The Suggestion Scheme Hierarchy of Needs

by Michael Allen

How to set-up a suggestion schemeYou can find plenty of advice on how to set-up a suggestion scheme on this excellence site – both the good and bad experiences. I hope this will be a fresh and interesting approach.

I see it as a hierarchy of needs. If this term is new to you it describes a set of needs that stack up (imagine a child’s stacking bricks toy) to make the triangle but of course, if you don’t put the bricks in the right order the stack will fall over.

In other words, you need the base first (which is senior management support), and then you need a tangible way of getting middle managers on-board and actively supporting (rather than blocking) the initiative, if you don’t have it in that order, it will topple and fail. Without those two, even the best Coms plan in the World won’t make it work. And then even if you have the bottom three, without a Manager to own the initiative, it will more likely fail than succeed – I’m sure you get how it works now.

Lots of organisations start when a senior person says “hey, how about we set up a suggestion scheme” then the IT person goes looking for an IT system. As you can see from the hierarchy, this simply won’t work.

You don’t need to go far to find some great examples of schemes that failed and, in my experience, this infographic shows why.

I am afraid the most ‘unstable’ layer is #2, “real backing from middle managers”. They can so easily scupper the scheme by giving their staff even the slightest opportunity to feel that “it’s a waste of time, he never implements anyone’s ideas anyway”.

You can find plenty of advice on how to set-up a suggestion scheme on the web because, to be blunt, lots of organisations have tried and failed. I hope this will be a fresh and interesting approach.

I see it as a hierarchy of needs. If this term is new to you it describes a set of needs that stack up (imagine a child’s stacking bricks toy) to make the triangle but of course, if you don’t put the bricks in the right order the stack will fall over.

In other words, you need the base first (which is senior management support), and then you need a tangible way of getting middle managers on-board and actively supporting (rather than blocking) the initiative, if you don’t have it in that order, it will topple and fail. Without those two, even the best Coms plan in the World won’t make it work. And then even if you have the bottom three, without a Manager to own the initiative, it will more likely fail than succeed – I’m sure you get how it works now.

Lots of organisations start when a senior person says “hey, how about we set up a suggestion scheme” then the IT person goes looking for an IT system. As you can see from the hierarchy, this simply won’t work.

You don’t need to go far to find some great examples of schemes that failed and, in my experience, this infographic shows why.

I am afraid the most ‘unstable’ layer is #2, “real backing from middle managers”. They can so easily scupper the scheme by giving their staff even the slightest opportunity to feel that “it’s a waste of time, he never implements anyone’s ideas anyway”.

If you are still undecided about what form your suggestion scheme will take, there are alternatives;

Competitions give you many of the benefits, but you can do it as a one-off rather than an always-on system.

An Intrapreneur approach which essentially looks to engage the ‘already engaged’ and mentor them to develop their ideas. You lose many of the engagement benefits because you are not trying to engage everyone, but you are more likely to find the more valuable ideas.

Michael Allen TalkFreely

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