Category Archives: Uncategorized

Work-Life Balance

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A frequent lament I’ve been hearing for the last 30 years is “Today’s kids don’t have the work ethic of their parents.”

Interestingly, the frequency of this type of statement is inversely proportional to the local unemployment rate. When unemployment is low, then companies start to notice that their employees become less “sticky”. They leave their job and move on to something else.

Typically this is a natural phenomena. If there are more jobs than people to fill them, the employee becomes the “price makers.” They pick and choose from a menu of employment options. When there are not enough jobs available, the opposite occurs and employees become “price takers”; they take whatever is available.

Today’s employees have more choices than they have typically had in the past. There are jobs out there; especially in the skilled trades. It’s natural for people to want to move on to greener pastures when they are out there and techology makes them easy to find.

There are other conditions aside from unemployment which are driving today’s workforce down a different “loyalty path” than their parent’s took. The new generation is marrying later, they are living at home longer and they are on their parent’s healthcare plan. In short, they have less of a need for job security; at least in the short run.

Companies are scrambling to get their heads around this generation. What do they want? How can you keep them from leaving? How can you attract them in the first place?

This is a complicated issue and there is no shortage of research on this subject. However, it looks like it comes down the following four issues: (1) Today’s workforce wants to be involved. They want you to ask them what they think. (2) Today’s workforce likes technology. They don’t want to read a bulletin board, they want to read their I-Pad. (3) Today’s workforce wants recognition. This is not something new but still, it’s high on their priority list. And (4) Today’s workforce places a very high value on Work-Life balance.

It’s this last issue, Work-Life balance, which is probably the most complicated. It’s complicated because each individual has their own idea about what this means. Does it mean job security with predictable days off? Does it mean ready access to as much overtime as you want? Does it mean having weekends off or not working nights? Does it mean a flexible work schedule? Does it mean having the ability to work harder so you can go farther or does it mean getting as much time off as possible?

Work-Life balance is complicated. It’s also the number one reason companies have come to Shiftwork Solutions over the last couple of years. Our process gets the workforce involved. Our process identifies ways to achieve Work-Life balance while meeting the needs of a company.

Companies are “in the business of being in business.” Still, it’s important to remember, “if you take care of your workforce, they will take care of your company and it will take care of the workforce…etc.”

The biggest key to making employees “sticky” again; the key to attracting them in the first place, is to focus on Work-Life balance. Only they know what that means. The trick is to allow them to express themselves with regards to this important issue. Once you have this information, the next step is to create an environment that helps them to achieve this balance.

This is what I do.

For more information, you can contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or call me at (415) 25-1621.

A bird in the hand

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I help companies change schedules. I do this for a living.

Some people think the hardest part is coming up with a schedule. Generally speaking, that is the easiest part of my job. Helping people to overcome the anxiety of change is much more complicated.

I will give a short example here.

Companies that use schedules to cover 24/7, typically use 4 crews, each averaging 42 hours a week and thus providing coverage for the 168 hours in the week. This is just math and says nothing about the schedule. Each crew could work forty-two, 1-hour shifts or a singe 42-hour shift; both would provide the coverage needed.

The reality is that most people prefer 8-hour or 12-hour shifts. In fact, over the last 20 years, 12-hour shifts are selected by 95% of the companies I work with. They choose 12’s for 2 reasons: (1) more days off and (2) 8-hour shifts must rotate (to work properly).

Let’s start with the “more days off”. On a 12-hour schedule, you would work 182 12-hour shifts in a year for a total of 2,184 hours of work. On an 8-hour shift, you would work 273 8-hour shifts in a year; also working 2,184 hours. So, 12-hour shifts provide 91 more days off per year.

As far as rotating is concerned, with 8-hour shifts, you have 4 crews to cover 3 shifts a day. Either one of those crews must rotate or all of them must rotate. This mean sometimes working 7:00 am to 3:00 pm and sometimes working 11:00 pm to 7:00 am or 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm. On 12’s, two crews cover Day shift and two crews cover Night shift. No need to rotate.

Now, shift workers love getting more days off. They also hate to rotate. This explains why I see so many of them choosing to go to 12-hour shifts to cover 24/7.

But what about that 5% that don’t want 12-hour shifts?

In every instance, this group is already covering 24/7. Not only that, they are already on an 8-hour shift.

When I ask “Don’t you want fixed shifts? Don’t you want 91 more days off a year without your pay being affected?”

They answer is “Yes…but I will have to come in on those days off to cover other people.”

