When working with organizations implementing CREW, I’ve been impressed by efforts to sustain their gains in respect and civility. Improving the social climate of a workgroup requires time, energy, and money. It requires commitment from dedicated and capable people. The gains greatly justify this investment. That value continues to grow for groups that sustain those gains for the long term. Buy people don’t change their habits easily. Even after successful change, they experience a pull back to the old ways of doing things.
The organizations that get it right have a plan. From the very beginning of the process, they recognize that improving a group’s dynamics goes far beyond implementing CREW.
Clear and Measurable Objectives
Plans will help you get to where you want to go, but you have to know where that is. The more precisely you can define your objectives, the better. Values provide a starting point. On the level of the organization and of the workgroup, people can endorse civility, respect, and engagement as positive objectives. The next—and critical—step is translating those values into action. It is more important to describe actions that can be observed than attitudes that can only be implied. By identifying behaviors that reflect civility and respect among colleagues, an organization can develop a clear idea of how well its members are pursuing their goals. The VA system Integrates the CREW civility measure into their annual employee survey, resulting in all managers receiving a regular update of civility within their workgroups.
People within the organizations with which we work are busy. It does not make sense to assume that they will take on new responsibilities for maintaining gains as they juggle a large number of existing demands. An effective plan assigns responsibilities to specific people. For example, it helps if unit managers assign someone the responsibility to lead a discussion or exercise on civility at each department meeting. Doing so keeps the issue current for group members. Another role could be to develop a recognition event for employees who make exceptional contributions to civility and respect at work. Employees interpret these forms of recognition as reflecting what’s really important to the organization.
Organizational policies are the means through which organizations sustain practices over time. The power of the CREW process becomes magnified if civility and respect guide important decisions and procedures that shape the life of the organization. For example, by including workgroup civility as a component of managers’ performance evaluations, the issue becomes a greater priority for those managers. Doing so emphasizes the central role of civility and respect within the organizations’ values.
In organizational life, plans determine the shape of things.