Second Time Around

In May this year I attended the first Engagement Taskforce (guru group) meeting. Arrggghhh I have to put those words in brackets I hate ’em mustn’t let them escape! I tweeted about this event at the time and invited questions, comments, any kind of input before the day. There was barely a whisper, which gave me some indication of how people felt about the whole thing.

After the event I reported back here and here and a very active conversation rapidly emerged. David Zinger was kind enough to say that in his opinion the resulting dialogue was one of the most vigorous online conversations on engagement in recent years, and indicates that perhaps there is interest in this initiative after all.

We’ve been asked to come together again for another session on September 23rd. I want you good people to know this because I remain keen to hear from you with comments, criticism, input, ideas etc which you think might inform the engagement taskforce project. You can read more about the project here and I hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks in advance for your contribution.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

9 thoughts on “Second Time Around”

  1. What are the practical steps the Government wants the public to take to be more engaged, and what are they doing to support it?

    The recent riots in the UK showed two things. One, that a part of our society feels tangibly disengaged from being a UK citizen in all forms. Two, that in times of need we can show immense humanity seen by the way everyday folk helped one another.

    The expectation of the Big Society is very lofty and admirable, but with no/little guidance on how this is meant to be accomplished, and with the appropriate support mechanisms, it will never happen. All initiatives that have an altruistic element to them still require co-ordination and management. Where will this support come from?

    Hope this is in line with what you’re asking.

  2. Hi Doug
    Well I’ve just spent an unplanned but v interesting hour reviewing all the previous (& as you say very active!) comments from your previous updates…

    I hadn’t seen the ‘Engaging for Success’ website before so thanks for introducing me to that. I like it and look forward to seeing it develop into a more two way site, which I believe is the intention.

    1. I like the taskforce workstreams list – especially ‘Tools & Ideas for Action’ and would be really interested in understanding more about what they are doing and the progress they are making.
    2. How do they each intend to share this in a simple, clear & (excuse the pun) ‘engaging’ way?
    3. I’d like to see a simple way of connecting the workstream actions to the 4 enablers.
    4. I like the 4 enablers – they are as good as any I’ve seen elsewhere. Is there a way you could simplify even further the 4 enablers so that they are easy to remember…? I’ve been doing this for myself and for what it’s worth I’ll remember it by thinking: Vision; Engaging Leaders; Voice; Values. This could become a simple template for developing an engagement plan in any organisation….
    5. On the 3 ‘Areas for promulgation’ – what exactly is meant by promulgation? Not the most engaging word by the way…I ended up hving to look it up…
    6. And more importantly – what’s the action / update for these areas – especially for the CEO Group and Shareholders questions? These are critical groups / stakeholders who if they all ‘got it’ would really impact change in organisations.

    There are some brilliant names on the ‘support’ list & Richard Baker & Jonathan Austin, to name but two on the Taskforce, are both real heavyweights who ‘walk the talk’ on this stuff. Kudos!

    I have to say I’m more impressed, and therefore interested, than I expected to be Doug so look forward to coming back for your update after your next session on 23rd Sept.

    Hope it’s a good one!


  3. Thanks Sukh and Dorothy, I appreciate the time and thought that has gone into your replies. I want to share another I’ve received:

    ‘My own thoughts would center around “discretionary effort” from a workforce. When I first started looking into EE the idea that if you got the culture right, you would realise tangible benefit through a willingness of your colleagues to “go the extra mile”. I have to say that I have become increasingly cynical that this has actually become a catchphrase for working longer hours. It would be good to know if there is any thinking around how to guard against situations in which EE simply becomes a “mask” for more sinister motives.’

    There are some interesting thoughts and ideas coming in – I will of course keep you all posted.

  4. Engagement 2

    In the end I concluded that engagement is a symptom of sustainable success and effective leadership, not an end itself. It took a while to get there though.

    I tried to comment on this topic here a few months ago but gave up because I wasn’t sure what success looked and felt like. I didn’t understand what the outcomes were meant to be. I too re read and then re read again the outputs from earlier in the year and the Engaging for Success site and I still don’t. As a result I nearly gave up again.  Then I realised that as a manager, not in HR, I am presumably one of the agents of engagement. If I don’t know what we are trying to achieve then either I am particularly stupid or it’s not clear. While normally my humility knows no bounds, I think it’s the latter in this case 🙂 I admire your patience with this Doug.