This happens to be true. However, it will only happen around 10 times a year. So, you get an extra 91 days off a year, but on 10 of those extra days off, you will have to come in and work overtime.

They hear this. They understand the logic and then say, “I would rather get 91 days off per year on my 8-hour schedule than to get 182 days off on a 12-hour schedule when 10 of those 182 days off will have to be worked as overtime.”

Note, there is also overtime on the 8-hour schedule but instead of coming in on a day off, they hold over or come in early for 4 hours. So, 120 hours of overtime becomes 30 instances of adding 4 hours to an 8-hour schedule or coming in on 10 days off on a 12-hour schedule.

Take someone that is currently on a 5-day schedule and they will shake their head at this logic. There is no way they would choose a rotating schedule with only 91 days off per over a fixed shift schedule with 182 days off per year.

This goes to demonstrate the massive amount of “schedule inertia” that must be overcome to implement a change.

People like what they have even if they don’t like it very much.

Any question? Call me at (415) 265-1621 or email me at Jim@shift-work.com

Management By Walking Around

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Wage pressure is here.

Every site I go to the number one issue is “How can we get the people we need to produce at the level we need to produce?”

A facility struggles to find and keep qualified people and then a competitor opens the doors across the street.

What to do.

The short, and expensive answer is to raise wages.  Not just any wages; you need to raise entry level wages if you are looking to attract more employees.  You need to raise all wages if you want to keep employees.

This is Wage Economics 101.

We can get caught up in the “wages solve everything” train of thought but then we lose track of the fact that wages are not the only reason people come to work for you.

This brings me to the subject of this post: Management by walking around.

I was recently at a manufacturing facility where they were struggling with getting people in the door.  There was a lot of local competition for the same level of worker within a 20 mile radius.

This particular site was paying wages slightly below the median level.  This understandably made it hard to compete for new employees.  However, this company was having very little trouble retaining existing employees; employees that knew they could make more money for similar work just a mile down the road.

I was curious about this and went about interviewing people as to why they liked working there.  Overwhelmingly the answer was: “I like the people I work with.”  Nine out of ten gave this as their primary reason for working there.

Now, add to this equation, the plant manager; a young, very bright and energetic man.  He took me on a tour and introduced me to everyone we met.  He knew their first names.  He knew how many children they each had.  He knew who was in school.  In short, he knew everything about the 200 employees there as if they were his friends.

And that’s how he treated them.

It was clear that he was in charge.  If he saw a leak, he’d point it out to maintenance and they got after it.  If a machine was having a problem, he’d ask the operator what he, the Plant Manager, could do to help.

There was mutual respect across the board.

This manager spent a lot of time on the floor.  Mostly, I think, so that his people would see him seeing them.  His presence never had the feel of an inspection.  Rather, he was there to help them do their jobs.  The employees were working hard, but not for some unseen boss behind a closed door.  They were working for the man in the smile that knew them as if they were family.

This was a great place to work and I’m enjoying my time there.

It all started with the Plant Manager.  His positive attitude moved down through the ranks until the newest hire felt like he was an important part of what was going on around him.

Yes, wages are the big player when it comes to attracting and retaining quality employees.  But remember, its not the only game in town.

Jim

 

Peripheral Vision

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Once, back in my Navy days, I was the Chief Engineer on a cruiser.  This was a 24/7 job where it seemed that everything was a priority all of the time.  I was having a conversation with the commanding officer about setting priorities and he said, “When in doubt, shoot the wolf closest to the sled.”

I’ll never forget that bit of advice and it has served me well over the years.

However, if you are not in a perpetual crisis mode, if you are in the game for the long run, this may not be the right advice for you.

Focusing in on one issue can cause any of the following problems: (1) you may miss an opportunity because you ignore a complementary issue that would be easily solved in parallel with your current one, (2) Fixing your issue may cause another issue to pop up somewhere else, (3) Building a coalition with others allows you to get help on your issue in return for help on someone else’s issue and (5) The squeaky wheel gets the grease, not necessarily the one that needs is the most.

At Shiftwork Solutions, we are most often asked: Do you have schedules?  Do you engage the workforce?  Can you tell us how many people we need to staff to our needs?

The answers to all of these is YES!  Those are easy things to do.  However, if these are the only issues addressed, your shift scheduling solution will almost certainly be less successful than its full potential.

Let me give you an example:  A bakery with 750 employees wants to go to a 24/7 operation.  They need a schedule.  They would like to engage the workforce.  They want to know how many people they will need to hire.

