Create a flat communication structure. Everybody should be open and communicative and transparent.
We have everybody across the plants engaged in a constructive manner with one another.
For example, on Wednesdays at 1 o’clock, all the factory GMs get together for that hour call. Another time, once a week, it’s all the engineering managers across the company. Another time, once a week, it’s the HR people.
We need to be working together and talking and sharing best practices. If (employees) have a good experience on the manufacturing floor with a new process, they’re expected to share it with their fellow plant managers so the other guy doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
Information should flow freely. There’s a lot of people who believe in the mushroom theory, where you keep (employees) in the dark and the strong survive.
I think just the opposite. If employees are left in the dark and not communicated to regularly, and they don’t feel like they know what’s going on with their company, then they fear the worst.
That’s particularly true if you’re in a business that’s underperforming. People fear that what they don’t know is bad news.
One of the benefits of a flat and transparent organization is you eliminate unnecessary fear and anxiety, and that allows (employees) to focus on the things they should be thinking about and worrying about
Challenge conventional thinking. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
I encourage these guys to get out of their shell and do something, think of something new and different that’s going to enable us to take our business to the next level.
We filed for two patents this year. One patent came from our R&D group. ... The other patent came from a guy in our factory who was struggling with a problem, challenged conventional thinking and has come up with something that we believe may be fairly revolutionary in our industry.
He’s encouraged and actually responsible for thinking of these kinds of things. In the past, he was never encouraged to do that but rather just told to do the same thing over and over again.
It’s great to see something pop out of the woodwork like that from somebody who I didn’t expect it. Stuff like that starts to happen when you empower the employees. Get them understanding what you’re trying to do at a higher level and then give them authority for the decisions they can make.
Dig up the buried resisters. The first thing you have to do is communicate what you are trying to get done so (employees) have an understanding of what the expectations are.
The second thing is, you have to have some performance metrics out there. We have literally a page of metrics that we review every week as a group with all of our factories.
By looking at those metrics and breaking it down, you go after the root causes of the problems and fix it.
Through diligently pursuing that, you find if it’s a process problem or a people problem. If it’s a people problem, you’ve got to talk to them about it. If you can’t get performance up and you work like hell to coach them and to help the people get better, at the end of the day, you’ve got to ask them to move on. It’s the only thing that’s healthy for the company and healthy for the individual.
It’s my obligation to the rest of the employees to find out what I call the ‘buried resisters,’ the guys who just sit there and shake their head, ‘yes, yes, yes,’ and then don’t go and embrace the concepts that we’re talking about.
It tells everybody else that’s around there that you’re serious and that you’re willing to make the tough decisions to make the changes necessary to achieve the results that you’re trying to accomplish.
A lot of times people will say, ‘Ah, that’s just a bunch of words.’ Fundamentally, they won’t really move until they see that, ‘Hey, the guy’s putting new people out there, and either I need to get on board and participate, or I’m at risk for being asked to move on.’
Mind the language barrier. In some factories, we have a lot of employees where English may not be their primary language. As we communicate, that always makes it more difficult.
You need to talk deliberately and slowly and simply in terms of the tactics, and not try to overcommunicate or make it too complex.
There’s a lot of terminology that we routinely take for granted at the corporate level that the factory guys wouldn’t have a clue what we’re talking about. Make sure that the terminology is consistent with their understanding.
You always need to think of the basic rule of communication: Think of what you’re saying in the context of how it’s being received by the audience.
Assume that they’ve almost never heard it before. You don’t learn something necessarily because somebody told it to you once. When you’re just out there talking about esoteric things like strategy and vision and where we’re taking the company and why we want to go into this vertical market with greater measure than others, you have to be repetitive.
You have to take every opportunity to just kind of reinforce it because, otherwise, you forget that these people don’t hear it that often and, as a result, they go focus on things they deal with every day.
HOW TO REACH: DDi Corp., (714) 688-7200 or www.ddiglobal.com