Joy in Work is a difficult concept. It means different things to different people. It is intangible; there one minute, gone the next. Measuring it in individuals, departments, organisations has proved complex and tenuous. Yet it underpins the other two facets of quality improvement – if you have joy in work, safety and cost effectiveness will improve.
So if it’s difficult to measure how do you know it’s working?
Sometimes to answer a question, we need to disprove the opposite: what DOESN’T work…how NOT to increase Joy in Work. To explore this, I have revisited The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande – he and colleagues internationally introduced a simple concept to improve safety. Let’s learn from them what didn’t work
JOY IN WORK – 6 ways to fail…
1. Complex problems need complex solutions
”It’s very complicated and variable; we need a flow chart to cover all eventualities”
In fact quite the opposite is true: what possible way is there to map a process with infinite possibilities. And even if you could, the resulting document would be utterly unusable. Simple solutions which can be locally adapted are key: cover the main points you need and use it as a spring board.
15s30m encourages staff to take a few extra seconds in their day to reduce frustration for someone else. No paperwork. No reporting. No data collection. Just do something when you notice you can.
2. Providing a toolkit is all you need
”We’ve spent six months pulling together a work pack, laminated sheets and mission statements. Here it is…off you go…”
Toolkits matter: people need to be equipped to do what’s necessary. But history is littered with glossy brochures, rainbow divided ring binders, hyperlinks to documents… The doing is in the DOING. Unless there is a change in behaviour, there will be no change.
Inspire people. Help them understand the WHY, to FEEL the impact it will have on them personally.
15s30m workshops include time for staff to re-engage with “why do I work here” – what motivated them to join the NHS, how they know they make a difference, what matters to them at work. From there, the step to FEELING that way everyday is simple.
3. Uniformity is a must
”There’s a standard operating procedure developed by the executive team to which staff must adhere; everyone must do it in exactly the same way”
People own what they create: while it’s important to have a skeleton process, adoption is much more likely if staff can make it fit their working environment. Leaving space for creativity and individuality allows the process to be more meaningful rather than ‘let’s just get this done and we can concentrate on the real work’.
15s30m Missions are individually created: there are a few tips for making your mission successful, but not prescribed list from which you must pick. Only you know your day.
4. Change spreads best when those in the centre are in charge
”People listen and act upon global emails and initiatives: those at the top of the management chain are best placed to understand the big picture”
Whilst this may be true, those at the top of the management chain are WORST placed to understand the challenges and day to day issues faced by staff. This ‘broadcast’ style is outdated – we no longer wait for the 6 o’clock news to hear what has happened today; we don’t look to a monthly newsletter of handpicked highlighted. We chose what we listen to, share, edit and follow minute by minute.
Change happens at the edges, not the centre. The centre should support and enable communication with simple common goals – however people on the periphery need room to act and adapt based on individual priorities and needs.
15s30m is not a key performance indicator: it doesn’t form part of mandatory training or appraisal. Its been most successfully taken up by individuals or teams who chose to use it as a quality improvement or staff joy in work initiative.
5. Sign off from senior leaders is essential with all decision making
”We can’t allow just anyone to make decisions: there is a clear process to authorise all actions”
Standard operating procedures matter, they do, in many situations. However, encouraging staff to adopt an organisation wide culture change is not one of them. Swift, agile, flexible – these are the attributes needed.
15s30m is clear on its ‘no permission needed’ stance – for people to take the step and do something in the moment, participants must feel empowered to decision make for themselves.
6. Its all about resource and training
”We have dedicated £0000s funding to this project and will offer training courses to all those interested”
People know what the ‘right’ thing to do is; they often know why and what and how…but have difficulty with “when”. Centrally, from up the chain, the ‘easy’ thing to do is pour in cash and churn out learning…but as we’ve said before – the doing is in the doing.
Can you improve outcomes with no increase in skill? You bet. Here’s the eye opener. It’s about opportunity.
Find a physical prompt: are you frustrated by something? – well someone else is too. What can you do, now, to reduce frustration and increase joy for that someone else.
15s30m requires no training; no prior knowledge of quality improvement theory; 15s30m Missions don’t need any resource, funding, set up, meetings…just go for it.
People join because they want to be part of something; the reward is intrinsic – its not the TV licence van circulating, waiting to catch you out. Your virtuous act is reward in itself.
So that’s it. If you are looking for a different outcome, then you need a change in behaviour.