We know that a schedule change in production has many more moving parts than just a day-on-day-off pattern.  It’s time to use our Peripheral Vision; looking for those out of focus issues that are part of the whole but are not currently right in front of us.  For this project, we also looked at the following:

  1. What are your labor alternatives (temps, part time, full time and overtime).  What do each of these alternatives cost and what makes each of them advantageous in their own way?
  2. When do you do sanitation and why?  Can you do fewer sanitations?  Can you do shorter sanitations?  What is the limiting factor on how fast you can do a sanitation?  Are there capital improvements that will help?  How much will these cost and how much will they save?
  3. When do you do R&D?  Is if flexible?  Is it consistent?
  4. How much maintenance is needed: Weekly, daily, preventative or corrective?  How are you currently staffed to conduct maintenance?  Does that schedule match your needs or do you find you are both understaffed and overstaffed within the same week?
  5. Can we do things like changeovers, maintenance and sanitation in parallel rather than in series (at the same time instead of one after the other)?
  6. What is the cost of capital?  What is the Net Present Value of a delay in acquiring major equipment?
  7. Are sales variable or flat.  Are they growing?
  8. What is the shelf-life of your product?  How fast do you turn over your warehouse?  Do you co-pack or use co-packers?
  9. What are the goals corporate has given you to meet?
  10. If we solved this problem, would it come up again in a year or two?
  11. Was is the local employment level?  What is your competition for labor doing that you are not?
  12. How long does it take to train for different critical positions?
  13. What’s your turnover; especially in critical positions?
  14. How is your quality department staffed in relation to production?
  15. Are your vendors and outside material providers flexible enough to meet any schedule that you put in place?  If not, what are their restrictions?
  16. Do you consider your first line supervisors superior or adequate?  Do you promote from within or bring in outsiders?
  17. Is the workforce accustomed to participating in some production decisions?
  18. Do you have a continuous improvement program?  How advanced do you consider it?  Is there a way that a better schedule can facilitate this effort?
  19. What is your OSHA recordable rate?  How does this compare to the industry standard?  Why do you think you are doing so well or so poorly?

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts.  Nothing is ever static.  All of these are in a constant state of flux.   Priorities shift back and forth and every day there is a different wolf that is closest to the sled.

We know this because at Shiftwork Solutions we have 30 years of experience working with companies to address all of these issues – in unison.

Anything short will give you a less than optimal solution to whatever situation you are looking into at the moment.

For more information, you can call me, Jim at (415) 265-1621.

 

Workforce Scheduling for Food Manufacturing

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Over the last 30 years, we at Shiftwork Solutions have worked with dozens of food manufacturing facilities.  One thing that always strikes us is how complicated their production requirement are.

While a typical manufacturing facility will say “Our overtime is too high” or “We need to increase capacity”, a food manufacturer will use these statements as only a beginning.

In this post, I’m going to cover some of the “Low Hanging Fruit”; those things that we go after when optimizing a food manufacturing plant.

Product Demand: Most food manufacturing facilities experience some degree of variability in their demand.  For example, soft drink demand drops off in the winter while potato chip demand goes up as the Super Bowl approaches.  The questions to answer are: (1) How big is the swing? (2) How predictable is the swing? (3) What are your labor options (Full Time v. Temps)? (4) What is the cost of training v. retaining?  Are you willing to lose skills during the slow time?  If not, what is the cost of keeping them around so they are there when you need them? (5) Can shelf life be used in such a way as to allow flatted production while the warehouse fills and empties? (6) If you have multiple plants, can you keep some higher performers at capacity and allow the poorer performers handle the variability?

Product Mix: If all lines make the same thing all the time, this is not an issue.  However, this is almost never the case. The questions to answer are: (1) Does line X always take the same amount of people to run when it is running?  If not, what is the variability? (2) Can multiple lines produce the same products or is each line the only line that can make certain products? (3) What is the cost of training your workforce to be able to operate multiple lines?

Sanitation: This is something 100% of food manufacturers must deal with.  A typical solution is “We shut down at night or on the weekend to clean”.  This isn’t a bad idea except for 3 things: (1) Every time you shut down, you must start up.  Start-ups are the least productive times for your lines.  (2) Every time you shut down, you must clean.  Cleaning = labor dollars.  Shut down fewer times you will clean fewer times.  (3) While you are cleaning, you are not producing.  Why shut down for 8 hours (and lose 8 hours of productivity) when you really only need 4 hours?  Scheduling sanitation to occur when you need it and only in the quantities you require will increase equipment availability and decrease labor costs.

