ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - September 2000

Issue Highlight - Remembering What Matters
-  Peter Block explains the need to look deeper than fashion and technological trends to find meaning in our homes and workplaces.

 In This Issue...
Living Impossible Dreams
Ouch! Is it Time to Redesign Your Systems?
Searching Ourselves: Avoiding Office Boxing Rings
Believe It or Not— Workplace Bias Still Exists

Bedtime Stories for Your Organization
Economy Breeds Short-Sightedness

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Heard on the Street

Views For A Change

Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds:

Suggestion programs are one of the best ways to bring about continuous improvement within an organization. They are even better than teams. In Japan, ten problems are identified and solved by the suggestion system for each problem solved by quality circles. In the United States, suggestion systems are not as productive. The concept started in the United States in 1896 (over 100 years ago) by the National Cash Register Company. The major problems that faced U.S. suggestion systems are:

1. Long approval cycles

2. Poor follow-up

  Even with these problems, the National Association for Suggestion Systems reports that over $1 billion of savings a year are recorded as a result of suggestions turned into companies within the United States and rewards worth over $100 million were paid out.
The benchmark for suggestion systems was the first small company that won the Malcolm Baldrige Award. In this case, every suggestion received during each day was reviewed the next morning by the management team, and then accepted or rejected. The results of these reviews were posted on the bulletin board throughout the mill.

  In the United States, best practices result in the sharing of the savings between the organization and the employee that makes the suggestion, as long as the suggestion was not part of the employee job responsibility. The percentage varies between organizations. I personally like to provide the employee with 25 percent of the actual savings that result from their suggestion.

  I also recommend that your organization adopt a “Job Improvement Program.” The Job Improvement Program provides a way for employees to document and receive recognition for accomplishments that they implement within their regular job responsibilities—accomplishments that are not eligible for suggestion awards. There are as many recognition systems for Job Improvement Programs as there are companies involved in such programs. A typical recognition system would involve monthly or quarterly competitions to recognize the individual that records the most savings in each function. These individuals receive a small prize (ranging up to $100) presented during a luncheon with company officers. Of course, the job improvement program can also provide management with information that leads to employees receiving one of the major company awards at a later date. Because job improvement is a responsibility of all employees, the department manager can be required to set job improvement goals for the coming year and measure himself or herself and the department against these goals. A typical commitment would be: “Record a $500,000 savings over the next 12 months and have 100 percent of the employees participate by submitting a minimum of one job improvement idea.”

  Today, there are many software packages that can help the suggestion response cycle and keep the employees informed about the status of their suggestion. The one I like is a web-based system called “Employee Suggestion System,” sold by the Harrington-Group in Orlando, Florida ( for a mere $499. Note: Owner Rick Harrington is not a relative of mine.

  Combining job improvement and suggestion programs provides an excellent way of tapping the knowledge and creativity of all employees.

H. JAMES HARRINGTON has written seven books including the best-selling "The Improvement Process," "Business Process Improvement," and "Total Improvement Management: The Next Generation in Performance Management." Harrington is the CEO of The Performance Improvement Network in Los Gatos, Calif. He is considered a leading authority in process management.

Vincent Ventresca Responds
Question for Consultants

September 2000 NFC Homepage


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