Tools For Change – Targeted Surveys

As a leader in your organization, have you ever had the feeling that your concerns and priorities for the business were not shared by the people who did the work? When change needed to be made, did you wonder what methods would be most effective in communicating and involving the people in the need for and process of change? Have you been concerned that the feedback in your organization is provided by a small percentage of your workforce, and may not accurately reflect what the majority of your people are thinking? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you should consider the use of Targeted Surveys.

By a Targeted Survey I mean a specific, focused series of questions – in survey form – directed toward a specific issue in your organization. Those questions are answered by all the people impacting the issue in the organization. The answers to the questions provide feedback that is used to identify actions that can be taken to improve the organization while communicating the fact that an issue exists.

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is in aligning the work effort and commitment of the people with the core requirements of the business. To the extent that alignment is strong, you will be successful in leveraging the efforts of your people – to the extent alignment is not strong, opportunities for leverage disappear. The Targeted Survey approach can add leverage – resulting in competitive advantage for your organization

An example of the power of a Targeted Survey:

An 800 person manufacturing company had scrap and rework costs that were 500% over budget. Something had to be done – and the company was prepared to spend time, money, and energy to fix the quality problem. The new CEO decided to use a survey on the issue of quality as a means of getting feedback from all the people in the organization. Surveys had not been used in the past. Twenty Yes or No questions were developed, starting with “Do you think there is a quality problem at —?” Next question –” Do you have the training and tools available to do high quality work?”. Eighteen additional questions on quality followed. Results? 80% of the people responded that they were not aware of a quality problem; and 60% of the respondents said they did not have the training and tools to do a high quality job. What grew out of that first survey was a comprehensive set of actions to improve quality using the input of the organization as the basis for most of the actions. It worked – within six months the quality costs had shrunk to under budget, and within a year the quality costs were at an all time low for that organization.

The same approach has worked in organizations with all kinds of different issues – turnover, change initiatives that have failed, systems that don’t work. I’m sure you can think of projects or issues in your own business that could have used more input and commitment at the front end.

To use this tool effectively, there are 9 ” Must Do’s” that make the difference between good feedback and not – so – good feedback. They are:

·This process requires a champion in the organization, and that champion needs to be the top person – others can and should help design the survey and coordinate and prepare communication, but The Boss has to be the Champion.

·The first communication of the survey is absolutely critical. The communication must come from The Boss, must ask for the help of the people, must commit to certain actions as a result of the survey being taken and must assure the anonymity of the responses.

· Use a Third Party to design and administer the survey for two reasons – to get expertise in design and wording and administration; and to help assure your people of the anonymity of their responses.

·Don’t even think of doing a survey if you are not prepared to share the complete, unfiltered results within 10 days of the survey being taken.

·Realize that every question on the survey is seen as an indication of interest or intent to change by the organization, and that each question creates expectations on the part of the people taking the survey. Limit the questions to areas where the organization is willing and able to change.

·Make sure everyone takes the survey, and that everyone is assured of anonymity.

·Keep the questions and the possible responses simple – avoid the temptation to offer shades of gray in the responses – make them Yes, No and – if you can’t help yourself – Don’t Know – no more than those responses. Space for narrative may or may not be used. Narrative is difficult to capture in the results document – and if any feedback is missed, it makes the whole document suspect to the people who took it.

·Remember that the results are an operating document for the use of the organization – and that to be used the results have to be understood, accepted and trusted. That’s the prime reason for keeping the format and responses focused and simple, and for having everyone take the survey.

·Remember, the purpose of the survey is to provide communication, not employment opportunities for behavioral scientists and statisticians. If you can’t cover all the issues in one survey, do a second survey once your people have seen action arising from their input to the first.

When you are prepared and committed to change, stop for a minute and ask your people for their take on the issue – all of your people. I guarantee you the investment in time and effort is paid back at a higher return than any other investment you can make.