AN INDIVIDUAL ANGLE
Does working for the ORG feel like
being just a COG in a big machine ?
CHECK -IN is the way some work groups begin their time together. Other groups go straight to work.
Check-In gives each member a minute or two to tell the team anything they feel like mentioning. It may be trivial (I saw some-thing funny on my way here) or I have some problem on my mind, Everyone gets a turn.
This way we can acknowledge and affirm each other. We are not mere cogs. Although we are here to work for the ORG, still we are people, humans, with our own individuality.
The "work" to be done goes beyond the technical tasks. If workers are totally insensitive to their colleagues ("Let's just do the work without personal stuff") then misunderstandings and grievances "People Problems" will arise, resulting in time lost, more defects produced, safety accidents, etc. Check-In is one practice that can reduce this risk
and even provide a little sweetness.
Leadership in work groups therefore has two sides. One covers the obvious technical work and the other concerns the inter- personal relationships among workers. When "social skills" or simple courtesies are missing in some team members the work will suffer as more "people problems" occur. Leadership (which may be shared between formal and informal leaders) can prevent some of those problems and/or it can intervene with calming actions and coaching.
Leaders are needed to cover both sides of the job. Many are technically good but blind in the other eye (interpersonal). In some cases an informal leader may emerge to cover this side of the work as "unofficial people person".
That kind of spontaneous intervention does not come from "cogs". And it does not come from people who see others as cogs.
Our metaphors and mental models are powerful. We commonly think of any organization as a kind of machine - a machine for creating value of various kinds. In one way that image fits BUT it carries dangerous implications. It allows us to think of the people involved as cogs, without feelings or rights, without respect. Alternatively we could think of an org as an organism or a quasi-living thing, Like all living things, any org is committed to growing and adapting.
But this is a special kind of living organism - one comprised of units (people) capable of separating from the current host and living elsewhere in other social arrangements. Machines do not have components that need to be motivated, that think for themselves, that may quit and go into competition. They do not (so far) have components that encourage each other or invent new ways to achieve organizational goals. The closest approximation to this reality might be a community metaphor.
Bureaucratic culture is mechanistic and supports "cog" thinking - along with the mental model that we should "leave our personal baggage at the door". That is fine for personal prejudices and discrimination. But extending it to eliminate every touch of "personal stuff" reduces every employee to a faceless cog - faceless to their boss and to their colleagues.
Respect for colleagues implies seeing them as individuals, When reciprocated, that mutual recognition favors respect and avoids the "faceless-cog" situation (anomie and extra stress). It can also foster good work relation-ships that can cushion some of the stress of daily life.
Check-In practically helps to make teams run more smoothly. It also helps us to see the line between individual and organizational realities. Successful collaborative work requires good relationships between people. Otherwise there will be "people problems".