September 16, 2016

I’ve been spending the majority of my time this week with two clients:  one is preparing to go live on a new ERP system and the other is working to improve service levels by implementing improved planning and order flow processes.  Although these specific objectives are nothing alike, they have much in common.  Both have countless numbers of small issues arise on a daily basis – and some quite large ones thrown into the mix.  It is just the nature of the beast in manufacturing environments.  And, so we need to uncover the root cause of the preponderance of the issues instead of playing the blame game!

Unfortunately many of my clients are hard wired to worry about the blame game and related politics.  Imagine how much quicker and better progress could be made if we focused on the root cause.  Rarely if ever is that root cause due to a specific person.  Instead, the likely categories include (in lean terms): method (process), machines, manpower (resource shortage, skills shortage etc.), and material.  If we think about our issues from this point-of-view, suddenly, we aren’t attacking each other; we are attacking the problem jointly.

And, I’d like to state boldly that it makes no difference if you are in a lean environment or whether you agree with lean principles.  It is just common sense to just think of categories of causes unrelated to blaming specific people!

One tip to implement this week:
The good news is that there is VAST progress that can be made in a week.  Simply stop blaming people.  Instead, think about the root cause.  Even if you think it comes back to a person, look for every other potential cause that could help that person be successful.  If they had a new process and were trained on the new process, could they perform the job?  If they were overloaded, would he/she have made the mistake?

Practice talking in these terms.  Instead of complaining about Mary or Steve, how could you re-phrase your concern into a productive conversation?  Hold off until you’ve thought about it.  At a minimum, I bet you’ll waste less time.