ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2000
--- ---Issue Highlight
---The Hunt For Next November

-- "April in the state of Missouri is turkey-hunting season. It is an annual spring ritual that for many is extremely satisfying. It lasts two weeks and there is a limit of one turkey a week. Turkeys are not easy to hunt. They have great eyesight, great hearing and they are smart. If you are willing to get up at 5:30 in the morning, sit perfectly still for an hour, dress like a tree and make sounds like a lovesick female turkey, you might get lucky and attract a handsome male named Tom or Jake. Whether you shoot it or just take pleasure in its company is up to you. For some reason the experience, despite its discomforts, is spiritually renewing and leaves you a little more optimistic about life."

In This Issue...
Angels With Rotary Wings
Reality Mirrors Movie
Stop The Merry-Go-Round

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Diary of a Shutdown


Views for a Change
Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds :

--Your question raises a dilemma faced by many team leaders and coordinators in these fast-moving times. While the need for focused and effective problem solving is increasing, people both have and take less time to do the disciplined analysis needed to really address the root causes that interfere with productivity.

--In responding to your situation, I start with the premise that most workers are smart. Whatever their human tendencies, to move quickly or jump ahead, they will think and act constructively if they are genuinely encouraged, valued and rewarded. If they don’t act in ways that are encouraged (at least verbally and on the surface), then one or two of the other critical variables are missing to some degree. Without knowing much more of the specific context in your plant, I can only speculate about what may be going on.

--If your company is like many others today, you are operating under pressures to both produce now and find new competitive, cost-efficient improvements over time. In the face of these pressures, many managers in other businesses have turned to quick fixes to first order problems as the easiest and best way to stay productive in the present. In the experience of these managers, they cannot afford to take the time, effort and money to delve into the root causes of certain problems. They are rewarded and promoted only for what they are able to do about today’s problems—not long-term issues.

--As importantly, if and when these managers and their teams do take the time to work through a disciplined method of problem solving, they often run into difficulties outside of their control. Specifically, when they end up making recommendations for corrective actions, they encounter higher-level managers who are unable or unwilling to invest in the solutions to deeply-rooted problems. For example, in recent years, many top-level managers have been reluctant to spend the money on training, team-building, process revisions and professional skill development that often turn up as the needed remedies for production and customer service difficulties.

--This across-the-board resistance to medium to long-term investing has also materialized in companies where the commitment to specific products, workers and sites has diminished in favor of close-outs and lay-offs. All of these factors have led some employees to doubt the need for and the worth of working long and hard at multi-step, root-cause-oriented, problem-solving methods.

--Here is my advice to leaders, managers and coordinator/facilitators like yourself: Spell out your expectations for the use of a structured problem-solving methodology in no uncertain terms.

--Then value the efforts of your workers when they use it—by both word and deed. Challenge and even turn back their solutions when they do not use the disciplined, in-depth approach that you want. Build their commitment to using the preferred methodology by committing to implement their proposed root cause solutions whenever and wherever possible. And finally, reward them with tangible benefits when they deliver successful and cost-effective solutions to these more substantial problems.

David Farrell responds:


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