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If employee engagement was a Rude Goldberg

I love Rube Goldberg. The only person ever to be listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as an adjective. And I love the Webster’s New World Dictionary definition of Rube Goldberg:

a comically involved, complicated invention laboriously contrived to perform a  simple operation

Sounds like a lot of management interventions inside organisations and could be easily misinterpreted as a definition of employee engagement (as if there aren’t enough already)

Goldberg’s ingenious inventions are based on closed systems – they all have an element of feedback. This reminds me of my early career as an Instrumentation & Control (IC) Engineer and my later experience in IC of a different sort – Internal Communication. Understanding complex, non-linear systems for nuclear power plants is not too far removed from understanding complex, non-linear nature of systems in human enterprises.

So it got me thinking – how could the concept of employee engagement be represented as a Rube Goldberg. Here goes:


I’ve modelled my machine on the four engagement enablers from the MacLeod report – Strategic Narrative, Employee Voice, Engaging Managers and Organisational Integrity. The hamster represents the communications department and the hamster droppings analogous to Corporate BS that they frantically produce. The engagement meter represents the annual engagement survey, anyone that knows anything about measurement systems will recognise that it’s not smart to stick a pressure gauge on a gear and expect it to measure anything meaningful.  You will probably find the pointer tends to sit in one place but that’s okay as it gives the leadership team something to focus on, changing the company song accordingly.

Is there anything I’ve missed?

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