I was working with a client a while ago, looking at ways to improve performance of the supply chain and operations. They have been experiencing problems for some time, and their solutions were floundering.
One of the first things I asked to see was their performance measures and how they were performing against them over time. It was apparent that the measures weren’t supporting the overall business strategy but were rather inwardly focused on departmental issues. A further point was the lack of display of the measures, and there was very little discussion on the measures with the respective teams. So, essentially no measures published, no communication, no collaboration, and these problems were clearly reflected in the lack of product reaching the market on time.
Further discussions with team members opened the issue of communication across the organization. The organization had fallen into the E mail trap. When I questioned individuals in the business, they were adamant that they communicated. It turns out that everyone relied on emails to convey information and instructions, not everyone in the team was copied on the mail, and there was no follow up. Compounding this is the fact that a number of instructions were “outside” of the scope of the measures, and therefore was given the lowest priority.
We set about the improvement project in 2 ways, performance measures were modified until they supported the company strategy and were communicated to all of the staff. Performance was then displayed on the information boards for everyone to see, areas of
weakness were identified and cross functional teams were tasked to look at different ways of working so that the weaknesses could be strengthened. This needed the teams to work together and communicate, and all members were held equally accountable for identifying, testing and presenting their solutions to management. Guidance was given to quantify the cost and return on investment, at the same time developing a broader understanding of the business and promising solutions were implemented and measured to see the process improvement and return on investment.
The teams are working together in a way that requires collaboration and open communication, and this is then raised to the next level of management by presenting results of daily performance and of implemented solutions. Performance is one of the main topics of the start-up meeting at the beginning of shifts and these are attended by production management and support staff. Breakdowns, stoppages, response times, absenteeism and possible opportunities are being discussed, and responsible members are asked to provide a time frame for repair or improvement. These commitments to the team are then measured with proactive feedback given. It is very important to create rules for the meetings, and a fixed agenda must be followed. Fundamental rules include among others, allowing a person to talk without interruption, Respect for opinions, open dialogue and trust.
There is still a long road ahead, but the signs are good. Management is driving the process and leading by example in the way they communicate and by openly and honestly discussing results and performance. The message conveyed is that there is a high level of inter-dependency within an organization and that everyone is responsible and accountable for the success of the business, irrespective of the position they hold. Leadership’s role is to bring everything together and create cohesion.