A while ago I came across a quote by Felix Frankfurter (a Jurist, who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Frankfurter was born in Vienna and immigrated to New York at the age of 12) that really struck a chord with me. He said, “I don’t like a man to be too efficient. He’s likely to be not human enough.”
Do you think we should keep this in mind? Is it really that important to humanize our manufacturing work environments?
If you are intrigued, read on.
I hear people talking about efficiency all the time. They talk about digital technologies, advanced systems and processes, waste management and standardized work but often seem to forget who will make all of this happen – a highly trained and knowledgeable workforce.
Why does it seem to be more important to understand key performance indicators than human performance?
Wouldn’t you like to understand your team’s greatest desires and deepest fears? What holds them back from being at their best?
I want to provide an example that you may find relatable. You have a process in place but nobody follows it. Instead, everyone does what they want, nobody does what they should, and everyone plays along. Isn’t this something that makes you want to go through the roof?
Now, what are some reasons why people don’t follow a process?
- Nobody really knows the process
- Resistance to change (no mental flexibility)
- People don’t understand the process
- It may appear more work until they learn it
- The people who have to follow the process were not involved in creating it (big one)
- An aging workforce may hold on to what they are used to
- The process has become so bureaucratic that it is difficult to follow
- It may threaten people’s job security
- Somebody changed the process along the way and nobody knows who did it and what exactly to follow anymore
- Everyone is in a rush and people simply skip the process, especially if they don’t believe in it
- People don’t understand the “why”
Out of all these reasons I believe the last reason to be the most powerful one. People have to understand the “why” in order to get to the “what” and “how”. They must know why it makes sense and how their refusal to follow a process impacts production, the person or department down the line, and the company as a whole.
If people in your plant refuse to follow the process, please follow my simple advice:
- Become curious rather than furious: Ask them “why” they don’t follow the process. They may have a good reason. Thank them for their feedback.
- KIS=S – Keeping it simple = sexy: Ask them “how” you can support them to simplify the process.
- Ask open-ended questions, shut up and hear what people have to say: bring a notebook with you and write down what they say.
- Don’t take it personally: It’s not about you, it’s about simplifying the process.
- Ask them: Do you know “why” it is important to follow the process? If they don’t know, explain in detail.
- Finally, encourage your team and say “There must be a better way – go and find it.”