Volume 6 Number 3 - March 11, 2008

The Finish Strong� monthly e-newsletter helps business leaders examine issues important to taking operational performance to world-class levels. Do your Operations deliver your company’s espoused brand promise to every client on every order?

Finish Strong� is about developing an appropriate Operations strategy, and effective execution, dotting operational i’s and crossing operational t’s as you go.

Your company cannot afford to be sloppy if you want it to be great.


I have used those words in many conversations with company owners and operational leaders. You simply must communicate with your employees, both speaking and listening. There’s little chance of over communication, and great chance of under communication, at your company. A recent example from one client:

Dick, used primarily as a CNC operator, is skilled in several areas. As we worked to implement the thinking of the Toyota Production System (TPS), Dick was often switched from one work area to another, matching shifting capacity requirements. Management worked to develop the cross-training matrix to plan targeted skill mix, happy with Dick’s flexibility. Dick stayed awake nights wondering when he would be fired.

Why the disconnect? At Dick’s last employer he was moved around for several weeks before they laid him off. Without different information from management, Dick assumed the same trend was in play here. What he didn’t know, he made up: The company is getting ready to fire me. What management didn’t know, it made up: Dick knows how valuable his flexibility is.

Same company, different example: As part of TPS, inventories and lead time were greatly reduced.
Previously, workers had found solace in the stacks of
inventory. It meant job stability to them. Management found cash headaches in the stacks, and committed to reducing them. As the piles of inventory disappeared, much of the work force reasoned: the company is in trouble. Simultaneously, management made up: the employees must be happy with how much cleaner and more organized the shop is now.

Au contraire!

Both sources of employee unease were resolved by conversation. Life would have been so much easier if leadership had simply told the employees about the in-process cross-training matrix and the new strategy on managing inventory when those efforts began.

I wonder what disparate beliefs you and your employees have separately made up right now. Perhaps it’s time for a talk.


If you don’t already do it, plan a day when the family and friends of your employees can visit your operations. Why? Because you can be your best recruiter.

Each company and each industry has its own vocabulary. The conversation your employees take at home at night may well make little sense to the people they want to share it with. (See the title to the first article!)

Create a series of DVD’s, (easy to do these days; you no doubt have people in house who can do it for you) discussing your company and the various roles, equipment, and materials in it. Show employees interviewing one another. Let them be stars.

By the entranceway, put sample brochures and show a DVD on the history of the company, the industries it serves, the competitive market, and a layout of the facilities they will see. A 10 minute intro is more than enough to make your business more interesting to others.
Within your facility, place another DVD by each key area, whether defined functionally or by process flow, that describes the value-add that occurs there, the names of various pieces of equipment, and samples of the materials used -- before and after.

Close with shipping and sample finished products reflecting the industries and customers you told them about earlier. Put people thru planned and organized tours in groups of 6-8. If it’s safe to do so, include children of your employees.

Why go to all that trouble? First, if your operations are not presentable for visitors every day, consider what it says to the folks you expect to go there five times each week, hearing that Quality is #1. Next, it will educate your existing employees. You’ll be amazed at how little many of them know about processes outside their assigned work areas.

Oh, and the article title “Grow Your Own Workforce?” Your employees will become your best recruiters when they take pride in and can share what they do with those they care about the most. And you just may see your own workforce grow in understanding and contribution to the success of your business.


Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.
For reprint permission, just give Rebecca a call
or e-mail her at [email protected]