It’s still a tough economy as we begin the New Year, and for US manufacturing the issues impacting profitability and growth are many and complex. This continues, despite indicators of a potential manufacturing resurgence in the USA.
Despite the economy, however, some companies are achieving tremendous success and growth.
It’s hard to take our attention off the problems associated with the economy. But, it’s essential to focus on your organization, where you can influence what is done and how it’s done, to drive improvement. This article will focus on what leaders can do internally, where your influence is greatest, to make a strong, positive impact on manufacturing performance.
We believe the information you need to take targeted, effective actions to improve plant performance is all around your operation, in the minds of your people. Let’s look at a structured six-step process to obtain information that will provide a roadmap to performance improvement. This process requires a skilled resource who can dedicate the chunk of time required.
Step 1: Begin with Sponsorship by the Senior Leader.
Performance improvement initiatives need to be championed and introduced by the senior leader, along a leadership team who is actively and visibly committed. This is essential to give weight and credibility to the effort and to make it a priority plant-wide.
Step 2: Use a Two-pronged Research Methodology
- Use an assessment tool – Choose a tool that is specific enough to provide actionable data and that is reliable for this type of use, that can be completed quickly and easily by participants and that results in reports that enable management to develop and implement targeted, high-impact action plans — in a timely way.
- Conduct one-on-one, confidential interviews with employees. Nothing can match the value of face-to-face dialogs in surfacing clear, relevant and meaningful information.
The right person to do this organizational research has the ability to quickly relate to your people in a way that will make them comfortable to talk openly in a confidential setting, about what they do, how they do it, the obstacles they face and the ideas they have to improve results.
This individual needs to have interviewing skills including highly effective listening and the ability to apply open, closed, probing and clarifying questions to ensure the information obtained is clear and is interpreted accurately by management.
Finally, this individual needs to have the time available, which is usually considerable and generally requires working on-site across shifts.
Step 3: Analyze the Data and Draft Action Plans.
The research completed in Step 1 generates a considerable amount of both qualitative and quantitative data that must be consolidated and analyzed to highlight key threads of information. The resulting report is formatted for presentation to management, including recommendations. In-depth discussion is essential for management to gather valuable insights about what is really happening in the plant and apply them to identify targeted actions.
Step 4: Communicate and Finalize Action Plans.
It is critically important that management shares the research results and allows employees to both react and to collaborate in finalizing management’s action plans. Employees also need to know the timeline for solution implementation. Solutions should include employee participation.
Step 5: Implement Action Plans and Communicate.
As the action plans are underway, status updates and discussions should be a standardized part of the weekly routine for the site.
Step 6: Wrap-Up and Schedule Follow-Up.
Once the action plans are completed, management and employees should jointly present the results through celebratory information-sharing. A follow-up assessment to measure the impact of the solutions should be scheduled and communicated in the wrap-up celebration meetings.
Could your organization positively impact operational performance using a process that both enables you to understand what’s really happening in your operation and generates insights essential for targeted solutions?
Could this 6-step process be effectively implemented at your operation?
How might it help you to utilize a consultant? How might you identify the right consultant?