John Crossan | Manufacturing Ownership Blog
Assessing Plant Performance PDF Print E-mail
Talk about working in a fishbowl!

Folks working for the TSA in airports pretty much always perform to an impatient, critical, assessing audience, as most of us are forced to watch them work for much longer than we want to. And if you're just standing in line impatiently waiting, then observing and criticizing is really all you have to do, (or you can talk loudly on your cell phone).

Just as an aside, having worked through plenty of  manufacturing quality issues in plants over the years, and from that, knowing just how inherently unreliable 100% inspection really is, even with the most dedicated and capable individuals. It's just really hard to watch the TSA at work and not be critical.  And wonder also how long it's going to be before we give up on this, and find something that really works, with much less inconvenience and vastly lower cost.
Unfortunately it seems that terrorism is something that we need to build into our lives now, it's not going to go away any time soon, and we just need to find better ways to deal with it.

But for most of us standing there, it seems that pretty much any time, most of us would identify some individual who apparently, as the saying goes, perhaps might be better suited to another line of work. Some of the frustrated folks standing around me have been pretty obnoxiously, verbal about this on occasion. (The other obnoxious ones are still on their cell phones).
But there are many TSA folks that clearly feel that they’re dealing with customers, and really try to make the process smoother, quicker (and even friendlier) for them.

So this started me thinking about all the various plant maintenance and manufacturing assessments I’ve been involved in over the years, and the success (or not) of the various improvement efforts tried to them.

I've been reading the book How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer these days, and was surprised to find that all the supposedly rational judgments I thought I was making over the years, were really mostly emotional. The emotional part of the brain is just tremendously more capable, and can deal with vastly more information than the puny little rational part, and I guess I started to realize maybe how I really was making these assessments.

Basically the actual assessment really doesn’t take very long, just enough time to walk around the place, observe, and talk to some folks. What takes the time is compiling the evidence to support the assessment, and using that for the discussions that help the plant build their improvement plan.

Thinking about it, in judging a plant the emotional brain is getting a fix on two things. One would be Intensity and the other would be Respect

Intensity would be the overall purposefulness that people display, a sense that they value their time and their function as important, and they need to do the most with it.

The other would be Respect, respect in many forms, respect for the product, respect for the equipment, respect for the facility, respect for each other, respect for their customers, respect for managers, managers having respect for employees, (an absence of us and them statements and behavior on both parts).
One of the places I always make a point of visiting is the plant washrooms, that’s a place where the overall level of all kinds of different respects in the place is pretty much immediately evident.

Going a step further, the intensity really comes from the respect. If you value what you’re doing, then you tend to do it well. If the value is not there, then doing it well is difficult.

The third thing would be the work processes, or lack of them, that are in place.

We can work all we want on the actual processes that just do the work, but if the intensity and respect are not there, the very best we can get to is mediocre.

But if we incorporate feedback mechanisms into those work processes to routinely involve and develop people, then the respect and the intensity will come, and this is how we really get on the road to excellence.

1 Comment

  1. Excellent way to look at this. One of the ways to get that intensity and respect is to truly audit the work being done. The initial reaction may be "You don't trust me?", but the long term message being sent is that you value the work. The audit must include the gathering of feedback on the process, the employee, and the job site. This will create a collaborative feedback loop.