question among HR professionals. The answer is no. Satisfaction is a good indicator of an employee’s current mood or feeling, but it does not necessarily reflect behavior in the workplace. Engagement spans several types of desired behaviors like “putting in extra time and effort to get the job done” to some undesirable behaviors like “I am looking for another job.”

Whose problem is it?

Traditionally, ensuring employees are engaged was considered the responsibility of the manager. But some suggest that the employee should bear this responsibility. Employees are engaged when an organization provides them with the things they value (i.e., good compensation, benefits, work environment, etc.). Employers benefit from employees who go the extra mile. Since there is a mutual benefit to employee engagement, I believe that a shared responsibility is most logical.


When organizations measure Drivers of Engagement in a well-constructed Engagement survey, the organization and employees know what matters. There is no need to have employees brainstorm on what would increase or decrease their engagement level – the data will tell you. A better way to include employees is to involve them in developing solutions. Organizational leaders should not simply say, “This is how we will fix engagement.” Rather, they should get employees’ input on how the organization can do better on the Drivers that matter. Additionally, improving engagement does not mean you should give employees everything they want. Communicating with employees and helping them understand why things are a certain way is a valuable outcome of the survey and can mitigate many engagement issues.

The things they value

Start today on the path of increasing employee engagement within your company. Begin with something small. Remove some well-known irritant in the job. Just like removing a pebble from your shoe, it takes very little time but it makes life so much better. If there is one small thing that you could get (or give away), what would it be? In my IT world, developers appreciate faster laptops, bigger monitors, better software, training modules, and flexible work schedules. But the value of each item is the value perceived in the employee’s mind, and each person places a different intrinsic value on each option. NBA coach Phil Jackson was a master at motivation because he tailored it to his individual players. As a business leader, you must do the same with your workers.

Because really, whether we are basketball players or IT personnel, the goal is to win a championship. You can do that with a highly engaged and motivated work force.

The Jury Technique, Part 4 – Benefits of the Technique

By: Dr. Donald Devine, June 5, 2014

Much has been written about human relations, team building, interpersonal relations, self-awareness, and management by objectives. These and other matters can be handled most successfully through a problem-solving approach that addresses the concerns, anxieties, frustrations and, at times, despair that exists in all corporate businesses.

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The Learning Structure

The jury technique has been shown to be highly effective for addressing these issues. Its learning structure does not require the preparation of elaborate training materials. Rather, workers’ already-accumulated evidence and experience serve as the basis of the exercise. Learning is also focused on finding a solution for a specific work objective—one that is beneficial to the well-being of the entire organization.

Success of the jury technique can also be attributed to company leaders and personnel following certain procedures. Such guidelines include the following:

  • Emphasis is placed on helping each person recognize that ‘problem definition’ is integral to effecting a sound and lasting resolution.
  • Allowances are made to assist individuals in presenting evidence and inquiring about the factors related to the problem at hand.
  • Ethical standards are observed, such as maintaining objective and impartial attitudes toward solving the problem rather than placing blame and personalizing criticism. The training and development specialist provides structured direction to keep emotionalism within reasonable limits.
  • Learning is related to current practical work considerations rather than abstractions.
  • The training design does not require any level of technical expertise on the part of the training and development specialist. Rather, it presumes that objective inquiry is the only truly meaningful basis of good problem solving.
  • As a natural consequence of using this problem-solving process, managers will gain practice and skills related to problem solving, communication and team building.
  • During the process, training and development specialists also have the opportunity to observe individuals’ strengths and improvement areas, which can be helpful for future employee development.

The jury technique can also be adapted for use with small problem-solving interactions in the day-to-day work environment. Under such conditions, training and development specialists are often perceived as useful contributors to operational personnel. One of the normal fallouts of this is the number of after-session requests for consultative and design advice from training specialists on how to organize resources to best accomplish objectives for improved performance. The possibilities inherent in developing new strategies and structures to enhance learning, meaningful participation, contribution, and commitment are thereby strengthened.

Finally, the jury technique decreases paperwork and unnecessary regulations; rather, it promotes a more rational environment that tends to instill trust and unite workers. It also encourages behavior befitting human dignity and the deeper dimensions of each worker’s personality. That alone is an immeasurable success.

The Jury Technique, Part 3 – Implementing the Technique

By: Dr. Donald Devine, May 30, 2014

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed the importance of committing resources to training and development for quick action problem-solving. We also explored some potential barriers to problem solving structure and how to overcome them. Today’s Thought Exchange centers on how to use the jury technique to attain successful results.

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The Jury Technique

The jury technique is a problem-solving method that focuses on group investigation and brainstorming. By implementing the jury technique, leaders can achieve active and productive solutions for problem definition, analysis and action.

First, top executives should issue a brief statement of the perceived problem. Then they need to identify individuals who are immediately involved, those whose power and influence are needed to implement a solution, and those who are sufficiently interested in learning and helping even though their involvement with the problem may seem indirect or peripheral.

Next, the top executive should review participants wishing to be involved in the problem-solving session, limiting involvement to no more than 12 people. Each participant should be encouraged to bring to the session all the available information he or she has accumulated on the subject (i.e., memoranda, reports, notes, statistical data, and so forth).

At the beginning of the meeting, the leader should present a brief but thorough background of the problem. Then, training and development personnel should carefully explain critical requirements that will enable the group to function productively.

