Is employee entanglement the way to build an exceptional organization? At first glance, the idea is a bit disturbing. I squirmed a little when I read this use of the word “entangled” in It’s My Company Too!, a new business book published by Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Entangled has messy connotations to me: maybe they meant engaged? I wondered. Or embedded? But no, three pages in the authors make it clear: they mean entangled. Why that word? Because entangled implies a state of tension, of being stretched – a familiar state for small businesses, like those featured in the book, in the current economic environment. But, as the authors describe it, for entangled employees in entangled organizations this tension exists because of their clear vision of where they want to be, and a firm knowledge that they aren’t there yet. The entanglement tension creates a drive that helps organizations out-perform their peers.
“Entanglement is the critical force that separates world-class from common performance, providing an organizational competency that makes leaders among peers,” write the authors. “It’s these distinctive competences that make imitation impossible and competitors irrelevant.”
Eight Not-So-Easy Pieces
Using the analogy of a puzzle, the authors identify eight “not-so-easy” pieces that great companies put into place to gain employee attention, build discretionary thinking, and excel in the marketplace:
- Having leaders who do extraordinary things
- Building an ethical organization
- Focusing all the human capital
- Using process to guide performance
- Increasing an individual’s self-efficacy
- Giving employees freedom and responsibility within a culture of discipline
- Hard-wiring discretionary thinking and actions
- Guiding the transformation process to remarkable performance
None of these concepts are original to the book. What is original is the chemistry created by the combination of these ideas: when functioning together, it creates exceptional organizations. This is evident in the examples of the eight organizations featured in the books.
One company that especially works against the odds to create an entangled workforce is Mike’s Carwash, an Indiana company with revenues around $60 million annually. In a business that often experiences high turnover within its lower-educated workforce, Mike’s has decreased turnover by 25 percent, achieving exceptional standards within their industry, by concentrating on discretionary thinking, a trait they select for in the hiring process and train for once a new employee is on board. Team input drives strategic planning and shapes important customer service decisions. The Mike’s workforce, writes the authors, “knows it can not only make suggestions and utilize discretionary thinking but also exercise its right to do what will delight customers.”
Combining Practical Knowledge with Researched Insights
Delight is a concept that repeats itself throughout the book – customers are delighted, employees are delighted, results are delightful. But It’s My Company Too! is not just a book of anecdotal stories and insights. Author Ken Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor of management at DePaul University; authors Tom Walter (CEO of Tasty Catering and a regular contributor to this blog) and Ray Bendetto, DM, are business owners and members of the Academy of Management. Co-author Molly Meyer helped launch creative firm NuphorIQ. Together they combine well-researched insights with observations from the inside of exceptional companies. The result is delightful.
Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership‘s corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about marriage and other topics on her personal blog.