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Asset Thinking in Your Organization

by Jane Hartman Frankel
Employees who consider themselves assets are essential to 21st century organizations. These are the essential knowledge workers who sustain the growth and development of the company. Workers, in the context of themselves and their individual strengths and value, are able to work in alignment with the vision and mission of their companies. They are able to create a clear and defined concept of the value they bring to an organization. They are then able to use that concept in conjunction with their understanding of their company’s needs to shape their work. Employees who consider themselves assets are able to define work to further the goals of an organization without being directed to do so. The contributions of these knowledge workers result in sustained growth for an organization.

Adding value
People who understand themselves as assets maintain the invaluable paradigm of giving. They autonomously and perpetually direct their own work to seek value in all that they do for their organizations. Through the habit of giving what he or she views as valuable, the worker gains satisfaction. When each member of an organization has a vision linked to the value he or she is able to bring, the growth of an organization has the potential to skyrocket. The concept of giving and sharing of oneself to further the mission of an organization proves fundamental in this way to the success of a business. True knowledge workers, considering themselves as assets, understand the delicate balance of recognizing one’s own strengths along with the way in which an organization needs those strengths to manifest. For example, when a newly hired information technology specialist begins his tenure at a startup, as an asset thinker, he will build the information technology to consider the direction and specific needs of his new employer. Demonstrating his IT expertise in creating spectacular, state-of-the-art technology is not as much of an asset as building that IT in a way that fosters company growth. The asset thinker uses his knowledge of a specific situation to structure work to create value. This value can take the form of cost savings, risk reduction or revenue generation.

The asset thinker is a knowledge worker who uses his autonomy to take charge of his work. When approaching work from this perspective, the asset thinker manages all of her work as a task leading to a result, considers quality and quantity in her pursuits, and continuously evaluates the outcomes of her work to learn how to improve her efforts. One of the greatest challenges within the 21st century workforce stems from the conflict between the ego-ridden “me” philosophy learned by millennials and the age-old “company man” philosophy of past generations. The cultivation of asset thinking within an organization allows for a healthy blend of these two philosophies. millennials learn to view their skills and talents within the context of an organization’s needs and veteran employees learn to value the millennial skill set as assets they contribute. In this way, workers who view themselves as assets have clearly defined goals for all work, seek evaluation and feedback on that work, build context (industry, market, customer and competitor information), and couple action with their awareness of all surroundings.

Environment and platform
A company can cultivate and embrace employee asset thinking by providing the information necessary for those employees to work in alignment with the company direction. Companies that provide information about the company’s goals, as well as industry and market analysis, customer profiles and history, and competitors’ background, establish the groundwork and expectation for employees to view themselves as creators of value rather than simply doers of defined actions.

Companies that share information transparently with employees allow workers to understand context for decisions about their work. This context enables a combination of action and awareness to shape work most effectively. When a cross-functional team solves a product issue based on the integration of diverse functional and company directional perspectives, the chances of a decision being effective are much higher.

Companies that cultivate asset thinking among employees hold idea forums regularly and support the discussion of these ideas with evaluations of quality and quantity. Leaders provide decision criteria to guide idea evaluation. When leaders of these organizations approve ideas for further development, a revenue sharing platform compensates work on this development. Also, a consistent set of company metrics that defines relevant areas for value creation shape quality and quantity discussions.

Formal and informal opportunities for networking among other employees, as well as standard communications frameworks facilitate the discussion of new ideas. New ideas emerge from this networking and communication.

All of these components of organizational life foster asset thinking about potential new value creation.

Building skills
The project framework most effectively and efficiently builds knowledge work skills. The project framework sets an expectation of a forthcoming result through the practice of knowledge work skills.

An environment that functions through project work requires that the asset thinker consider decision criteria in order to move through specific steps toward a result for each. The decision criteria further require critical thinking and shape next-step planning. Critical thinking skills are based on a series of how, what, when and where queries to refine a relevant path forward.

Knowledge worker asset thinkers are eager for feedback so that they can refine their actions with more awareness from their reviewers’ perspectives. Collaborative plan reviews and revisions are positive when positioned as joint efforts to refine work for greater asset value.

All knowledge workers are proficient in using a standardized communications framework. This framework includes audience analysis, objective definition, current mindset evaluation, mode and format critique and a definition of results expected. The knowledge workers are glad to benefit from its power. As a result of the project model of careful planning, communication and revision, each successive project and defined course of action leading to a desired result proves more successful, focused and effective.

The outcomes
When every member of an organization thinks about the asset he or she represents in the process of creating value, revenue from new products expands. Pilot projects and products are continuously running, gaining new contextual information and learning, leading to new revenue potential.

Revenue sharing programs motivate asset thinking employees to consider opportunities to generate more efficiency and effectiveness.

Value creating company metrics focus efforts in relevant directions for sustaining company growth.

Networking framework and communications protocols help people get to know each other and their respective areas of expertise.

Customer relationships are systematically maintained to check assumptions and perspectives on product and services ideas, helping to further quality and quantify new value.

Idea forums generate ideas continuously and decisions on further pursuits of these ideas emerge quickly based on decision criteria and the communications framework.

Asset thinkers ensure the organization’s survival and sustainability by leveraging the substantial value of understanding today’s knowledge economy and knowledge work. Understanding the knowledge system that encompasses our work cannot be overvalued.

JANE HARTMAN FRANKEL, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship, The Fox School of Business, Temple University

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 3 (February, 2016).
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