To be (a cog) or not to be (a cog), that is the question.
Upgrade your cogs
Some time back, businesses needed people to be ‘cogs’ to repeatedly turn and perform specific functions. The factory model worked at the time.
Some businesses still need some cogs in place. But old-style cogs out-date and wear out quickly. They don’t fit the new system. You’re going to need to upgrade.
The world has changed, and whilst some businesses want some cogs, what they really need is something better; something smarter.
Here’s two thoughts to consider:
Your people have the tools
Firstly, the factory model and cog model don’t work so well anymore. These days, everyone has their own ‘factory’ and means of production on their lap or on their phone. They have the means and inclination to be more than just cogs. Now, they can become bigger than they are themselves. (They probably dream about this every day).
They can spread their wings, create things, add value, share and connect. They can connect ‘stories’ and messaging to the right people, leaving a permanent trail behind that can add value if done right. They are in fact doing this anyway when you’re not looking. But your job-description for them may have just asked them to focus on being a cog and turning in a specific way. Until they break that is.
You could help empower them to use their tools to great mutual value for themselves, their career and your business and customers. But they’re going to have to want to first…
Your people have the desire
Turns out they already do! Or at least they have the core motivations within them to want to do this:
Desire to learn, grow, tackle the right level of challenge, help others, solve problems, talk to like-minded people, lead others, work as a team and share wins, feel productive, feel things working, creating more meaning in their work and earning more pride. (And yes, for some technical types out there, the pride comes from solving the technical problem or even in out-smarting their colleagues – their performance is still driven by emotions.)
They want to thrive. If only they could find a way to bring these things into their daily life at work in a way that’s enjoyable to them and in a way that benefits your business, customers and their career. That’s obviously the sweet spot.
My second point is that the cog model goes against human nature anyway. Human beings aren’t meant to bury the very things that make them human (their strengths!) and pretend they are robot-like cogs. Plus, robots can outperform humans at logical repeatable work anyway. Humans who try to be cogs are ultimately vulnerable. They’re a commodity. And they don’t actually want that to be the case.
The last thing they want is to feel powerless in their work. They want a say in the work they do. They want certain projects. They want to work with certain people and avoid others. They have ego’s, pride, and a self-image to preserve. They want some influence. They want to be able to persuade. They want to create bigger and better things. And they certainly don’t want to feel hard done by.
So your interests probably overlap.
Replacing cogs with the next gen solution
Treat them like cogs, and they’ll behave like cogs. They’ll just turn. And turn. They aren’t paid or expected to grow because you’ve possibly positioned them as a cog. You’ve enforced the limits upon them. Cogs don’t venture beyond their limits. And so they miss creating positive impact on others and opportunities to create broader value. Cogs say, “that’s not my job!” And they turn until you or they decide they’ve turned enough and need replacing.
Three steps to deal with this
Step one is to be sure you’re not treating them like cogs. Have you communicated clearly and consistently that your organisation expects that people contribute to the business beyond their roles? Treat them as high-potential people who can do much more for themselves, your customers and your business, as well as the main job they are employed to do. Re-introduce their human strengths to the mix.
Step two is to help them understand that they can create more value for the business, your customers, themselves and their family out of thin air, and that you want to help them do this. They can learn how.
Step three is to help them acquire the tools, skills, mindsets and behaviours to do this in a way that’s comfortable for them, effective and sustainable. They’ll need some commercial awareness of course. And some basic understanding around how people can interact differently to make sparks between them and create mutual value.
Then you can put them in front of your customers and expect a different level of service. One that stands out to your customers.
All of these have been achieved before by many businesses.