When we were smaller and I was wearing all the hats I knew what customers wanted and I could oversee everything and make sure customers got what they expected. As we have grown it’s gotten more complicated and I’ve had to learn that I can’t control everything. As more people get involved, they have to share more information and figure out how as a team to get things right. At the same time, managers have to learn, like I did, that they can’t get overly involved in the details. Instead they have to empower their people to do the right job. How do we find the balance?
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Consistently and accurately serving customer needs is a key to success for any company. Make sure your managers are well qualified. Insist on communication structures that bring people together frequently. Develop systems everywhere. Use breakdowns as opportunities to improve.
When it comes to supplying customers with exactly what they want when they want it, the devil is in the details. As any company grows, more hands in the pot means more to coordinate and more chances to slip up. Build systems and processes that people use over and over again. Train people on the right way to do things. And instill in everyone respect for doing it right the first time.
Start fixing things by checking on your managers. Do they understand how you want things done? Do they know how to train their people? Are they willing and able to act consistently and demand the same of others? Do they have the technical skills to sort through and resolve glitches? Can they counsel employees and deal with difficult situations? If the answers are yes, keep going. If you answered any questions with a “no,” then focus on training your managers first, workers under them second.
Insist that managers and workers make time to communicate. Face to face is always best. Three huddles of 10 minutes should suffice. Gather everyone around and use an agenda for each meeting.
At the start of the shift go over what’s on the schedule, employees out for the day/week, machines down for retooling or repair. Mid-shift, review anything that’s behind, glitches that showed up, equipment breakdowns and repair schedules. End of shift, recap the day’s results, customer priorities, employee schedules, updates on equipment and adjustments to the next shift’s schedule.
The key to consistency is to have systems for how things are done. Doing work the same way every time allows people to more easily identify when there’s a breakdown along the way. And if something gets produced with imperfections, dedication to using systems and processes makes it easier to search for production flaws and material defects.
Document how every product or service is constructed. Create instructions for retooling machines, inventory ordering, receipt and management, actual steps to fabricate each product or service, storage of finished goods and shipping and delivery confirmation.
Put people in charge of tracking how work is flowing through the shop, with the authority to interrupt production if errors show up. Set up a daily and weekly schedule and hold people accountable for meeting that schedule. Periodically check material to insure underlying quality standards are being met. Authorize additional hiring and overtime if necessary, but make sure that labor costs stay within budget or notify sales about potential profitability issues if labor costs are rising.
When breakdowns inevitably happen, train your people to use them as opportunities to improve. Look for root causes in daily huddles. Assign a team to deal with persistent issues. Meet monthly to discuss more systemic changes that need to be implemented.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Everything’s A Project and Everyone’s A Project Manager,” by Christine P. Rose.
Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics: 877-238-3535, AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles: AskAndi.com.