Under most circumstances if you do not improve you eventually fall behind to the competition. The best time to begin improving is right now. Whether business is slow or remarkably busy, many manufacturing leaders tend to find excuses as to why they cannot dedicate time towards improvement activities.
Improvements should be a constant occurence. Manufacturers must strive to engage their teams to continuously find ways to reduce mistakes, defects, and delays, and to shorten their lead times. Achieving these results will provide a competitive advantage and will boost the bottom line of the business.
Most manufacturing organizations that we work with have employees that are already making improvements, and are eager to implement more improvements, because they recognize the bigger picture and what they can achieve through improvements. On the other hand, some employees have no interest in making improvements and the reasons vary widely: resistance to change, unaware of business performance, lack of training, and the list goes on.
Here are some ways manufacturers can help encourage improvements from their employees and begin engaging them:
- Show them the score – Very often employees are completely unaware of the state of the business both financially and operationally. The latter should never be the case. Leaders should always keep their teams abreast of the results being obtained. After all, most people want to do a good job, and many will find the feedback useful and rewarding. When employees are holding on to the status quo, having facts handy will help to convince them that they must change to retain customers and continue to grow the business. This ultimately impacts everyone’s livelihood.
- Provide other resources – Many leaders say they want to improve. They go as far as demanding it from their employees, but then fail to provide the necessary support to employees when improvement projects begin. Beyond negating the positive impact on the business, the leader is also losing credibility with the team. Putting forth the effort and not getting support leaves a bad taste in the employee’s mouth. Ensure, as a leader, that you are supportive of their ideas, even if they differ from your methods, provided the results are there. We must allow employees’ creativity and growth to blossom. Another way to show support is by providing resources for improvements to happen; when projects require company resources such as support groups, equipment, supplies, etc. be sure to help them secure those. In addition, employees often struggle to find the time to implement these improvements, that is when leaders must provide that time and enable improvements to happen.
- Create a process for improving – On some occasions, employees just need guidance on how to go about uncovering the true cause of a problem, engaging other team members, and ensuring sustainment. Having a structured approach based on data can really help make a difference in the effectiveness and sustainment of projects. Disciplines such as Lean and Six Sigma are proven methodologies for process improvement. Leaders should begin the education and deployment of these disciplines if they are absent within the business.
4. Model the behavior – Some employees learn through training, or benchmarking; however being able to see, and participate hands-on is the most effective way to develop your team. Whether leaders have formal training or not, there are ways they can help their teams understand what continuous improvement looks like. Leaders can begin to deploy basic improvement tools by facilitating activities themselves, developing internal candidates, hiring talent with experience, or bringing an outside change agent.
Employees must feel that leaders are there to support them in becoming successful. Show them you care about any problems they are trying to resolve, by listening and following through on your commitments.
Are you having challenges engaging your employees in your improvement efforts? If so, schedule a call to discuss how we can help increase their engagement.
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