In sports, when teams go on a winning streak they typically give a lot of the credit to momentum and team chemistry. As an example, the Chicago Cubs just had a bad first half of the 2017 season after winning the 2016 World Series. But they came out of the gate after the All-Star Game and won six games in a row (as of this writing) while on the road! The team and it’s manager all give credit to the chemistry in the clubhouse. Manager Joe Madden said, “I’m feeling the guys more mentally involved, and I love that.” Pitcher Mike Montgomery said, “The All-Star break was great for us. Since we’ve been back, there is a great vibe around here.”
Obviously, the team also has talent and couldn’t win without the players’ ability.
What about your lab? What is the vibe like with your “players”? What is commonly called “momentum” or “chemistry” in professional sports is the equivalent of morale for our employees. When morale is low, quality and service times suffer. If our lab employees don’t think management cares about them, they usually don’t care much about what kind of work they put out. As quality suffers, the response of management tends to be to “continue whipping the employees until morale improves,” and the downward spiral continues.
Morale can be hard to build, and it can be destroyed in a day. I have seen a great lab be destroyed by an HR person using unfortunate language when describing why they had to go to a lesser health insurance plan. Morale went down the drain, and literally the next day you could see the difference in spoilage, job time and other quantifiable factors. Within two years the lab’s business was down 50%.
On the other hand, when you focus on keeping morale in a good place, work tends to improve. Jim Collins in the book Good to Great presents us with the flywheel effect. A heavy flywheel takes a lot of energy to get going, but when it reaches a good speed it’s hard to slow down. What have you done lately to push the morale flywheel?