Be a change agent to win the manufacturing game
These are interesting times we live in. Sometimes you need to be a change agent to survive. With changing times, some of us will be changing jobs. And as a change agent, there are many challenges to overcome whether starting a new position, starting in a new company or starting in a new market.
There are some big issues to focus on when you are in that situation. First you need to understand the company, secondly know their strengths and weakness, next understand the company culture, then understand the work force and lastly, how will you become successful (have a plan). Once you get a handle on these issues, the sooner you can start earning your keep.
To earn your keep, you need to bring value to the company. Before you can do that, you need to understand the business you’re in, i.e. what products or services are profitable, where are the profit makers and where are the loser. As a change agent, you need to improve the losers or get rid of them. For the winners, you need to bolster and protect the product so you do not lose market share to completion.
As you walk the path reviewing products and services, undoubtedly you will start to learn the organization’s strength and weakness. These attributes come in many forms: machining expertise, machine versatility, materials and capacity. Capacity in absorbing more shop hours or speed of throughput. Tying together strong products in your market to machining and fabricating capabilities is important for growth. Identifying the weak products leads to opportunities to enhance capabilities or make the tough decision to stop losing money. Either way, use the facts, let the data lead you to manage the business.
As one steps into managing the business it is inevitable to find the “sacred cow,” %%MDASSML%% the process or product that no one will kill. Tread lightly in these waters. Bad habits die hard and slow. However, these issues can be addressed later as the data and facts come into light. To get data, you need help. Get others involved.
To achieve buy-in one needs to get a cross-functional team together to address the business. There are many ways to get team involvement. Look for quick hits and opportunities to succeed early, then take on bigger and bigger challenges.
A change agent has to build trust. Without trust you have no chance of buy-in. The most effective manner to build trust is to use the facts and data. The organization may not be used to managing by fact but they speak for themselves. In these challenging times, we need to address the bottom line. Put a value on the facts and soon the tide will change in the right direction. Once there is a direction, there needs to be a plan.
Making it happen, executing the plan is not as difficult as it sounds and is not as easy as writing it down either. First, divide and conquer. Use your team. Establish a plan with an agreed upon timeline. There will be set backs but stick to the plan and you will be a successful change agent.
These are interesting and challenging times we are in. Keep your focus. Be flexible. Make sure you understand the company, the markets you play in. Know the winners and losers in your product line. Use the facts to drive improvements. Most importantly remember work is a team sport and teams win together or lose together. As a change agent, you need to be the leader and make it happen if you are to win in the manufacturing game.
Mikel Janitz, Director Technology & Engineering
Submersible Pumps Inc.