Volume 2, Number 11 - November 2, 2004

I’ve never understood sitting in a cold tree waiting for the chance to see an animal walking by. But I do understand that many people miss work this time of year to do just that. And many miss work and reduce productivity while planning for, experiencing, and retelling holiday events. You know it’s coming. So how do you keep it from interfering with output, profits, and customer service?

As with any other predictable interruption to your supply chain, you can suffer through it, you can try to prevent it, or you can make alternative plans.

1) Suffer through it
• The victim mentality of “there’s nothing I can really do” does not help your bottom line. Bad choice, if the absenteeism and holiday spirit are likely to interfere with your business.
2) Try to prevent it
• In a college job, I managed numerous high school students. I learned that when they asked for Friday night off to attend the football game, I could give it to them and they would return to work on Saturday, or I could refuse it, and they would not show up anyway and I would just be shorthanded that night. I also noticed that as the event approached, they talked a lot about who was going with whom, and following it they talked about who left with whom, and who wore what.
• Adults also are very capable of finding a way to do what is important to them. And they also talk about what is important to them personally.
• You can remind people of your attendance policies, you can tell them that they need to focus on their work, you can plead that they not lose focus. Yet it’s rare to legislate behavior successfully.
3) Make alternative plans
• Size up the potential problem. Look at prior years behavior -- yours, your employees’, your competitors’, and your customers’.
• Talk with your employees about the potential impact on the competitiveness of your company. They want your company to succeed so they can retain good jobs, they want to have fun at work, and they want to take time off for things that are important to them. This combination does not make them bad people, and it does help them understand the problem. It can also help them help you with the solution. Find out.

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks client RCA Rubber has announced that it will be combining its Tennessee operations with its Akron operations, pending board approval. This move is expected to reduce lead-time and costs while improving service to customers. The union workforce is working closely with RCA management in planning the integration of operations.

Last month’s newsletter spoke to the failure of some companies to learn from others, predicated on a belief that they are unique and that what applies elsewhere doesn’t apply to them. Well, certainly not everyone suffers from that malady. At the recent Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference, representatives of KB Homes (a major builder throughout the west and southeast), Bank of America, and Health Policy Corp of Iowa, as well as other non-manufacturing organizations, described the significant gains they have realized from applying Lean manufacturing concepts. Learning from others isn’t cheating, or an admission of some lesser status. It is the key to the future.

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