Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can We Get It Done by Monday?

I made a bold one when I took over the department. I don't usually push a new group this fast but I was already familiar with them and how they operated. I had worked in a subsidiary company prior to being appointed over both groups.

After the initial introductions (e.g. "what would you like to know about me?"), I laid out the vision. Inspectors on the production line were a waste of time. Instead we needed their expertise to troubleshoot production problems and be a support to the assembly lines. After some discussion about who this would look and work, and they had some buy-in, I asked the key question: "Can we make this change by Monday?"

After they picked their jaws up off the floor, they began giving me reasons why it couldn't happen by Monday. Some reasons were legitimate. Some were just stalling mechanisms till they could emotionally accept the change. Those who hadn't agreed with the change predicted doom and gloom if production wasn't checked by the inspection group. Acknowledging their beliefs but focusing on the main issues, I then asked how long it would take to outline the new plan, meet with production managers, etc.

"If we can't do it by Monday, can we get this done by Tuesday?" This question told them I wasn't going to give up on the vision. It told them I expected this to happen as soon as possible. It told them that I firmly believed we would be stronger as a company after we made the change.

Most people don't like change because it feels like risk. We had a way to measure whether the new move was successful or not, so as time went by, they could watch with me if my decision was a good one or not. I covered them from taking responsibility for its success. I gave them responsibility for making it happen effectively.

It did work, and it worked well. We got the transition made by the end of the following week, which was fast enough. The company regained market share through improved quality as everyone took responsibility for their work effort rather than relying on someone else to catch their mistakes. If the person doing the work didn't catch the mistake, then the customer would--and you don't want that. People learned to step up their performance.

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