Maintenance: When companies contact us, they are usually capacity constrained.  This means maintenance has been pushed to the very edge of the week – Saturdays and Sundays.  This can result in poor accomplishment rates as mechanics rush to fix everything in a very tight window.  Spreading operations across more days will allow maintenance to be spread out as well.  For example, if you go to a 24/7 production schedule, it does not matter when you take a line down, so take it down when you are able to do your best work.

Other areas that need to be considered are R&D, Quality, Supervision, Distribution and Planning.  Leave out any of these puzzle pieces and you will not get the complete result you are after.

You can contact me at:

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

 

Staffing? <-Good Question

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Considerations for answering – How Many Do I Hire?

I’m a shiftwork expert so my posts are always centered on shiftwork operations.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that a non-shiftwork operation might find helpful.  My hope is that every reader of every post is able to find value.

Most of my work, about 70%, is with companies that want to expand their operations while minimizing capital investment.  Basically, I help answer the question “How can I get more out of the equipment I already have?”

Once that’s been determined, my bread and butter is “process and implementation”.  I help them find where they want to go.  I valuate that destination and then I help them to get there.

One question is always “How many people do I have to add to get to where we want to go?”

There are short and long answers to this question.

If you are running three shifts, Monday – Friday and want to go to a 24/7 operation, you need to add 33% more operators.  You will also need to add another supervisor.

That was the short answer.

Here is the longer one…

This is really more of a list of considerations rather than The Long Answer.

First we have to land on an overtime number.  This is more than just creating an arbitrary goal of so many days or hours of work in a row.  Try answering the following questions for a start:

  • How much overtime do you want to have?
  • What does overtime cost (cost to company not income to earner) as opposed to fully loaded straight time?
  • What is the workforce’s appetite for overtime?
  • Is the process seasonal in that sometimes you need more people than other times? What is the level of operator specialization?
  • What is your turnover?
  • What is the lead time between needing a new hire to having a fully trained person?

The overtime issue is a big one since, with a fixed workload, overtime is a function of staffing.  More people = lower overtime.

If production is going to run more days, what does this imply for support operations?  Will quality, maintenance and sanitation requirements be expanded? Often the answers is something like this:

  • Quality will be affected slightly.  They will need more people but not 33% more.  Maybe something like 10% more.
  • Maintenance will actually become more efficient as you no longer have to be staffed at a level where you can fix everything on a weekend.  When running 24/7, maintenance is often spread out on the more productive weekday shifts.  This may actually lower your maintenance staffing.
  • Sanitation crews sometimes drop to zero staffing.  This is because 24/7 operations no longer sanitize in accordance with a fixed day or time of day schedule.  Instead, they run for as long as they can and then the operators simply become sanitors and clean up their own lines; starting back up as quickly as possible.

You don’t need 33% more Plant Managers, HR Managers or Engineers.  There is definitely a “cheaper by the dozen” affect when it comes to many of the higher level non-direct labor positions.

Clearly, if production goes to a 24/7 pattern, not everyone at the plant needs to do so as well.  In fact, there is a good chance, depending on your operation, that not all of production needs to go.  It’s not unusual for some lines to go to 24/7 while others remain on a 5-day schedule.  In some instances, running your high volume equipment more hours will actually take fewer people instead of more if you are able to retire some of you older, more labor intensive capital.

So there you have it….the longer answer.

The point here is that you need to do your homework.  Look at the fully loaded cost of a single employee.  Hire too many and things start to get expensive in a hurry.  My rule of thumb is to initially staff lean when in doubt.  If you are wrong, you can use overtime until you get the staffing right.  Coming in with too many people to start with will cause “income shock” to those that just lost all of their overtime AND you run the risk of overstaffing which is expensive and only fixable by painful layoffs.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at:

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

 

 

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule

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Shift schedules rarely fail overnight.  Typically, there are plenty of warning signs; signs that tell you to take action before it’s too late.  Here are the 5 biggest warning signs.

#1: You have idle equipment while still not producing enough to meet customer demands.  There can be a lot of reasons for this; nearly all of which point to a schedule that does not have the right people in the right place at the right time.  Product flow, staffing, maintenance and production order variability can all be addressed with the right shiftwork structure.

