Positive powers of Operating Rhythm on Employee Experience

Beth Stubberfield | 15 September 2020


Sometimes communication needs to have formal means so that we know how and when we can say the things we need to. It provides us with the channels for the things that are important and means that we don’t forget to do it. But we are not just talking about your standard operating rhythm, we are talking about embedding an operating rhythm that engages your team and helps you achieve your results.

I want you to ask yourself, have you ever;

  • Felt like the Team’s objectives are not clear to all, or misaligned?
  • Wondered when to bring up suggestions to improve?
  • Asked when do we review projects to learn from lessons and ensure it’s on track?
  • Struggled to share constructive feedback?
  • Moved to a new role or project, and felt overwhelmed by all the information?
  • Felt like you have a different understanding of the purpose of your work/project to the rest of your team?
  • Realised that your project is not going to achieve its outcome, but continued to deliver work?
  • Felt excluded from a team or project due to lack of collaboration?
  • Wondered if or how your Team’s work is reported within the organisation?
  • Asked yourself how your work is related to the Team or Project’s purpose?
  • Thought if or, how your work is shared across your Function or organisation?

… If the answer is yes, an awesome and agile operating rhythm could serve to reinvigorate your organisation or team.

An operating rhythm is formally defined by Six Sigma as “a set of pre-defined processes of communication and interactions that should be present between different departments to ensure that the flow of operations is not interrupted and is controlled as intended”.  

Why is that important? Because sometimes communication needs to have formal means so that ultimately we know how and when we can say the things we need to. It provides us with the channels for the things that are important and means that we don’t forget to do it. But we are not just talking about your standard Operating Rhythm we are talking about embedding an Operating Rhythm that engages your team and helps you achieve your results. 

On a personal level, I have seen how the lack of transparency within organisations or team operating rhythms has impacted not only myself but the entire team. I was a Manager in a Team, 12 months into the role I discovered that a monthly report of the team’s activity and performance had been shared with the senior leadership team unbeknown to me, or anyone else in the team.  I was mortified to learn that I had no input to the report.  I had lost so many opportunities to share challenges, to collaborate to build momentum and connection.  It made me feel excluded and disconnected and made my team feel unmotivated – which directly impacted our engagement, psychological safety and performance.

Culture Amp defines the Employee experience as “what people encounter and observe over the course of their tenure at an organization”.  When we recognise that an effective operating rhythm directly impacts the employee experience, it is easy to see how it can improve performance; “when organizations get employee experience right, they can achieve twice the customer satisfaction and innovation, and generate 25% higher profits, than those that don’t” 

An awesome operating rhythm is practical, simple and meets the needs of your people, the organisation and its strategy & culture.  It is transparent and enables your employees to bring their whole selves to work by creating processes to seek input and collaboration from all.

So how do we do it, how do we create an awesome Operating Rhythm? There’s a wide spectrum of processes and initiatives (above the standard org processes) to include and here  are our tips to consider:

  • Start by talking to your team, what is the information that they want to hear, discuss and raise on a regular basis, and talk to them about some of the information that you want to share to get their input into how they would like to receive it.
  • A simple Quarterly Review for your Team or Project to:
    1. Reflect on Objectives for the previous three months, and plan the ensuring 3 months – in a collaborative way.
    2. Check-in on a common understanding of purpose and strategy (ensure alignment).
    3. Openly share lessons learned, constructive feedback and ideas to innovate.
    4. Time to celebrate and focus on achievements.
  • Understand and meet the development and capability needs of the team, and the strategic priorities of your organisation:
    1. If you want to improve innovation, run structured sessions that create psychological safety so that teams can speak openly, and peer coaching becomes a way of working.
    2. If your team/org is struggling to align around a common purpose or deliver a strategy, re-energise their buy-in by running sessions on your Purpose, and their individual and team impact.
  • Think about how often you need to hear what information and in what formats? Daily check-in meetings? monthly capacity meetings? Monthly team engagement activities? 
  • What are you doing for fun? Your operating Rhythm doesn’t need to be all work, it should include the things that engage and motivate your team whether that is coffee catch-ups, games or drinks. What works for you and your team?
  • Use HCD to ask your people (all stakeholders) what they need, and what would improve team performance.
  • Your employee experience needs will differ based on your organisation’s strategy, people and culture so be sure to focus on the priority of your organisation.

My advice is to give it a go, create a simple visual capturing the structure that you would like to establish – and share it with your people.

As leaders, our people are feeling very uncertain – one thing we can provide to our employees is clarity and structure about their roles and an open and supportive environment for them to flourish.