Below are some guidelines summarizing how the meeting should be run:

  • Each person should have the opportunity to state what he or she knows about the problem in front of all members of the group.
  • Group members should question each individual after his or her presentation in the presence of the entire group. Questions should be phrased in an open-ended manner to induce projective responses. Note talking is to be encouraged.
  • After individual presentations and questions are concluded, group members should form small work units to develop practical solutions. A secretary should be appointed in each unit to identify information that is incomplete and to highlight follow-up action(s) that should be taken to ferret out facts. Each action, of course, should be substantiated.
  • Secretaries should then consolidate the results into a document containing the definition of the problem and sub-problems, as well as the plan of action to be implemented.
  • The reports should be presented verbally with copies given out to each participant for analysis and review prior to finalization of the plan of action.
  • Before concluding the initial session, individual group members should assume responsibility for various actions that have been recommended, including reporting on progress at the second meeting.

Your company stands to gain the most from using the jury technique when participants cooperate and follow the type of structured format explained above.

Up Next Week… The Jury Technique Part 4: Benefits of the Technique

The Jury Technique, Part 2 – Structuring a Successful Problem-solving Method

By: Dr. Donald Devine, May 23, 2014

In last week’s post, we discussed the importance of business leaders committing resources to training and development for quick action problem-solving. We explored the idea that all managers should be able to respond in a timely and reliable manner when problems arise, whether the issue is anticipated or is the result of unforeseeable occurrences.

But how do you teach problem solving? How do you learn it?

Principles of problem solving

First, training and development personnel must be involved in the decision-making process even if they lack specific technical expertise on the subject. Key personnel should design problem-solving learning experiences that will help teach managers how to quickly assess and describe issues using crisp, clear verbiage. They also need to develop courses of action that will encourage commitment and allow leaders to act out proposed solutions.

To be successful, problem solving must emphasize rationality. Certain basic assumptions are helpful in bringing about strong and lasting results, not only from the practical standpoint of achieving work efficiency and effectiveness, but also in terms of the quality of human relationships.


Below are some things to keep in mind when setting up problem-solving structures within your organization:

  • Problems, when initially stated, are usually inaccurate because people have a tendency to start by describing situations or symptoms. Total effort must be made to correctly and carefully state the objective that needs to be accomplished.
  • Inquiry is an indispensable tool in problem identification. Each person must feel free to question in an atmosphere that is free of implicit reprisal. Every employee should have an opportunity to openly express what he or she knows about a problem, to feel comfortable being questioned, to be able to respond fully to questions, and to ask questions themselves.
  • Those who are involved in or affected by a problem should be invited to participate in its resolution.
  • To encourage self-actualization as well as spontaneous and uncontrived participant responses when examining a problem, you must ensure that a spirit of friendship, courtesy and ethical behavior prevails.
  • Recognize that each participant is equally important to the solution. Whether the problem affects certain employees to a greater or lesser degree is singularly unimportant.

Up Next Week… The Jury Technique Part 3: Implementing the Technique

The Jury Technique, Part 1- Will the Real Problem Please Stand Up?

By: Dr. Donald Devine, May 16, 2014

Rare is the business problem that gives managers plenty of advance warning, yet leaders still need to be proficient at handling unexpected issues. Consider the following scenario:

A plant manager and his personnel director are in the midst of a meeting when the mill supervisor suddenly interrupts. Offering no apologies, he blurts out that too much sulfur has been put into the meld, causing a considerable amount of raw product to be ruined. Coolly but affirmatively, the plant manager orders the mix scrapped and tells the superintendent they will get together to identify the source of the problem as soon as his directions are followed and a new meld is initiated.

Unexpected contingencies like the one described above affect the day-to-day lives of managers and executives in both small and large companies. Quick decisions must be made in order to keep production going and to minimize costly expenditures of man hours, machines and facilities. Human error, misjudgment, or ineffectual behavior related to such occurrences often arises—although it is seldom malicious in nature. How can leaders be better prepared for these unexpected issues?


Training and development

Without the assistance of training and development personnel, companies face an uphill battle. When confronted with unexpected problems, managers have no time to prepare training materials and manuals, set up classes, or implement other systematic responses. Therefore, a universal objective of all managers in any business should be to sharpen their problem-solving skills through training and development.

Problem-solving patterns within organizations tend to be inadequate when training and development resources are lacking. Some factors that inhibit development of workable solutions include the following:

  • Subordinates refuse to criticize their immediate supervisors because they fear alienating themselves from good interpersonal rapport, favor or reward.
  • People tend to be self-protective of their achieved positions and envisioned hopes for promotion within the system.
  • The presence of personnel with considerable technical expertise in an area tends to intimidate those who may wish to question but who are afraid of admitting ignorance.
  • The sense of urgency that always accompanies solution-seeking tends to stimulate individuals to make fast—and not always reliable—judgments.
  • The dynamics of personality often create conflicts of an interpersonal nature that decrease constructive, cooperative problem solving.
  • People perceive problems from their own frame of reference rather than adopting a more broad-based corporate perspective.
  • The predisposition toward focusing on results clouds the atmosphere with search-and-destroy or find-the-villain strategies and proceedings.

Need for effective problem-solving models

Another problem is that many training and development programs don’t consider the need for quick responses to unforeseen obstacles. T&D personnel must create problem-solving models that will stimulate managers and executives to strategically involve the staff in resolving operational problems.

Prompt and responsive problem solving helps establish a viable energy resource within an organization. It requires commitment and cooperation by the training and development team, management, and the workforce. Such commitment tends to obliterate onerous line and staff differences, creating a healthier integration of the training and development function both vertically and horizontally throughout the organization.

Up Next Week… The Jury Technique Part 2: Structuring a Successful Problem-solving Method