Ram is the Head – Sales & Marketing for the company and he is in the Weekly review with Manufacturing head. The other functional heads are also there in the meeting. Ram is struggling to get the commitment from Manufacturing head for the deliveries that need to happen in the next week.
Individual Problems and Collective Suffering
The Problems of the Manufacturing Head seems to be unending. There are several Part shortages on a daily basis as the Customer demand is going up without notice. There are Quality problems in the New Products introduced and the Process is not yet stabilized for a big number of Products introduced in to the Manufacturing in the past 6 months. The Machines are having higher break down hours as the Preventive Maintenance is not happening regularly. The list is long.
The Quality Head, Materials Head, Engineering Head spoke about their own problems. All the Problems sound genuine. No one seems to have a good solution with some time lines to implement. The Weekly meeting ended with a few arguments, blaming each other and without a proper solution to the problems on hand.
This is a very common situation in many Manufacturing Companies that I have seen. These weekly meetings go on without end and normally gives the same output as explained above.
What is the solution?
How to ensure a good team work happens in the company and the Customer is serviced much better?
I think the Root cause lies in the way the Manufacturing Companies are Operating. We seem to be pushing the Functional teams away from each other and this is resulting in lack of team work and lack of respect to the internal Customers and bad service to the external customers.
There are five essentials to ensuring good Customer orientation in the company and promote Team work in the company.
01. Stabilize the Routine: If the Routine is well defined and stable, the teams will have less flash points. The Routine in each function has to be defined in terms of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is a continuous journey for Indian Companies as the growth is higher in our companies and things keep changing on the ground every day. A Company should recognize this need and put effort on stabilizing the routine.
02. CFT Culture: The Cross functional Team culture has to be promoted in the Company. Some critical elements in the CFT Culture :
a. Goal deployment: Goals that have to be achieved together have to be deployed to ALL the relevant team members across the functions.
b. Working methodology: The CFTs should have a strong Work ethic and methodology. The methodology should promote a systematic achievement of Goals.
c. Peer assessment: The team members have to be assessed by the Peers in addition to the Bosses. Peer assessment is very powerful and a Group assessment technique has to be used for this purpose.
d. Internal Customer rating: The company can promote the culture of rating by Internal Customers for all the Internal suppliers. This way the Internal Suppliers will get periodic feedback from the Internal Customers and they will have to act upon it.
e. Process based teams: It would be good to seat the teams as per the Process. For example, the team that fulfills the orders of the Customers can sit together in one place. This team may consist of members from Sales, Purchase , Stores, Dispatch etc. This will ensure that the team understands each other and gets formed as a ‘real team’.
03. Functional orientation of Senior Leaders: The Senior Leaders are one of the main reasons why the Silos gets built up in the Companies. The attachment of the Senior Leaders to their teams and to their own Functional Points of view is a big issue. Functional point of view is important. But, the administrative point of view is a daily issue in any company without which the result will not happen. The role of the Senior leaders is to build Functional Competence in the Company. They should allow their team members to work along with the other Functional team members freely. The Senior Leaders should play a subtle role at the back ground to build the Functional excellence. The teams are more than capable of achieving the goals of the Company. If they play their teams too close to their chest, they would be doing a disservice to the company.
The Leaders of the Company have to build this work culture in the Company. The Senior Leaders may need some help in this aspect.
04. Training as teams: If the Cross Functional Teams have to stick together and work together, they have to be treated as teams in every sense. They have to be trained in Leadership skills together as a team. While they may learn Functional skills individually, they have to be brought together as a team for teaching Leadership Skills. This would help in building them as a team. The Training should encourage talking about the working methodology of the team.
05. Assessment and Rewards: The Cross Functional Teams should get assessed as Teams and a good part of the reward has to be given as a team. This would push the team members together. They earn as a team or lose as a team.
A company has to learn the art of getting results from their teams. They can speed up their learning if they go about it in a systematic manner as explained.
