For pretty much all of the 90s I worked for the Motorola Corporation. Those ten years of varied, challenging and global change leadership experience were pretty much the bedrock that my last 15 years have been grounded in. Motorola was not perfect, but it was innovative and humanely people-centric. If the business had not contracted as it did, I would probably still be there.
During the ritual winter clearing-out of my office, I came across some Motorola paraphernalia. One thing in particular made me think; “Individual Dignity Entitlement” (IDE) was a very controversial, global Motorola process. I am told there was even a Dilbert cartoon about it!
The IDE process asked every employee to answer “yes” or “no” to six questions;
1. Do you have a substantive, meaningful, job that contributes to the success of Motorola?
2. Do you know the job behaviours and have the knowledge base to be successful?
3. Has training been identified and made available to continuously upgrade your skills?
4. Do you have a career plan, is it exciting, achievable and being acted on?
5. Have you received candid, positive or negative feedback within the last 30 days, which has helped in improving your performance or achieving your career plan?
6. Is adequate sensitivity shown by the company towards your personal circumstances, gender and culture?
This was done online every quarter and followed by a one-to-one with your boss to discuss how you could improve things together. Every manager in your reporting line could see your results and your own boss would expect to see your action plan to improve your team’s scores over time.
What do you think of this? A draconian measure or a positive statement of a minimum standard of expectation for all employees?
At the time of IDE being implemented, I was struck by the choice of language;
It’s a declaration of what we are choosing to become as an organisation; what we want the experience of being a Motorolan (and yes, that is a thing) to be. It’s universal and unbounded by grade, function or language and culture. It’s a clear message to every manager of the minimum expectation of them in relation to the people they lead. It humbles the role of “manager” to be in service of their employees’ entitlement to dignity at work.
Then there is the “yes/no” answer. No score of 1-10 or five point Likert scale or shades-of-grey adequacy. You either do or you don’t; clear and uncompromising.
The implementation of IDE was often painful. Employees worried about the consequences of saying “no”. Managers worried what consequences would arise from negative scores. Everyone was anxious about the one to one conversations. OD were concerned about how they would support and coach the teams where difficult stuff surfaced.
The first few cycles were a challenge, but as with all changes like this, it soon became the new normal. It was also invaluable data for OD to understand where the coaching and management support was most needed.
As I reflected on the whole experience of IDE, some leadership lessons surfaced;
• As leaders, we set and assert strategy and deliverables, put processes in place to maintain the organisation’s focus on delivering them and measure their progress. In the same way, we must also set out what we want the experience of working for us to be; culture, beliefs, values, leadership styles and “the way we do things around here”.
• With this clarity, we can share with our people clear standards of employee “entitlement”, that we can be held to account for.
• Our people-managers also need to know the minimum we expect of them in the management of their people. How often do we really make this clear? Then we must give them the opportunity to grow the skills necessary to deliver this with confidence.
• As senior leaders our job is to model the way at all times. What we invest time and energy in will be modelled by the rest of the organisation.
• The organisation needs some way to measure how we are doing; what are the “six questions” we should be asking ourselves (individually and collectively)? How do we use this insight to focus on leadership improvement?
• What consequences, positive and negative, need to around to encourage the right stuff and discourage the wrong? How do we actively build this into the system.
Whether you like or loath the concept of IDE not really the point. The leadership provocation is “What do you want the experience of working here to be? Are you and your leadership team spending sufficient energy and time on growing this? How will you deliver that experience through your active and purposeful leadership? ”.