Many employers these days like to proclaim that their employees are ‘their true capital’ and that only happy employees can lead to a healthy, and therefore successful, business. In practice, however, this often turns out to be mere lip service: the working environment in many organizations is demoralizing and rife with conflicts and mistrust.
This is perhaps not surprising, as the actual human aspect of people management can be extremely tricky to deal with. ‘Satisfaction’ is hard to quantify and human behavior is often dismissed as irrational and unpredictable.
And yet there is little doubt that there is truth to these empty phrases: a content employee who thinks well of their employer is unquestionably more productive, more motivated, will show more initiative and more willingness to cooperate. These characteristics are vital ingredients for an innovative, flourishing and flexible business. Simply ignoring this aspect because it is ‘hard to deal with’ is a big mistake. How do we do this? Martin Powell explains:
“If you want to change the culture of your organization, then working ’on the people‘, the soft side, is going to be a long and unrewarding process unless you first fix the system by removing the Engines of Disharmony!”1
The Engines of Disharmony
The Engines of Disharmony are the primary driver of the widespread dissatisfaction Eli Goldratt identified in many organizations, with the aim of eliminating them and creating an environment that would lead to satisfaction. This happens with the help of the “Engines of Harmony” driving the productivity of the business.
|ENGINES OF DISHARMONY||ENGINES OF HARMONY|
|1. Not knowing my own required contribution to the Goal or how my contribution will be measured / recognized.||1. Knowing exactly how I should contribute and how my contribution will be measured and /or recognized.|
|2. Not knowing others’ contribution or how their contribution should be measured / recognized.||2. Knowing exactly how others should contribute and how their contribution will be measured / recognized.|
|3. Organizational Conflicts about which “rules” to use to best achieve organizational goal(s).||3. Systematically align “rules” with Goal of the Organization (replacing local/short term optima with global optima rules).|
|4. Inertia/Fear of Failure blocks necessary changes to achieve ongoing improvement.||4. Processes, skills and culture are continuously improved by exposing inconsistencies and challenging basic assumptions.|
|5. Individual Conflicts due to unresolved Gaps between Responsibility and Authority (e.g. resulting in firefighting).||5. Systematically close Gaps between Responsibility and Authority, using “firefighting conflicts as the trigger.”|
This state of Harmony Goldratt wants to achieve is derived from the concept of Wa, which governs interpersonal and professional relationships in Japanese society. The focus here lies on a harmonious community rather than individual self-interest. Goldratt was particularly impressed by this quote from one of the leading Japanese books on Critical Chain Project Management:
„Although there are multiple cases documenting “several hundred million yen profit increase in a few months”, many of them don’t regard making money itself as the success. Actually, many readers’ comments are along the following lines: “Of course I am surprised and happy with the dramatic profit increase in such a short time. But far more important for me is people’s personal and professional growth. Widely spreading teamwork, motivation increasing across the company: I have always wanted our company to be like this!” from CCPM by Yuji Kishira, quoted by Eli Goldratt)2
This idea of putting the wellbeing and harmonious cooperation of employees above pure profit may seem downright revolutionary to a Western audience, but it immediately appealed to Goldratt. He realized that creating an environment where people would be self-motivated to help the business reach its goals could only be a net positive.
Additionally, he knew that the previously identified Engines of Disharmony had numerous deleterious effects that went far beyond just suboptimal business performance:
- Employees that don’t understand the use of an initiative, or their own role in it, will often fail to contribute to it or even actively resist it.
- Conflicts are a constant companion, wasting time, energy and absorbing vast amounts of management attention. In order to solve the conflicts, people resort to compromises which are unsatisfactory for all involved.
- Cooperation is governed by mistrust and resentment, leading to tension between teams or departments.
- If everyone is focused on their own (local) interests, they are at risk of making decisions that go against the overarching goals of the organization.
- Invalid or actively harmful procedures are maintained because they are not questioned; rare suggestions for improvement are dismissed as impractical.
How can we eliminate these negative symptoms? How do we turn the Engines of Disharmony into Engines of Harmony? This is what we’ll be discussing in the next blog post in this series.
1: Martin Powell, “Can a manager really motivate others? Engines of Disharmony”, Goldratt Solutions, 2013, p.4
2: Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, ‘Engines of Disharmony’, Goldratt Consulting, p.2