Whenever I hear the term ‘Time management’, it comes to my mind that we cannot Manage time. It keeps slipping away whether we do something or not. We can only Manage our work better. But, let us keep with this popular term for this article.
Time Management is a serious problem for almost ALL Managers in the Indian Industry. Some would have realized it and many others may not even realize that they are not using their time well. The Managers that I have come across come in to the following few categories.
Firefighters: These are the Managers who are forever putting off some fire. You can find many of them in Automotive industry. These Managers come early and go late (if they go home). Their Children see them rarely as they go to company even on a Sunday as they can ‘work peacefully’ on a Sunday. Many of them have got addicted to it. They keep telling whoever can listen that they are working for 18 hours a day and so on. The Firefighters do not even worry about Time Management. They have given up long back and now they just go with the wind. In most of the cases, their companies also have given up that ‘some Managers have to be dedicated to the fire fighting’. There is no fight back at all.
Minimalists: These are the Managers who may be in Discrete Manufacturing Companies. These Minimalists do not believe in taking up too much agenda on to their plate. Whatever is put on their plate by their Bosses will be handled forever. They are in no hurry to finish anything. They do not see any need for Time Management as they do not want to ‘hurry’ anything. Their Companies also have come to believe that nothing should be ‘hurried’. Whenever I took up this issue with these Managers, I have seen that their Managing Director defends them !! The belief that they should not ‘hurry’ is quite deep !!
Trouble Shooters: These are the guys who love the adrenalin rush. Whenever there is trouble, these people are called. They are handling an emergency forever! If one emergency is over, they look for the next one. They feel Time Management is not for their type of work.
Boss Pleaser: This Manager will do only things that are asked by the Boss. He will never take up any agenda without Boss asking him to do. They will complete it as the Boss asks them to. They are not managing their Time. Their Boss may be managing it, if at all.
Timid Manager: These are pushed around by just about everyone in the company. They are the people who would be going around with an expression of ‘carrying the world’. Always hunched and always under strain. They just don’t have time to manage time!
There may be a very small percentage of Managers who are trying to manage their time and push a particular agenda of their own. I find this type of Managers to be a very small minority in the Industry.
What are the effects of not managing your time wisely?
When there is no concept of managing your work and managing time, only the Urgent and Important gets done. If you look at the Time Matrix, the First quadrant is the one that you would give attention to. By default you would wait for everything to come to First Quadrant to attend to it.
So, there is no proactive approach. You would become thoroughly reactive. You would be acting in the last minute for everything. If you are still keeping your Customers happy, then you would be spending disproportionate resources to keep your Customers happy. While the Business would be growing, your profit will become lesser and lesser as you are becoming more and more inefficient.
An organization can loose Top line opportunities / Bottom line in this situation. But, very often there will be no awareness of this and many Indian Companies are accepting that this is a ‘normal Business situation’. This is more worrying factor !!
What can be done?
Bad Time Management and Bad Work Management Is a Symptom and this is not the root cause. The Root cause lies in the way the Business Is run. The way the employees manage their Work.
01. Work Management System: Create an environment of Employees taking responsibility and are made accountable. When every Employee takes responsibility for his/her work, then the environment would be amenable for better Work Management / Time Management. This can be achieved by introducing a Work Management System (WMS) where the Organizational Goals would be deployed to the entire organization in a systematic manner and reviews are done in a systematic manner. Every employee is expected to take responsibility for his/her KPIs and they are expected to take Corrective and Preventive actions when they don’t meet targets.
Addressing this overall environment issue is very much essential to ensure your team is managing their work diligently. Without addressing this Root cause, you can not solve the problem.
02. Promote Planning: Once the goals are clearly given to the employees, the Company needs to promote Planning in the company. There have to be Annual Planning for achieving the goals. There has to be Quarterly Planning to make Annual Plan a reality. The Quarterly plans have to be translated in to Monthly / Weekly plans. Each week every Manager has to spend some time to review his last week and plan for the next week on a daily basis. There may be something that comes to everyone without planning. There will be Quadrant 1 activity. ‘Urgent and Important’. But, as you keep up with your Planning, the Quadrant 1 will reduce and Quadrant 2 will increase. The Planning should help us keep the focus on ‘what needs to be done’. Initially our success may be small. But, an Organization has to persist to help their Managers to get a hold on the Work Management / Time Management.
