PROBLEM: Be world-class, but still have no budget.
HEADS AND HEARTS
For many, communication starts (and ends) with putting data into logical sequence. That’s how we were taught in school, and what gets rewarded today.
(Given the number of presentations and papers without even this most basic foundation, it’s not surprising that a rational read is 'good enough'.)
That's echoed by the ethos of many organizations and functions that worship at the altar of mathematical neatness.
And combined with a belief is that everyone involved are rational participants, making decisions on full information.
Psychologists have a very different view: That full participation in an organization calls on two aspects of being human.
Research suggests that our brains use emotion to organize rational thinking, not to disrupt it. This combination brings greater impact, makes more meaningful decisions.
The brain best remembers information, events and ideas that are reinforced by emotion.
Unlike at school, there are no right answers in life. Instead, in organization and business, there are just better ones.
All information is imperfect. ‘Truth’ depends upon how it’s expressed; very small changes can multiply their impact on the outcome.
It’s not just what you say, it’s the way that you say it.
That’s what gets results.
It was very good news for the EFQM that a global company was lending its credibility; possibly a very bad idea for Xerox if the organizers made it so tough to ensure it didn't look like a walk in the park.
What if Xerox failed?
Everyone in the EMEA headquarters took it very seriously. Pages after pages of evidence, volumes upon volumes of submission statements - it was like preparing for a multinational, multi-jurisdiction court case.
Weeks of collection and collation, scrutiny and synthesis. Days of practicing Q&A, readying for the full-on assessment visits. The longer the prep, the more stressful and serious it became.
The emotional stakes became more intense, much more than data-driven, rational cultures are usually willing to acknowledge.
So it was a great relief - certainly to the EMEA CEO and his Quality team - that the corporation won the Award. So how to acknowledge the victory?
The EFQM board was due to visit the European HQ the following week. Surely we'd do something more than just an email and a photo in the company magazine?
Having a coffee in the reception atrium one morning, I looked up at the two walkways connecting either side of the building - and thought of cruise liners leaving port, with ticker tape festooned from each balcony.
A week later, the EFQM great and good came to present its symbolic 32-piece sculpture;
and balloons were released from a ceiling net;
and indoor cannons fired a glitter storm;
and far too many employees crowded on the walkways, throwing ticker tape and confetti.
The emotion and the tiredness of all the effort was expressed and acknowledged.
The next morning I found a handwritten note on my desk. It was from one of the accountancy team, the stereotypical quiet and non-demonstrative folk:
“Thank you for the day. It was one of the best times I have ever had in this company. I’m so proud, I almost cried.”
Never, ever underestimate the emotional commitment that hides beneath the professional surface.
And when you’re trying to drive change, tap into it.