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What Cheeses Me Off!

Hack No.7 Know what ‘cheeses people off’! Before you worry about who moved my cheese (and don’t get me wrong, it was one of the best management books of it’s time), worry about what cheeses people off! On any day, any shift and in any part of your business there are things conspiring against people and preventing them from doing great work. Noise. This is what cheeses people off. The stuff that never gets fixed, the processes or systems, the policies or procedures, that really don’t work. It won't matter how great the technology or that shiny new app, if there are too many other things that cheese people off.

Years ago there was a great show in Australia called ‘Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday’. It started as a kids show with a lot of tongue in cheek entertainment aimed at mums and days. After some time, it launched into a cross between an Australian version of the American comedy show, Saturday Night Live and the old Gong Show. Now it was for grown-ups.

On Hey Hey It's Saturday Night, there was a segment called What Cheese Me Off. People would write in from all over Australia with stuff that cheesed them off – about work, life, people, government – what ever came to mind. It was hilarious.

Sadly, it was often about real-world stuff that really did cheese people off.

And, of course, that plays out at work. People talk about what cheeses them off. They talk to anyone who will listen – their work colleagues, their peers, their teams, their bosses, sometimes even their customers. The problem is, often these discussions get ignored as things that are out of people’s control, or people think they must live with these moldy, annoying, cheesy situations. (Yes, I know that’s cheesy too!). And, you know when people complain, complaints multiply. One bad apple really does rot the lot and the more people talk about these situations, the less engage everyone becomes. It drags whole teams down and impacts productivity even more. It creates noise.

Why? Because the frustrations end up being built into the processes. Work arounds are designed. Pretty soon, they are just the way it is. And, that’s what cheese people off. That thought that nothing will change.

So don’t let it!

Instead of letting this go on, create a What Cheeses Me Off Day. Ask everyone to talk about and agree their list of bad cheese. Stuff that gets in the way of people doing remarkable work. Let people vent but rapidly get to solution thinking.

Then, do something about it. Categorize the issues into Impact Action Plans. Prioritize them based on the level of frustration they cause and the impact they can have by solving it. Then start eliminating them. Ask for solutions, crowd source answers, get people involved from across the business.

Even better, track the benefits of fixing the cheese list and celebrate the great work to implement the changes that enabled you to rid your workplace of these irritants.

I know this is a no-brainer – but when did you do your last ‘what cheeses people off session?’ Right? Sure, you do it for process improvement or operational issues to reduce waste, but if you broaden it to ‘anything’ you’ll get a much better response. Let people tell you anything that is cheesing them off – that new hybrid policy, that expense system, the fact that there is never any milk in the fridge for coffee.

The HACK is to do it routinely. Sniff out the noise that cheeses people off, and let people know that it’s OK to find and fix them. Do it as part of every day discussions. Get people talking about cheese, and work with them to do something about it.

From the book Manage to Engage. How Great Managers Create Remarkable Results. The post-pandemic how-to guide for engaging in the new world of work.

This is another #HackingitwithHackett - the Q4 Challenge. Post-sized Hacks to help leaders better engage, enable and energize their teams, and improve their operational results - before year end.

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