03. Measure your Time usage: To improve something, you need to measure it. You can measure your Time usage with two Metrics:
a. Proportion of time that you are able to plan: If you are at the work for 8 hours, are you able to plan for full 8 hours? I would recommend that you should try to plan as much proportion of your time as possible. If you want to keep yourself open to helping your colleagues, you don’t want to plan for sometime, then don’t push yourself to achieve 100%. But, try to take control of 100% of your time.
b. Success rate in sticking to the plan: You may be able to plan for 100% of your time. But, you may not be able to work as per plan. When you just start off the improvement effort, your success rate would be small. But, you have to persist to ensure you improve your Success rate.
Every Manager should review these two Metrics every week. Every Boss should spend some time with his Team reviewing this and helping them to take more control of their work.
Indian Companies are losing a lot of opportunities to improve their top line and bottom line as their Managers do not have control of their work/time.
The first step to regaining control is to put a ‘Work Management System’ in place.
Vithal is sitting near the table of his younger colleague Shyam for last half hour waiting for Shyam to finish the Power Point that Vithal would be presenting in the Monthly review. Vithal never managed to learn Power Point very well. He says he had been trying for the past few years. But, somehow not able to learn all the nuances needed to put out a good presentation. The frustrated Boss of Vithal put him on to Shyam- a youngster so that Vithal will not be an odd man out in the monthly review. Vithal had been in the company for the past 22 years.
You would have seen people like Vithal and with some similar qualities in your companies. People who had been there in the company for long long time and somehow fell behind in skill improvement and a few other areas.
The Stagnant Water
Majority of ‘Vithals’ in the industry would have become ancient and stuck at a particular level in the organization without further promotions. Every year when the Performance appraisal comes in, the ‘Vithals’ are wonderful staple for the ‘Solid citizens / Meets Expectations’ category. Sometimes a frustrated Manager may push them to the ‘Below Expectations’ category too. But, somehow with their ‘connections’ in the company they will survive without being pushed out.
It is not uncommon to see some of these ‘Vithals’ being asked to go too.
Many a times, the young Managers who come in to the Company find it very difficult to manage the ‘Vithals’. The age is a factor. Then, the ‘Vithals’ feel they have been in the company for a long time and the young Managers are ‘Bachas’ (Children) who don’t know what is what.
Very often the ‘Vithals’ hold on to their knowledge, do not share it and use it as a weapon to proclaim their relevance in the organization. The Young Managers may find it difficult to fight them. So, very often they succumb to them and carry them on their shoulders. There may also be cases where the Young Managers struggle with them for some time and then manage to push them to another department and get rid of the trouble!
Should we purge the ‘Old Timers’ ?
Should organizations get rid of the Old Timers? Should we prescribe a time limit for the people to stay in the organization?
As I am talking about the Manufacturing Organizations right now, I feel it is very unwise to put a Time limit for people to stay in the organization or purge the old timers.
The strength of a Manufacturing Organization is its’ people. People who had been in the organization for longer time would have accumulated a lot of experience in the organization and they are priceless if used properly. The Organizational experience in manufacturing the Products is invaluable. Companies become much better at their products with experience. They build great relationships with Customers over years. They give wonderful after sales service with the help of the experience. All this experience in most cases reside in the people in the Organization.
How can we get rid of these people who are repositories of knowledge?
If we say these people have become outdated / worthless and a burden for the organization, then it reflects on the Organization. Not so much on the people who are products of the Organization.
Developing the Old Timers
How do we prevent this from happening? How do we help the Old timers / Long Timers in the company to continually develop themselves?
