Category Archives: People Engagement

The Carrot Conflict


Written by Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance at Lauras International.

043_3500x2011_all-free-download.com_3177516Whilst preparing Sunday lunch an incident happened that highlighted the fact that clarity of instruction is key to getting a job done right first time.

The leg of lamb was in the oven slowly roasting. Beautiful roast potatoes were turning crisp on the outside whilst remaining soft and fluffy on the inside. The kitchen was filled with the intoxicating aroma of good home cooking, and children were hanging around in anticipation of purloining a roast potato whilst my back was turned.

I had just started to prepare the carrots when I realised that we had run out of mint sauce. As you are all undoubtedly aware, to eat roast lamb without mint sauce is a sin that can never be forgiven. I therefore had to go to the local shop to purchase a jar, but also needed to get the carrots peeled and chopped.

My son, Thomas, the eldest of the tribe, just happened to wander into the kitchen at that moment, probably trying to steal a roast potato, and I saw an opportunity. I could give him the chance to learn some valuable life skills by seconding him into the role of chief carrot prep chef, whilst I went to get the mint sauce.

Thomas was promptly given the task of peeling and chopping half the carrots, whilst I went to collect the mint sauce. After listing a myriad of reasons why he couldn’t perform such a task he eventually undertook the challenge once a bribe of two roast potatoes was offered.

Ten minutes later, I returned with the required mint sauce in hand. I walked into the kitchen to see my proud son standing by the counter with half the carrots chopped and peeled, and expecting his roast potato reward. There was, however, an issue.

Rather than remove half the carrots from the bag and peel and chop them, he had removed all the carrots from the bag, peeled half of each carrot and then promptly chopped the peeled half. After arguing that he hadn’t done the task as required and therefore wouldn’t get his reward, Thomas called the official adjudicator, my wife, to make a decision. After having the situation explained to her, the adjudicator looked at the chopping board and declared that although the task wasn’t performed to my expectations, half the carrots were peeled and chopped and therefor the reward had to be paid. The situation, allegedly, was my fault because my level of instruction was not adequate. I should have said remove half the carrots from the bag and fully peel and chop those that have been removed. In other words, be more unambiguous with my instruction.

Misinterpretation of instructions is a common issue in many manufacturing facilities, especially when those instructions have to pass through numerous shifts. This misinterpretation can cause loss of production, quality defects, and more seriously, health and safety issues. One of the quickest and easiest ways to get a consistent message across quickly is via a One Point Lesson, (OPL).

Click here for our Top Tips on how to create an OPL.

LaurasInternational-Carrot-OPL

 

Since the creation of a carrot preparation One Point Lessons my wife and children look at me with a sorry look in their eyes and tend to shake their heads in disbelief when I ask for someone to help with the Sunday Lunch, but at least the carrots are prepared correctly!

For more Top Tips for Manufacturing Professionals, check out our Improvement Toolkit.

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Where is your hidden zone?

Where is your hidden zone?

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire at Lauras International

Four eggs in egg cups

During a recent management training course I was asked if an individual should focus on improving their weaknesses first or developing their strengths. It’s a bit like ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’

You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your weakness is something you need to use in your day to day life, being your weakest link is probably having a significant effect on your overall effectiveness. Our strengths, on the other hand, form part of our Unique Selling Point (USP). Continually developing our USP to ensure it remains unique is important, isn’t it?

We all prefer to work on what we enjoy and what we enjoy is almost always something we find relatively easy or we are good at it. Investing in your weakness, therefore, is likely to be more time consuming, more frustrating and will require more effort.

There is no straight answer but what is clear, our first task is to understand ourselves not only from our perspective, but from the perspective of others. We all have ‘hidden’ zones, things people see in us that we are blissfully unaware of. For example, jangling change in your pocket, or saying ‘Umm’ repeatedly during presentations. Once we truly understand our strengths and weaknesses we can make an informed decision on what to invest our time and effort in, and can look for alternatives to help. One of the best ways to overcome our weaknesses is to work with someone who has that as their strength, learning from them. An alternative may be to delegate or even outsource a task that require us to use our weakness.

In truth we will need to develop both our strengths and weaknesses but for the most efficient outcome we not only have to fully understand ourselves, but also the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. Need help with your chicken and egg? We can help you build your unique development plan then work with you to excel.

