Eleven Improvements for 2006 by Kevin McManus
First published in Industrial Engineer magazine December 2002
As each of you sit back and ponder what this new year may be like, I hope that you are trying to identify at least a few key systems changes that will really help take your location to a different level of performance by the end of 2006. Since people often struggle to identify such changes, I thought I would use this space to share with you the top ten changes I would suggest that an organization make to really make a difference.
Implement some form of monthly profit sharing for your site – Share the wealth. Give your people a short line of sight between their efforts and the rewards of such efforts. By making this change, you will help show each person how their individual contributions make a difference. You will also be providing some incentive for regular improvement and innovation, and you will help answer that ever present question “What's in it for me?”.
Eliminate your individualized sales incentive program – Salespeople can rarely succeed without a good support staff, so why only compensate them when a key customer is satisfied? By eliminating this form of individualized incentive, you will send a much stronger message that teamwork is what we consider to be important in our company.
Hire another supervisor – Six sigma programs are successful largely because they allocate specific (and significant) resources to project development. Use your new supervisor to focus specifically on projects, or use this additional resource to help you build significant time for projects and learning into the job designs of all your front line supervisors.
Assign one hourly employee per work team to project work – If you really want to make changes happen, supplement your supervisor project time investment with a similar level of investment on the hourly side of the equation. If you use good decision tools to help identify high leverage improvements, both investments should pay for themselves in a short amount of time.
Improve your leadership development process – All leaders need regular behavior and task-based feedback in order to improve. This can be accomplished simply by (1) regularly assessing leadership performance with a ten question survey, (2) using the assessment results to identify personalized improvement needs, and (3) linking personal leadership improvement to your training plan development process.
Redesign all of your training courses to consist of mostly practice – Eventually, we will admit that lecture-based training carries little value. If you want to jump the curve in the training domain, try redesigning your key courses to be primarily practice-based. Since most of the skills we expect our people to learn involve lots of practice to gain proficiency, we should be making our trainees practice these skills more often.
Commit to holding monthly ‘all employee' meetings – These monthly one hour meetings can help you go a long way towards helping you to improve communications, stress what your key expectations are, review key performance trends, and identify possible improvement options. Successful companies build such time into their budgets, knowing that the time will be well used and appreciated.
Create and begin using a site-wide key project list – A one hour brainstorming session can easily lead to the identification of up to three years of work for somebody. Instead of messing around with suggestion boxes and uncoordinated idea generation sessions, you should consider building a master key project list for your site. With today's technology, employees can easily be taught to properly define projects and add projects to the list on their own. You can then easily create prioritized action lists from this database.
Create a list of all key processes and their key metrics – I continue to be surprised by the number of workgroups in companies that have not identified their key processes and metrics. This shortcoming is especially notable in the non-production areas. In the coming year, consider taking the time to spend two hours with such groups to help them identify their key processes and metrics, and to help them set up regular tools for monitoring performance. A lot of gains can be made by simply tracking and charting the numbers consistently across all work groups.
Begin setting up an Intranet site for your facility or workgroup – While an Intranet may sound complicated, it really is not. Sure, it takes time to create a website with fancy graphics and Flash technology, but this is a case where function should definitely take place over form. By setting up ten to fifteen basic web pages, along with work stations where these pages can be viewed, you can reach a lot more people with your company news, performance trends, plans, and needs.
Lastly, don't forget to create a personal plan for improvement. Look for those areas where you would really like to learn or at those areas where learning is needed to make you more marketable. If you have the time, you should also help your people go through a similar exercise. Personal improvement lies at the heart, and serves as the driver, of team and organizational improvement.
Keep in mind that significant, fundamental change will not happen without systems changes that are equally significant. My experience has taught me that the above changes will have a greater impact than many of the others that could be up for consideration. Measurable results can be obtained from each of the above systems, and in turn, you should be able to easily gauge the ‘before and after' effects of these changes.
I wish you the best in the remainder of this year. I also hope that you are successful in making system changes, such as those presented above, to help significantly shift your teams and location to higher levels of performance.
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“The only thing I know is that I do not know it all.” -- Socrates