A few essentials:
01. Formulate Systems and don’t depend on the people: Periodically the Companies should formulate systems in each function and don’t just depend on the knowledge of the people in the function. This may sound counter to the argument that we should preserve the old timers. We should never let people get stuck in one area. Water should flow continuously. You know what happens when water does not flow and gets stagnated. It stinks!! Same thing happens to people who are stuck in one place for long time. When the organization is not dependent on the people, they will look to learning something new. Otherwise the Organization becomes comfortable in same people doing the same thing as they don’t have to teach anyone else. People become comfortable as they don’t have to learn anything new. Then, it starts stinking. Downloading the knowledge of people and making them in to systems periodically helps both the organization and the individual.
02. Rotate People periodically: Rotate the people in to different functions periodically after you build the Systems in each of the functions. If you do it without having strong systems, then the organization will get in to trouble as the new person will start doing things in his / her own way.
03. Grow the People in to new roles: How many companies have a strong system for growing people? Growth is a two way street. Employees should participate actively. But, I would put the onus on the organization to make this happen. There should be Developmental initiatives to grow people. I have not seen many companies focused on this. Some wonderful exceptions are there who focus on medium term development of people.
04. Expose the people to companies outside:You can do this by periodic visit to other Bench mark companies. You can take people to companies on a paid tour that are arranged by companies across the world. You can visit companies in Japan/ USA / Europe to show how World class companies work. Nothing better than actually looking at things working.
05. Have a growth agenda in the company:A company that is not having energy within and not having an agenda for Growth will not be having people who are energetic! A Company should always have Growth Agenda and should create some energy in the Organization.
A Company needs to have higher expectations from itself, from its’ people and enable Growth of the Company and the People. If People are becoming worthless by staying long in the Company, then it reflects on the Company and its’ Leadership !
While a Company can manage its ’Old timers’, how can the Young Managers manage the ‘Old Timers’ who are not highly skilled and who have become ‘heavy’ for them to carry them?
The Old Timers have to be moved to start Learning something new. That is our objective. ‘A moving stream of water’ is our objective. We don’t want water to stagnate and stink.
01. Look for what is good:When people stay in a company for a long time, they will accumulate something good. There may be something that you don’t like. But, what do the Old timers have that is good? Recognize it , Use it and appreciate it. Only then you gain a right to point out to something that is not there. Many a times the old timers have good knowledge of the Products / Processes in the Company. You can ‘Down load’ it from them and make them in to ‘E-Learning’ Lessons that can be useful for the whole organization. The Old Timers can be the center piece for the Knowledge Management System in a company.
02. Give genuine respect:Experience is traditionally respected in our culture. We bow to people who are aged and experienced. Honor this tradition in your company genuinely. These are principles and should be followed strictly.
03. Expose them to new areas:The Old Timers can get a ‘New Comer’ feeling if they are put in an unfamiliar territory within the Organization. But, this should be tried only after you use their experience. Otherwise they would get a feeling that they are worthless and being shunted around. We want people around to feel good about themselves. We don’t want them to feel they are worthless. A Mature Leader would agree with this approach.
04. Give them higher responsibility:Let them handle a few areas by themselves as they are experienced. They may fail. But ,that is the way to make them move. By putting your trust in them, you would be showing your good will. If they fail, they will ‘feel’ about it. A Creative tension would start within them to ‘Grow’. Put your Trust in the ‘human nature’.
05. Earn their respect:The Young Manager should not look to bossing over the Old timer due to his/her designation only. The Young Manager should earn the respect of people around him/her with his/her work culture that may be biased towards action.
06. Team feedback:It would be good to let the team give the feedback to each other. If there are 10 people in a team, each person should get a feedback from the other 9 on Commitment, Coordination and Cooperation. Peer feedback is very powerful. If the person feels that only his/her boss is not happy with him/her, the Corrective action may not be strong. But, if he/she knows that 7 out of 9 people are asking him/her to change, then you have a better chance.
07. Don’t make it ‘we vs them’:Unknowingly ,the Managers may push the Old Timers in to one group making it more difficult to themselves. Partner with the Old Timers genuinely and as you may do with anyone else. Do not create groups in the organization with your actions.
