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The Relationship Between a Pirate and an Electronic Suggestion Box

Posted by Greg Jacobson

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Sep 10, 2015 6:00:00 AM

electronic suggestion boxOne of the most iconic dastardly deeds associated with pirates is the act of making someone walk the plank. With each step the poor blindfolded victim with his hands tied moves closer to his doom. Using an electronic suggestion box is a bit like making your employees walk the plank. I’ll explain.

There’s a Blindfold

Electronic suggestion boxes prevent your staff from “seeing” in a couple of ways. First, without a comprehensive approach and structure for improvement, employees are in the dark about the types of opportunities for improvement your company needs. This is why suggestion boxes are often filled with ideas that are either too far fetched to work, or are totally self-serving. This approach also blinds employees to the process of evaluating, enacting, and measuring the results of suggestions. Ideas go in, but from there, who knows? Like the plank, a suggestion box is a one way trip.

Hands Are Tied

From the employee’s view, electronic suggestion boxes are receptacles, not starting points for progress. They do nothing to empower people to act on the opportunities they find. They rely on the premise that employee ideas must be evaluated and sometimes acted upon by some other, higher-on-the-org-chart, bringer of wisdom. You know who else relies solely on top-down management? Pirates.

It Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The plank wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it went all the way to land. But, by design, it stops very short. So do electronic suggestion boxes. They arguably cover the first step of continuous improvement, opportunity capture, but what about the rest? What about assembling a team to start a PDSA cycle? What about managing work flow to ensure that everyone is in sync as the improvement is enacted? What about measuring the suggestion’s impact, or preserving tribal knowledge? We know why pirates choose a short plank, we’re not sure why organizations choose a solution that doesn’t get very far.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (yes there is such a thing) is on September 19th.  If you have an electronic suggestion box, maybe you can use it to collect the best pirate catchphrases. (What be happenin', Matey?) For your improvement efforts, we recommend something more seaworthy.

Check out this free eBook for a better idea:

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Topics: Suggestion Systems

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