Back in August 2011, CNBC listed the 10 Most Hated Jobs based on research by CareerBliss, an online resource that bases job satisfaction on multiple factors, including workplace culture, coworkers, and the boss. Other sources, such as the Shift Index research by Deloitte indicate that less than 1 in 5 employees are engaged in their work.
(Note: The Shift Index Report is found here: http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Industries/Technology/center-for-edge-tech/article/26d62345e0032210VgnVCM200000bb42f00aRCRD.htm)
Beyond the Dilbert jokes, however, lies some insights that are important for practitioners in the world of Lean Six Sigma/Performance Improvement. Specifically, that what seems to lie at the heart of employee dissatisfaction is precisely the kind of things a robust vision for Six Sigma can and should focus on in its deployment. In his book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, Steve Denning identified five elements of business success:
1. Delighting the customer (Denning: “In the 20th Century, firms got by on profits. In today’s more competitive world, profits can vanish overnight with the entry of a new product or service into the marketplace. Making profits is obviously required for survival, but if profits are all a firm has, it faces a precarious future. The true bottom line of any business—and the key to an enduring future—is whether customers are delighted. Delighting customers means continuously providing new value for customers sooner, so that they are willing to buy the firm’s goods and services not just today but also tomorrow. It’s goes beyond mere transactions; it’s about forging relationships. For this to happen, it’s not enough that customers are passively satisfied. That’s just the price of admission to the marketplace. Today, customers must be delighted.”)
2. From controller to enabler (Denning: “To reach the new level of performance, the organization has to empower those doing the work in self-organizing teams that are responsible for deciding how the work is to be done. The result is a dramatic shift in the role of the manager from controller to enabler.”)
3. From bureaucracy to dynamic linking (Denning: “Even the best intentions to delight clients or empower staff will be systematically subverted if the work is coordinated through hierarchical bureaucracy. Meshing the efforts of autonomous teams and a client focus while also achieving disciplined execution requires a set of measures that might be called ‘dynamic linking.’ Dynamic linking means that (a) the work is done in short cycles; (b) the management sets priorities in terms of the goals of work in the cycle, based on what is known about what might delight the client; (c) decisions about how the work is to be carried out to achieve those goals are largely the responsibility of those doing the work; (d) progress is measured (to the extent possible) by direct client feedback at the end of each cycle.)
4. From value to values (Denning: “When the firm’s goal shifts from making money for shareholders to providing a continuous stream of additional value to customers, there is a necessary shift from a single-minded preoccupation with economic value—efficiency, economies of scale and cost-cutting—to a broader focus on the values that will grow the business by generating innovation and customer delight.”)
5. From command to conversation (Denning: “None of the above shifts will be sustained if management communicates in the traditional mode of top-down commands that dispirit knowledge workers. Nor will customers be delighted if communications with organization consist of unresponsive one-way messages. Instead, communications need to proceed in the mode of social norms, with adult-to-adult conversation, listening attentively and responding openly, with authentic stories, metaphors and open-ended questions.”)
In my vision of Lean Six Sigma, all five of these characteristics are the things that a mature Six Sigma deployment ought to drive and develop in the organization.
In his blog on Forbes.com, Steve Denning wrote:
For all the talk about teachers and nurses and the long hours, low pay and thankless tasks that they put up with, it may be surprising that they didn’t even make the list of the ten worst jobs.
What’s also striking is that these jobs are not low-level jobs. The pain is psychological. We are in the world of Dilbert. It’s the pointlessness and lack of meaning in what they doing that is the problem. These people know that they are capable of contributing more but the hierarchical bureaucracy prevents from doing it.
What’s striking about the list is that these relatively high level people are imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies. They see little point in what they are doing. The organizations they work for don’t know where they are going, and as a result, neither do these people.
The even sadder part of the story is that the organizations they work for are going down the tubes. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge studies show that the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years and is heading towards 5 years. The pointlessness that these people see in their jobs is an accurate reflection of the deteriorating condition of the firms they work for. When those doing the work are dispirited, it is inevitable that customers too will be frustrated and that the firm will not prosper.
These problems can’t be solved by job redesign or clearer career paths. Instead the organizations must undertake fundamental change to manage themselves in a radically different way with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation and all the consequent changes that are needed to accomplish that. The result of doing this in firms like Amazon [AMZN], Apple [AAPL] and Salesforce.com [CRM) is happy customers, soaring profits and workers who can see meaning in their work.
The Countdown of the 10 Most Hated Jobs
10. Marketing Manager
Marketing managers often cited a lack of direction as the primary reason for job dissatisfaction.
9. CNC Machinist
CNC machinists operate computer numerical control machines. For the uninitiated, this is a machine that operates a lathe or a mill. Now that the CNC operator has had most of the physical hazards of manufacturing replaced by a machine, there’s not a lot to do but push buttons and maintenance. Since it’s a specialized skill, the job offers no room for advancement.
8. Technical Support Analyst
Technical support analysts help people with their computer issues. This typically amounts to calmly communicating technical advice to panicked individuals, often over the phone, and then going on site only to find the client simply hadn’t turned the printer on. They may be required to travel at a moment’s notice, sometimes on holidays or weekends.
7. Law Clerk
Clerkships are among the most highly sought-after positions in the legal profession and the job beefs up a resume. Yet law clerks still report high levels of dissatisfaction. The hours are long and grueling, and the clerk is subject to the whims of sometimes mercurial personalities.
6. Electronics Technician
Electronics technicians complain of having too little control, work schedule, lack of accomplishment, no real opportunity for growth, no motivation to work hard, no say in how things are done, and mutual hostility among peers.
5. Technical Specialist
A technical specialist reported that for all their expertise, they were treated with a palpable disrespect. Their input was not taken seriously by senior management.
4. Senior Web Developer
Senior web developers reported a high degree of unhappiness in their jobs, because employers are unable to communicate coherently, and lack an understanding of the technology.
3. Product Manager
Product managers complained of restricted career growth, and boring clerical work even at this level.
2. Director of Sales and Marketing
A director of sales and marketing plans reported the second-highest level of job dissatisfaction, “a lack of direction from upper management and an absence of room for growth”.
1. Director of Information Technology
Information technology directors hold almost as much sway over the fate of some companies as a chief executive, but they reported the highest level of dissatisfaction with their jobs. Why? “Nepotism, cronyism, disrespect for workers.”