Who would have thought that you could unlock the willingness of your people to contribute to the goals and objectives of the organisation by simply giving them information on how the factory is doing on a monthly basis?
In December 2014 a senior manufacturing manager at a manufacturing plant in Garankuwa, North West Province, South Africa, attended a two day Legitimate Leadership workshop and decided to make some changes when he returned to the factory. One of these was that he would share information regularly on how the factory was doing and particularly how it was contributing to the overall goals and objectives of the business.
This manager decided that he would start the process by explaining how the monthly costs were made up; the difference between fixed and variable costs; and where his manufacturing team could make a difference.
He was really not sure how this would be received because historically his experience was that management only shared information on costs just prior to wage negotiations – and that was done with the express intent to make a case for not acceding to the “excessive” wage demands of the unions.
But the manager’s new-type information sessions have now become a regular monthly occurrence. They are not without questioning and debate. Generally the information (and debate and questioning) is about what was achieved in the previous month, whether costs were covered, and whether targets were achieved. Ideas also shared on why targets were or were not achieved and there is discussion on what should be done differently going forward.
There is also always, before the meeting closes, a chance for people to request help (in the form of Means and Ability) from management to do what they have committed to doing.
In a recent meeting a proposal from management to change the shift pattern from a single day shift into two shifts was raised for discussion at the monthly meeting.
The elected union representatives argued vehemently against this proposal until one of the operators stood up and asked the most vociferous of the shop stewards if he had not been listening to what had been discussed in the monthly meetings over the last few months.
“If we change to two shifts, we will cover our monthly costs and break even quicker and then we will have more time to work towards our targets for the month,” was his pronouncement to his colleagues.
The sustained effort to keep people informed over the months since December had meant that the employees were on the same page – from operator to team leader to section manager. Given the opportunity to understand the bigger picture, this operator was able to translate his knowledge into influencing the discussion and not allowing the union to have the final say.
The proposed shift change has since been implemented without further ado and the factory’s operations are improving all the time. It is clear that more and more individual employees are choosing to do what they can to contribute to the factory’s success.