The making of a Top Plant takes more than machines

How do we get our plant to be a Top Plant so that we can improve our competitive position in global manufacturing? Many manufacturers apply various tools and strategies to achieve this, while others simply move to other countries to get cheaper labor. But is this really working? There are more important issues to address than the tools themselves: leadership, alignment, teamwork, innovation...

12/01/2006


How do we get our plant to be a Top Plant so that we can improve our competitive position in global manufacturing? Many manufacturers apply various tools and strategies to achieve this, while others simply move to other countries to get cheaper labor. But is this really working?

There are more important issues to address than the tools themselves: leadership, alignment, teamwork, innovation %%MDASSML%% including at the shop floor level and change management. And, there are numerous studies that indicate doing cost cutting to get lower costs simply does not work (I haven’t found any that say otherwise). Costs will come down if you get your practices, processes and systems right, but cost-cutting is typically neither effective nor sustainable.

Here are a few sustainable ways to put any plant on the road to becoming a Top Plant:

Leadership %%MDASSML%% Leaders set the example and have the courage to support and defend their basic values and principles. Leaders are trustworthy and true to their word and principles, thus creating a sense of trust. Leaders convey an overall vision and sense of purpose, while firmly grounded in reality. Leaders have a passion for excellence, set high work and ethical standards and create a caring yet disciplined environment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, leaders put people first, treating them with dignity, respect and appreciation. Put simply, leaders create an environment where others want to follow them. How many corporate 'leaders’ create this kind of environment? My experience has been that very few do %%MDASSML%% except for Top Plants.

Alignment %%MDASSML%% A recent employee survey by Harris Interactive Research found:

  • 20% of employees were enthusiastic about organizational goals

  • 20% saw a clear connection between their tasks and organizational goals

  • 15% felt the organization enabled them to achieve their goals

  • 15% felt they were in a high-trust environment

  • 13% felt there was a high-trust, highly cooperative working relationships with other groups or departments.

    • Even if the survey was wrong, and the numbers are twice as good as this, it still speaks poorly of most organizations’ ability to align its people to a common strategy and set of goals. I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Wickens, author of “The Ascendant Organization,” that one of the most important things a CEO can do is to align the organization. Top Plants are well-aligned.

      Teamwork %%MDASSML%% My experience has been that effective teams require:

      • Clear purpose and direction, including a sense of meaning aligned to corporate strategy

      • Boundaries for the empowerment given, but self determination within those boundaries

      • Openness and honesty in working as a team and rules of conduct for that

      • Verification of skills to operate within the boundaries, or training needs thereto

      • Measurement of effectiveness as to its impact on the business

      • Continuing feedback and support from the team’s sponsor

      • Flexibility to address changing needs, e.g., boundaries, training, measures, etc.