It goes without saying that every business can benefit from a 5 – 10% performance improvement. Yet it’s also common for manufacturers to leave potential performance gains on the table as they try to deal with the general chaos of doing business. This blog post explores how paying closer attention to fundamentals and eliminating patterns of constant reactive “firefighting” can help manufacturers achieve rapid and sizable performance upticks. The key is an effective daily management approach. Before we jump into the discussion, however, let’s start with a quick quiz.
Could your company benefit from daily management?
- Is everyone from the executive team down to the frontline managers on the shop floor insynch about performance expectations?
- Can your teams quickly identify and solve problems?
- Do you know what to measure and why to achieve goals and performance objectives, and are you properly measuring those things?
It’s not unusual for manufacturers to struggle with these things, so if you answered no to one or all of them, you’re definitely not alone. If you continue to sit idle, however, you’ll likely get caught in a cycle of recurring lackluster results. The good news is that you could achieve potentially significant performance gains by focusing on daily management fundamentals. To do this right, you must:
- Establish the discipline of tracking and monitoring daily goals and activities.
- Institute alerts and notifications to flag issues in real-time and
- Turn mistakes into ongoing process improvements.
Why becoming great at fundamentals is the key to success
Getting and staying good at fundamentals is something that pays off in practically any endeavor. Think about how effortless the movements of a championship sports team or a great surgeon in action look. In most cases rigor, practice and focus have as much to do with their success as raw talent. Just consider that one of the first things that the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said before the start of his team’s first championship season in 1961 was “Gentlemen, this is a football.” It was the beginning of a concerted effort to get his team to execute the basics better than any other team.1 Or consider that veterinary or medical surgery students may practice tying suture knots for weeks to improve speed, efficiency and confidence before they are allowed to enter any kind of surgical rotation where a life is in their hands.
In manufacturing, fundamentals are just as critical to good performance. Yet many manufacturers operate in a state of controlled chaos for these very understandable reasons:
- Without the right approach, organizational alignment, including tracking and managing the fundamentals at different levels, is incredibly difficult.
- There is only so much time in the day for simply dealing with emergencies and keeping the business going.
These realities have far-reaching implications on strategy and execution. For example, in their book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras say, “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”2 And Peter Drucker once said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” In other words, even the most amazing plans may not be worth much if you can’t execute well.
So how can daily management help?
Daily management: driving performance at the point of impact
At its essence, daily management is, “a continuous process that ensures work is done in the right way and in the right time, in order to achieve business success…”3 Put another way, it’s about paying close attention to what’s happening and continually fine tuning operating processes at the point of impact as inefficiencies or issues are identified rather than days, weeks or even months later when a performance drop off starts showing up in reporting. At a high level, successful daily management approaches are built on some combination of the following:
A proven methodology along with the know-how and discipline to properly act on metrics at all levels
Something that is critical to understand about effective daily management is that it involves much more than a technology deployment. Driving better performance involves a host of behavioral and technical considerations. Based on your strategy or near-term performance goals, you need to understand:
- What to measure and why
- Where measurements need to be taken and how to ensure accuracy
- Who takes the measurements and why it’s their responsibility
- How you overcome issues that are identified along the way
The answer to these questions will help your leadership team develop action plans, at a team or individual level, that underpin higher-level goals established in your annual operating plan.
Organizational alignment and accountability across every level of the company
When we start working with new manufacturing client, we often find that leadership teams aren’t really engaged with workers across all levels of the organization or visible in the workplace. Regular interactions and problem solving among different levels of the organization, including senior and mid-level managers and frontline supervisors, are fundamental to success with daily management.
In modern manufacturing operations, keeping all players aligned, informed and accountable on operational performance goals requires the convergence of process rigor (a management system) and technology. The combination of a good management system and technology platform helps on many levels. For example, it can spark important conversations about process improvements. It can also help uncover opportunities for professional development through mentoring. Overall, this combination of factors is key to moving your organizational culture away from constant firefighting and toward continuous improvement.
Technology that can deliver the right metrics at the right time
Although software provides the foundation for daily management and organizational alignment, we saved it for last to emphasize the importance of methodology. For effective daily management, it is essential to have technology that can gather timely information and present it to users in appropriate, understandable formats based on their job responsibilities and job levels. But if it is not gathering the right data based on the right questions, or people don’t know how to respond based on the data they are seeing, then technology will never be effective. It is important to understand what data needs to be integrated into the tool so it can provide valuable and accurate outputs that facilitate informed and timely responses to problems in support of better decision making and process improvements.
Choose your onramp
If you’re thinking that daily management sounds like it takes hard work and involves a learning curve, you’re right. But it also gets easier as it becomes built into organizational DNA. Moreover, there is more than one onramp to daily management. In a perfect world, it might be ideal to implement daily management to ensure you can hit key objectives in support of a strategic vision. But daily management can also be used effectively to settle down controlled chaos in operations. For example, we’ve helped organizations get as much as a quick 5% performance bump within a year by focusing on fundamentals on the shop floor before expanding their approach.
Ultimately, daily management helps by giving people at all levels of your organization the ability to clearly see issues and fix them before they lead to bigger, more costly problems. If that sounds like something you could use help with, TBM Consulting and Dploy Solutions has the deep experience, proven methodology and technology foundation that are needed for success.
1 Vince Lombardi on the Hidden Power of Mastering the Fundamentals, James Clear, jamesclear.com.
2 Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, A Collins Business Book.
3 Strategy-Driven Daily Management, Planet Lean, July 2015.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Pate is Managing Director of North American Business Development at TBM Consulting Group. He is a skilled business leader with experience in both process and discrete manufacturing, David Pate is recognized for his ability to deliver results and for his 25+ years’ experience driving lean transformations, facilitating culture change and developing lean leaders. In his role as Director of Lean Manufacturing, David led lean transformations for four large factories and implemented a program for lean supplier development. As plant manager, he utilized lean to drive and sustain significant reductions in defects and increased productivity.