For more on our Aspire coaching and mentoring programmes for Front Line Managers, get in touch.

Slay your “Corridor of Uncertainty”

Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, Lauras Internationalcricket_image

I was watching the recent Test Match between England and Australia when Ricky Ponting, the ex-Captain of Australian National Cricket, was being interviewed about his experiences as an international cricketer. The interviewer enquired about the biggest changes Ponting had witnessed during his career. He explained that he had started his playing career during the Semi-professional era of the Nineties, through the Professional era and latterly into the Ultra-professional era. What did he mean by this, the interviewer asked…?

With the increase in the number of TV cameras at matches and the proliferation of companies providing data and statistics on all elements of the game, Ponting explained it has become increasingly common for teams to use this data to identify the weaknesses of opponents. With this information teams have been able to develop more effective tactics to defeat an opponent and thus make their path to success more likely. As a consequence, individual players have had to focus their attention more and more effectively on their own areas for improvement, reinventing themselves each year in the face of fierce competition so that they are able to survive and succeed at the pinnacle of their profession.

Having worked in both the food and drink markets, I know from experience how important it is for businesses to use their scarce resources wisely. In the competitive market places that we all operate in, no-one can afford to waste valuable resources on areas that are not priorities. We must deliver sustained improvement in our operations if we are to deliver long-term success.

Like the international cricketers, it is vital that we capture detailed information about our priority areas so that we can recognise areas of strength but also areas for improvement, e.g. once we have identified the bottleneck of a process we can begin to capture data about how effectively it runs. Using simple data capture sheets and proven analytical techniques it is possible to identify the biggest causes of lost production, be it speed, downtime, or quality related. Now we are able to select suitable methodologies and people to deliver the identified improvements. By implementing solutions that are effective for a hundred years we are able to then move onto the next biggest problem without needing to return to the original issue. As we deliver improvement upon improvement our performance begins to accelerate and we develop a culture of success in which our people and business are able to realise their full potential.

Like the international cricketers we have a decision to make. Do we want to rise to the challenges of an increasingly competitive market-place and become recognised for excellence, seizing the initiative and striving for improvement. Or do we stand still and ultimately no-one remembers us?

Who is in Power?

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, Lauras International

I recently asked a group of Front Line Managers ‘Who holds power in your workplace?’ Not surprisingly they focussed on the Legitimate Power, given by virtue of the organisational structure. At the top of their list was their MD followed by their Directors and then their Managers. If their position alone did not get action then using Reward (if I do this well, I might get a pay rise) or Coercion (I had better do it, else my boss might discipline me) usually did the trick.

Web_Erica_Resources-300x166When the group considered ‘What is power?’ they soon realised that the ability to get people to do something they wouldn’t otherwise have done doesn’t rest solely with management. Other people within their organisation, without grand job titles, also had power. They had key influencers throughout their business.

When asked what these individuals had that gave them power they identified two key elements; they had either gained respect for who they were (Referent Power) or had gained respect for their knowledge and experience (Expert Power).

The skill of a Great Leader is not to accumulate power but to manage others with power. Which people in your organisation have the greatest power to get others to act? Are they leading others astray?

Identify who has the power in your business then share with them your vision, not forgetting to include where they fit within that vision. Give these individuals open and honest constructive feedback, both of the things they do well and of their short comings.

Don’t forget Great Leaders don’t have all the answers so solicit feedback, listen and be prepared to make adjustments too.

If you’re looking to harness the power of your workforce, and develop Great Leaders in your business, get in touch today to see how our ‘Aspire – Producing Excellence‘ programs could help.

Lost in France (getting nowhere fast without a Roadmap)

Written by Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance, Lauras International 

Whilst recently creating an Improvement Project Roadmap for a new client I was reminded of the need to update my satnav following last years holiday…

After 2 weeks of relaxation and sun in southern France it was time to drive back to Montpellier airport. We decided to leave plenty of time for the 90 minute journey and rather than take the motorway, we would see some of France via the minor roads. Six hours prior to check-in we were on our way.

Roundabout

The issue started when we reached our first round-a-bout. From the three possible exits, two would lead us to our destination, but which direction should we take? No need to worry, we had plenty of time, so we decided to take the first exit. Numerous kilometres and round-a-bouts later we realised that we were a third of the way into our journey time and we weren’t getting any closer to our destination. We had better consult the map!

