Fixing Long-Term Challenges Requires a Different Mindset

Industry News ,

Originally Published by: ProSales Magazine by Todd Drummond — September 3, 2021
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Chronic employee staffing shortages can be a blatant sign that a company's employment practices need improvement. One should be very hesitant to blame external forces beyond a given reasonable period. Too many companies are simply blind to their overall company's poor employee practices in today's ever-challenging landscape.

Employee staffing issues, productivity enhancements, profit improvement, and every other aspect of your business always need further refinement. Yet human behavior seems hell-bent on solving or improving a given area by using the same practices used in the past. For making positive changes and improvements, see the following three key areas that need to be addressed.

1. Time Management
Every department head should set aside time every month to follow Stephen Covey's time management concepts.

Urgent & Important
! Quadrant of Necessity - Crisis, Pressing Problems, Firefighting, Major Scrap and Rework, and Deadline-driven Projects

Not Urgent & Important
 Quadrant of Quality and Improvement - Preparation, Prevention, Education & Training, Professional Development, Relationship Building, Recognize New Opportunities, and Planning

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Suppose your company has all the department management team heads spending all their time doing the day-to-day project completion work. (Urgent & Important) How do you expect them to make improvements in their given areas of responsibility? Stephen, the guru of effective time management, once created a simple matrix that has stood the test of time. By dividing a common task that is urgent and important into four groups (necessity, quality and improvement, deception, and waste), one can begin to understand some common-sense truths about time management. Too often, we are spending too much time in the quadrant of necessity, while we neglect the quadrant of quality and improvement. The quadrants of deception and waste should be self-explanatory. Neither group is essential, and both groups are characteristics of self-discipline that define an individual's work ethics and drive.

The department heads need to spend time each month in the quadrant of quality and process improvement. Taking the time that always seems too short of supply requires the entire management team's concerted effort and active support. Failure is almost inevitable if it is delegated to a department head without the active participation of the whole management team. It has to be more than just talked about; everyone must play their role.

When the department heads spend more time on quality and process improvement, how do you think it will impact staffing and other issues? Most items that would fall in the quality and process quadrant, including preparation, prevention, education and training, and professional development, are a means to improve efficiencies improve standards, and help alleviate the most pressing problems.

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2. Show Them How
Around 80% of people are willing to change their practices if shown how to make the change. (Reasons behind the 20% who won't change will be addressed in the leadership section below.) If you want to reduce turnover, improve efficiencies and overall profits, you will have to change your company's current practices to achieve a higher level of performance.

Does your company support new practices training and development? Or are current training programs the same worn-out current practice reviews? What kind of returns could a company expect with an active new practices training program? Depending on the department and task, most case studies state an average gain of 5% to 25% in productivity directly related to new training programs. So, even if your company's training results are on the lower end of 5%, you can see that it should be well worth the investment of money and time.

A perfect example is training and implementing lean manufacturing practices in every area of your company, not just the manufacturing. Typical results across numerous case studies for effective lean manufacturing implementation are as follows:

  • Increased overall productivity;
  • Quality improvement while having lower reworks;
  • Shorter lead time for scheduling
  • Lower overall cost while improving net margins; and
  • According to every case study published on this topic, higher net profits for companies implementing an ongoing lean manufacturing practice compared to those who do not.

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3. Leadership to Eliminate Barriers
The final and most serious key to improving your operations is overcoming the barriers to change. According to psychology studies, "Modern cognitive theory states that people tend to perceive reality in light of pre-existing expectations and will ignore large amounts of contrary data before finally changing their minds." In other words, we perceive the world the way we want regardless of the evidence that demonstrates an opposing viewpoint. Why is this so often the case? The answer is simple but difficult to overcome. In a word, it is pride. We cannot see that change is needed, or if we do indeed recognize the changes necessary, our pride blinds us and prevents us from admitting it. Too often, this is driven by a perceived threat to our area of influence, therefore, fear of lost power. We allow our pride to perceive everything as being right or wrong, as if by admitting that change is wanted or needed, we are saying, "We were wrong,and they were right." What worked in the past was a good thing, but evolving to meet today's challenges requires us to make changes and see things from a new perspective. To embrace more effective ideas for today's challenges, we need to set aside pride and listen to others with different perspectives and experiences. Overcoming the natural tendencies of protecting existing practices, making process improvements, and overcoming the pride each of us has within us will take true leadership.

Time management to give department heads the opportunity to step back and review the overall process. Show them how to provide the department heads with the actual tools they need to make the necessary improvement changes. And finally, the leadership in providing them with proper support and motivation drives everyone forward, so the changes are not temporary and positively affect the overall culture for continuous change.