Yeah, Everyone Needs Business Acumen
"The least expensive way to improve human performance is to let people know what is expected of them."
"My front line guys don't need this."
This quote from one of my executive sponsors troubled me. It troubled me a lot. So much so I decided to (finally) blog about it today.
We were getting ready to deliver a business acumen program for middle managers. We discussed the broader implications of the content to other audiences. He could not see why in the world his front line employees, his workers, the people he depends upon to actually DO the work, would need to know about things like:
The company's strategy and strategic vision
The company's brand promise to customers
The company's financial performance scorecards
How all of this fits together
What they're supposed to do to get the results he wants
Sure, I understand that as a CPT, I partner with clients to add value. The value in my services aligns content and learning with performance. Our work must be relevant and useful to get the most impact. Yes, I get that. But, I'm afraid this executive wasn't thinking that way. I asked lots of follow up questions. What I learned was that he was assuming, "My front line guys aren't smart enough."
Anytime you underestimate the intelligence or capability of your employees, you are asking for trouble. Deming's 14 Points seem to support this conclusion. At least they do for me.
My direct experience indicates that employees are MORE than smart enough. They get it. They get it faster than most and will do more than you expect with the knowledge. They'll cut out bad costs. They'll work for simpler work procedures. They'll advocate for safety. They'll add value. They'll improve quality. In short, the'll do a good job for you. You simply have to let them in on the bigger picture, the scoreboard, and what's in it for them. That's all.
Yes. Everyone needs business acumen. The best companies in the world engage everyone in learning about business in general and their business in particular. Keeping things from people is bad for business.