‘All right, Stibbons, what do you suggest?’ said Ridcully. ‘These days you only ever tell me about a problem when you’ve thought up a solution. I respect this, although I find it a bit creepy.’
“Unseen Academicals” by Terry Pratchett
I think the best thing that can happen to an organization is groups of employees working together to improve the work conditions. People who invest in the place where they spend roughly eight hours of time each day. Who are motivated to change the working conditions, not only to improve performance, but also to make work a place where you want to be. Because let’s face it, sometimes you love the work, but the working conditions … not so much.
You don’t need a semi-formalized quality circle to make this happen. A group of young scientists came up with the idea to improve their working conditions by using the festive pre-holiday season. Interested scientists (doctoral students and post-docs) were asked to participate in a ten minute creativity session. The volunteers stated their availability in a doodle and were sorted into groups of three to discuss ways to improve the work situation.
On the assigned date the three volunteers met in an office that had some holiday season charm with chocolate, tea, and comfy chairs. One of the organizers (doctoral student, not a supervisor) was also present to provide support when needed. They either came up with an idea themselves or used three dice to constrain the scope of ideas (one technique to come up with ideas, almost nothing is as oppressive to ideas as unlimited choice). You can see the way the dice worked in the figure — a neat idea in itself:
After finding an idea they wanted to develop they discussed and sketched their idea on a flipchart. This documents the idea and allows it to be presented to the whole organization after all sessions have been completed.
The process is still ongoing and I am curious to see what comes out of it. Because having ideas and developing ideas is only the first step. Good ideas must be implemented to have any positive effect — otherwise they might even discourage the employees. But for generating ideas, I think this idea is very, very good and a creative way to spend the pre-holidays time.
So, even if you do not have quality circles or any formal way of improving your situation at work, this might be a very good idea to try out.