A story I tell shopfloor staff when they express doubt over the benefits of High-Performance Teams or mini-businesses, whatever you want to call them, is as follows:
A few years ago, as a new Production Manager at a busy site, I attended my very first Production Meeting.
A small room, maybe 12 or 15 Supervisors, Assistant Managers and support functions.
6.30 a.m., meeting begins, Ops Director walks in, and for the next 5 minutes, tears a strip off everyone in the room.
‘You failed. Again. Missed target. Missed crucial deliveries. Let customers down.
Maybe he should come and spend the day on the line himself. Is that what it would take?’
Then he left.
Wow. I said, “How often does that happen?”
It’s funny to me now. The Ops Director, it turns out, is a wonderful guy who I still keep in touch with.
He was, of course, under enormous pressure from above and was, at that point, at the end of his tether.
I asked the team why they'd missed target:
A broken down machine that couldn’t get fixed in time to make a difference.
Several staff sick. Backlog from the previous shift. Material shortages.
“So why didn’t you tell him?”
I suggested that, starting with the upcoming shift, they record every incident that held them back.
But they were to bring those explanations and repeat them in the Production Meeting the following day.
This way, the Business, as represented in this instance by the Ops Director, could be made aware of their responsibilities to help eliminate those issues.
Over the next few shifts the team slowly got the hang of explaining the reasons for hitting or missing target.
This developed over the next few months into a dialogue that led to a calmer, more collaborative, more productive, Production Meeting.
Roughly two months after I joined, the Ops Director told me he wouldn’t be attending the Meetings anymore as he felt everything was under control and would attend only when the team thought it necessary.
As I tell this story to attendees, the point I make is that, whilst the Business has no problem explaining, in great detail, their expectations of the shopfloor staff, they often forget to return the favour.
In High Performance Teams, the shopfloor is divided into teams, and individual members given responsibility for the various business-crucial functions such as Safety, Quality, Maintenance, etc.
These representatives are able to give the necessary feedback to the Business regarding the need for resources as they encounter obstacles.
It becomes clear, during the telling of this story, that the High Performance Team concept allows for dialogue between the Business and the shopfloor.
Dialogue that under any other circumstance would not take place.