ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

December 1999


Back To The Future In 2000

Purpose, Planning And Preparring

Get In Touch With Your Emotions

No Gimmicks. No Frills. Just The Facts

Ritz-Carlton Again


What A Difference A Space Makes
by Peter Block


Brief Cases

Diary of a Shutdown

Views for a Change


Views for a Change
Consultant Q & A

John Runyan responds:

My first thought for you is to create a forum where others can express themselves overtly, not in corners and behind-the-scenes, but to each other and to the leaders in your business. This forum would consist of people, from your team and others across the whole plant, telling their stories, their ups and downs, and their journeys through this difficult decade. You and upper management would have to lead by example and build in repeated assurances that workers would not be discounted, punished or appeased for participating in this exchange. The principal purpose of this time would be to simply (and profoundly) hear people out about where they have been and how they stand now in relation to their jobs and the work of the plant.

I believe that you would hear a remarkable set of perceptions, judgments and conclusions—laced with complaints, missed opportunities and grieving. For all the bumps along the way, I believe that this kind of respectful inquiring, speaking and listening to each other would help jump-start the cross-level and cross-company communication you seek.

From this foundation of shared information and experience, you and your co-workers (again starting with your team, but including others) would be positioned to move toward a future different from your present circumstances.

My next suggestion is to call for an initial "grass-roots future exploration session" with all the workers in the plant. It would consist of all the members of your work system coming together for a few days to meet in small groups to consider key questions about their preferred future. My proposal is that these questions would come from an "appreciative inquiry" stance, i.e. asking people to draw on their positive experiences in any and all parts of their lives in service of making new choices in this plant.

For example:

*When things have been tough in your life—when, where and how have you been able to stay in touch, communicate with others and bring in your best thinking and problem-solving?
*If the workplace does not energize you now, where in your life do you invest yourself?
*What can we learn here from how you motivate yourself and contribute elsewhere?


I believe that upper management could make a clear, decisive and powerful investment in this “future search” effort with one initial choice. As part of your joint choosing of a new future, ask your business leaders to designate at least one significant aspect of your work life where workers could totally shape how they do their jobs and where they could reap any benefits that come from changes they make—perhaps areas such as the creation, selling, distributing and profiting from a new product or the organizing and implementing of a quality of work life benefit.

The purpose of such an effort would be to provide workers with a clear playing field to do something that would directly benefit themselves and their families, with no chance for it to be taken away or materially changed for the foreseeable future. If your co-workers could experience real choice, control and reward in part of their working lives, they might be more willing to lean in to other attempts to improve cooperation and productivity.

H. James Harrington responds

December '99 News for a Change | E-mail Editor
  • Print this page
  • Save this page

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this item

View comments
Add comments
Comments FAQ

ASQ News