I feel the Old Timers in a Manufacturing Company are very valuable and every Company should manage them actively.
During my career, I have met many wonderful Managers/Leaders. Loved working with all of them. When I observe their growth and performance in their careers, I notice that there are very small percentage of the Leaders who are highly effective on the ground. These are the System Builders / Trail Blazers. Others also would have been successful in their own scale. But, on my scale a very small percentage of people are able to deliver on a scale that will help companies / Functions to transform themselves. These are the people who set their own standards around them. They are not satisfied unless they push the boundaries of Excellence.
Indian Manufacturing needs such Leaders in Thousands. We are a Country that is obsessed with Cricket. In Cricket as we can see the Team has transformed itself over the past decade or so and the type of Cricket that our team plays is based on Aggression and Self-Confidence. We need Kohlis , Dhonis and Rohits in our Indian Manufacturing! We need to develop the Confidence that we can set the BEST standards in the world and maintain them. We need to believe that we are no less than anyone else in the world in terms of Quality and Excellence.
So, what makes the small percentage of Managers different that they are able to deliver much more than others?
In my view, the following are essential for a Manager to Deliver ‘Life Transforming’ Improvements to Companies.
01. Good People Managers: These Managers or better to say Leaders are good with People. They are not ‘Popular’ Leaders who try to either please the Boss or please the team. They are highly focused on the task with a perfect blend of concern for People. This concern for people is different in that they do not try to just please them with small things. They are concerned about the People and want them to step up in their life. So, they are happier letting the team work hard, stretch and set a new standard. There is nothing more motivating to a Team than achieving some big result and becoming part of a ‘Winning team’. Each of us may get such experiences probably 2 or utmost 3 times in a career. Let me say that you would have a better chance to participate in such experiences if you are a Coach !! JJYou can touch that many more People / Companies.
02. Translocating learning: These Leaders are good at Learning in one context, taking the learning to another context, modifying it to suit the situation and implementing the learning to get Big results! This is a very rare skill and I have not seen many people possessing it. Many of us are good at Learning or so do we think. I would say someone is a good learner if he/she can use the learning in a different situation with some modifications. You would have learnt TPM / TQM principles in your life. I have seen many people who try to implement the principles very rigidly saying ‘this is how it has to be done’. But, the Effective Leaders know how to modify their learning to suit the new situation.
03. Having Vision and Clarity about next step: Many of us are either good at envisioning the future or we are good at doing something today. Very few Leaders are clear about both. The Effective Leaders can envision the future clearly and also be clear about the steps that we have to take today / tomorrow / next week and so on. Linking the present to the future is a very important skill that is not seen commonly. This is the big reason for companies to be rooted in future and routed at work on a daily basis !
04. Hands on : Effective Leaders are always hands on as required. They know when to get in to the Shop floor and when to bring people to the Conference hall. Most often they get in to the Shop floor (Shop floor for a Sales Person is the Market) when they introduce some new approach. They would like to work along with the team to see whether the new practice will work.
05. Passionate: Effective Leaders use their heart. A Leader who does not have his/her heart in the work cannot deliver superlative results! Treating a Job as ‘Just a Job’ that gives monthly salary is not okay. The Effective Leader will motivate his team to work with heart. The heart has to motivate us in the right way. We have to use the Positive energy of heart and minimise the negative energy.
06. Can Learn on their feet: Today the Businesses are changing very fast and the environment around us is changing very fast. Effective Leaders are capable of Learning on their feet. They adapt to the new situations and help their teams to adapt easily. They are not stuck with ‘one best way of getting results’.
07. Holding on to what they believe in: While the Effective leaders are not stubborn people, they have to be holding on to what they believe will bring result as they are the trail blazers. They often chose path less trodden or never trodden. That is why they get superior results. They are the ‘aberration’ in otherwise ‘Boss/Team pleasing’ crowd around them. Many of us may feel they are stubborn people. But, otherwise they can’t be different and produce ‘different results’. Bosses would be wise to encourage such people.
Are you an Effective Manager ? How can you improve yourself ?