People closest to the work have the best ideas of how and what to change.
Let’s examine this simple yet powerful statement.
First people, which ones are we talking about? The employees. Which employees? The hardworking folks that directly handle and build the products and provide the services your customers receive. They are the people doing the value- added activities – activities that change the form, fit or function of your products or services. These are the activities that an external customer is willing to pay for.
The people that do these duties day over day are absolutely critical to have involved in continuous improvement. Why? Because their input is valued by customers. What, how and why they do their work in the current way directly impacts the customer experience. Leadership must respect their efforts in the work as it currently is done and ask them for creative ideas as it relates to improving process and methods. They may need assistance with seeing the gap for what it is. Now the gap, the problems that show in various forms. Should leadership respect people when quality is unstable and producing less than desirable outcomes? Yes. Absolutely yes! For the very simple fact that people want to get it right. Most people want to be measurably successful on a daily basis, and yet curiously are not allowed the combined resources, support and leadership to improve their what, how and why. And so, the “standard” is the current condition. You work and we (management) measure.
And here is the challenge for leadership. These people are busy working and providing services daily. Yet most organizations have pressing needs to improve processes regularly. Are current metrics for performance of Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost and others consistently hitting the targets? Likely there is room for improvement. So, the challenge becomes finding and striking a balance of simultaneously working in and on the business as a matter of routine. Not managers and engineers working on others process to improve then handing over directives that say “here is the new method, now go do it” as traditional management would have it. But active empowering leadership that calls for as an approach to scheduling those hardworking people out and allowing them to work with others (engineers, IT, HR, Production etc.) on their collective processes through structured kaizen and on the business as a vital strategy. It is again Continuous Improvement, not “When We have a Convenient Time Improvement”
The work is theirs. No one else understands the work better, or the process better, whether well defined, poorly defined or undefined at all. No one but they know better how the equipment actually works for the simple reason of the hours spent working with it. For service people, no one knows better the conditions of interfacing with the customer on a daily basis and the challenges to process. The statement of “People closest to the Work Have the Best Ideas of how and what to Change” is hinged on the guiding principle of Respect for People, it is the very best approach to continuous improvement and ultimately sustainable results. We want the ideas that bring about improvement to process to come through their collective minds and hands so they (collectively we) can enjoy and support the long-term benefits of improved standards and sustained improvement.
May you lead the advancing, empowering call for working with people on improving the business as a matter of regular, daily routine. And may you practice the respected mission of kaizen- with people, not to people, as a core method of engagement.
What do you think?