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.