Unfortunately our road map, which was kindly supplied by the care hire company, didn’t have the level of detail that would show our exact location. We knew where we wanted to be but not exactly how to get there.

The gentle sightseeing trip, with plenty of time for a relaxing lunch soon turned into a mad panic, with terse conversations and clenched jaws. Check in time was getting closer would we make it in time? What would we do if we missed the plane?

After some frantic driving and more by luck than design we managed to reach the airport, take a deep breath, and check in on time. Not a great end to an enjoyable vacation.

When starting any journey, be it travel or an Improvement Programmes, it is imperative that detailed planning is undertaken prior to taking the first steps.

As with my journey in France, the first round-a-bout or decision taken, if not correctly thought through can have undesireable consequences. The full understanding of these consequences is often not realised until it is too late and numerous other decisions have been taken based on this first poorly thought through judgement.

The more detailed the plan the more likely the journey or project will stay on track with regards to outputs and timings. As the old idiom says” le diable est dans le detail” or “the devil is in the detail”.

Regular progress reviews against these plans need to be undertaken and position against plan revised to ensure an enjoyable journey doesn’t become a mad panic.

If you’re in the process of creating an Improvement Project Roadmap and would like it sense checked, then get in touch, we’d be happy to help.

Feedback Ratio – 5.6:1

Written by Erica Bassford

The best performing teams give each other feedback in a ratio of 5.6 positive to 1 negative (source Institute of Leadership & Management). Poor performing teams give far less positive feedback to each other… why is this?

Could it be that poor performing teams have very little that’s positive to talk about, or is it that teams make more improvement, and hence become the best performers, when they have a good mix of positive and negative feedback? We believe in the latter.

Feedback is an opportunity for the manager to let each team member know how they are doing, both positive and negative, and to enlighten them to their Blind Area, as described by the Johari Window Model. We are all human; focussing on the negative can be demoralising but a balance can be motivational. Building on strengths and developing weaknesses by agreeing targets, along with a way for each individual to measure their own performance, establishes an improvement culture.

Check out the Weetabix Case Study to see what was achieved when the company focussed on improving employee engagement by using a range of tools and techniques, including the optimum feedback ratio.

If you’re looking to establish a culture of improvement in your organisation, then why not get in touch to see how we could help.

Top Tips for Front Line Managers

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe, Senior Consultant at Lauras International.

Top Tips for Front Line Managers

Our last blog discussed the 3 ingredients that keep staff successfully engaged in manufacturing improvement programmes – Inclination, Ability & Time.  The level of success however comes down to your Front Line Management team’s ability to take these raw ingredients and develop skilled and ‘switched on’ operators.  All too often, highly skilled individuals are promoted to Front Line Management positions without the necessary training experience, and with little support or coaching in their new role.

That’s why we’ve developed the acclaimed Aspire programme, designed to help Front Line Managers (FLMs) develop the skills required to manage people effectively.

 Here are some of our top tips for FLMs that are implementing Improvement Projects:

  1. See-Try-Do – To relieve the stress of training new initiatives for the first time, we recommend the ‘See-Try-Do’ approach which examines the training subject from a range of viewpoints to consider what questions could be asked and where confusion could arise.
  1. Tackle Conflict Head-on – FLMs often avoid meeting environments because managers are apprehensive about conflict; but without conflict, improvement doesn’t happen.  Coaching will give FLMs the confidence to address conflict safely and manage it through to a positive resolution.
  1. Supercharge Meetings – FLMs that run effective meetings have better track records of implementing successful Improvement Programmes.  Our coaching covers preparation, meeting etiquette and follow up, with top tips such as: hold meetings standing up to increase the energy in the room, value the input of each delegate, and remember the magic formula (70% agreement = 100% commitment for decisions)RACI Matrix.
  1. Use a RACI Matrix – Having clear and unequivocal roles for everyone is fundamental to getting actions done quickly and projects completed efficiently.  A RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix is a very useful tool for ensuring FLMs have assigned and clearly communicated ownership of actions.
  1. Thank with a Reason – As simple as it sounds, saying ‘thank you’ and contextualising the gratitude with a reason, is an effective management principle.  Our Aspire coaching programmes are designed to help FLMs excel in their roles by applying easy to acquire, practical management tools to their day-to-day activities.

Get in touch to see how our Aspire Programme could help your FLMs engage their teams and excel in their roles.