    In particular I considered the 4 Enablers of Engagement. They probably represent a very good set of things to do but I can’t say for sure because I can’t link them to outcomes. I tried hard to convince myself that these enablers are outcomes in themselves, but they aren’t, however valid they may be, they are at best part of the “how” and they reek of initiative, dogma and theory.

    Then I really had a flippin ‘eck moment,  it occurred to me that these people think that engagement is an end in itself! I suspect that engagement is a symptom or by product of good leadership, it is necessary but not sufficient in itself and attempts to create it for its own sake will likely achieve little and be transient anyway.

    I ended up asking myself what would have to happen to make our people, partners and customers more engaged, but where engagement is the by product of shared and sustained success for mutual benefit not an end in itself. I concluded that achieving sustained success should therefore be the focus of the “how”. 

    All the enablers are necessary, but mostly as part of an overall leadership agenda. Perhaps only:

    “… Engaging managers who:
    Focus their people and give them scope
    Treat their people as individuals
    Coach and stretch their people

    is specifically relevant to this initiative as it’s through people interacting every day that things get done. That is, as long as by “engaging” we mean, identifying, encouraging and hiring people who will in turn engage everyone they work with (not just “their people”).

    Everything else is valid, but part of that poorly defined thing we call  leadership.

    Funnily enough, looking at it from this perspective, where engagement is a symptom, it might even be worth very quietly measuring it now and again as long as we can hold our nerve and resist the temptation to blow it’s nose and make empty promises to otherwise treat it.

    Tough one this.

  5. Anyway, that was I thought on Sunday from the splendid isolation of rural Hants. 

    By the end of yesterday, which I spent deliberately trying to engineer pockets of  engagement in various ways, to open up a clique that I had created to enable a project to move successfully into a new phase and to support one of our teams in getting more done as just two examples, I wondered if a global replace of “symptom” with “essential pre cursor” was needed in my previous comment. 

    There is also ambiguity in my mind between  engagement as a state, e.g.  how fast the corporate flywheel is turning, and our use of the same word used to indicate our approach to getting to turn and keep turning, but my head hurts enough already!

    Anyway, herewith, a rare case of a Yorkshireman admitting he got it wrong 🙂

  6. Hi Doug, I’m also on the gg now, but not able to attend on Friday. Hopefully next time!

    I just wanted to pick up on Tony’s comment that engagement can’t be an end in itself. I totally disagree with that. One of the reasons that I think engagement is so low is that people are simply seen as resources to help a business get stuff done.

    To me, engagement, capability, diversity (human capital) are worthwhile ends in their own right. If we develop these, business results will follow.

    I also think that it’s only when organisations pursue engagement as an outcome in itself that we’ll get the engagement levels we all want.

    Actually, I think this is part of the problem with the word ‘engagement’. Employees see it as something which is all about providing benefits to their employers, with little benefits for them. I’m beginning to see things like wellness as much more useful concepts because of that.

  7. I think John makes a very fair point. On reflection I had already concluded that in at least one key respect I was plain wrong. Engagement is a necessary pre cursor, for example for Great Customer Service or any other outcome you are seeking to achieve.

    However, there is an implication in there though that you might want to realise engagement with a specific outcome in mind. That sounds extremely hard to me 🙂

  8. Hi Doug. Thanks for walking the talk and trying to engage a wider audience in the task force. I’ve had a read back through your previous posts, the comments wars, and the task force website itself. My response is … I’m not sure how to phrase it. Ho hum, I think. Because I am not really clear on the purpose of the task force. I can see that one of the workstreams is for the group to work out it’s purpose and 2 year deliverables. If I could ask two questions to the group, it would be “why are you here?” and “if you didn’t exist, would anything be different?”. I know I’m sounding cynical, but surely there’s enough research and practical case study examples out there already. And as you point out Doug, I can think of many instances where people put in way too much discretionary effort.
    I guess I’m struggling to say that I’m a bit uncertain as to what new and concrete advances will be added by the group.

  9. Thanks Tony Jon and Flora – I appreciate you taking time to think and comment on this. Your contributions motivate me.

    I’ve been critical of this taskforce work in previous blog posts, so I was surprised when the taskforce reached out to include me. So far I confess to being disappointed with the level of interaction outside of the occasional meetings, and the whole thing still feels too vague for me (and others it seems). I apperciate the engine behind the taskforce is a small group however if I can encourage a good level of debate I remain uncertain why they can’t? That said I feel ’empowered’ to do so, no one has clapped me in irons or thrown me out….yet!

    Here’s to progress (a key ingredient required for engagement) and more feedback after Friday.

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