#2: Maintenance is blaming equipment availability for a downward trend in equipment up-time.  You can’t fix something while it’s running.  The result is often and solution like “We’ll wait until the weekend to fix it.”  This is fine until you find that leaving too much to the weekend ends up with an overly fatigued maintenance group with not enough hours on the weekend to fix everything.  Scheduling equipment, like scheduling people, can improve maintenance accomplishment while still getting the production hours you need.

#3: Absenteeism is going up as overtime starts to wear down your workforce.  As overtime goes up, two things will happen.  First of all, your workforce will start to get tired.  Secondly, they will notice that they are now making a lot of money and can afford to take time off.  This is a “death spiral”  situation in that it is self-perpetuating and will only get worse.  Staffing will impact overtime but to do so effectively, you must have a shiftwork structure to support the newly resized workforce.

#4: Local competition for labor is causing problems with recruitment and retention.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like “Amazon just opened a mega-facility down the street and is hiring all of our employees away from us.”  The right schedule, one that is a good fit for your workforce as well as your business can help with this.  If wages are a concern, look for ways to get overtime to that 20% of your workforce that wants all they can get.  Overtime costs your company about the same as fully loaded straight time.  This means when you pay overtime, your employees make 50% more but your cost per hour is virtually unaffected.  Don’t lose your workforce because of wage pressures or quality of life issues.  The right shiftwork structure can help.

#5: Productivity metrics are dropping as equipment runtime-hours are on the rise.  If you are running more an more hours with the same old schedule, then you are probably seeing an increase in overtime.  While overtime is not a bad idea in many instances, it can eventually lead to worker fatigue.  This is especially true if you spread it evenly across all shifts.  Remember, not all employees want the same amount of overtime.  As fatigue goes up, so will accidents, quality issues and absenteeism.  You make find, for example, that running 6 days a week yields more output than running 5 days.  However, if you didn’t change schedules, a 20% increase in runtime will yield significantly less than a 20% increase in output.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact of having the right shiftwork structure.  Fixing this issue is often the most expeditious and cost effective way of improving your overall operations.

For more information, call me, Jim Dillingham, at (415) 265-1621 or drop me a line at Jim@shift-work.com

The impact of overtime on salaried personnel

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Since president Obama signed (28 May 2016) legislation raising the minimum bar for salaried people to qualify for overtime, I have been getting two questions: (1) What does this mean and (2) How does it affect my shiftwork operation.

The answer to the first if fairly straight forward.  If you have a salaried person at your facility that is being paid less than $47, 476 a year, then you must pay overtime at the rate of time and one-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a pay week.

The second is less clear.  My hope is that a few observations on my part will help you to see the impact for your operation.

First of all, I will be speaking to the roll of direct supervision of hourly employees in a shiftwork operation.  This is often an industrial setting but need not be so.

Supervisors are typically salaried.  Sometimes they are home-grown in that they come from the existing hourly workforce.  Sometimes they are brought in from the outside.

This new overtime rule means that if you are paying your supervisors less than about $26 an hour, then you must pay them overtime when they work over 40 hours in a week.

Let’s be clear, someone coming to work for a wage or any other benefit represents and agreement between two parties: (1) the employer and (2) the employee.

The employer says “I will compensate you this way if you work here.”  The employee says “I will work there for this compensation.”

To this extent, the law may be self correcting.  Employers faced with paying overtime may offer a lower starting salary while employees, may accept a lower starting salary knowing that overtime will be added to it.

Now, “compensation” can mean a lot of things.  Historically, being promoted to a supervision role means that you get more money per hour.  However, this does not always correspond to “more money overall.”  Frequently, supervisors get a higher hourly rate (paid as salary) but then lose out on what may have been a significant amount of income from overtime; overtime they are no longer eligible for.  There is no shortage of people that have turned down salaried roles because they didn’t want the pay cut.

Management often argues, correctly, that the compensation for supervision goes beyond wages.  Salaried positions often make “decision makers” out of “decision takers.”  For many, the draw of a position of responsibility can be huge.

Salaried positions sometime pay overtime-type wages if you come in on a day off while not paying it if you work a longer than scheduled day.

Salaried positions sometimes offer compensatory time off if you work extra hours.

Managers hire a salaried person and tell them “This amount of salary includes compensation for the expected extra hours you will work.”  In other words, they are saying that they are building the overtime wages into the offered salary.

Maybe there is a company car or free lunches or better vacation.

Probably one of the biggest reasons someone will take on a salaried position is that it represents a stepping stone to something even bigger; perhaps a promotion to the level of really big dollars.

In the end, it still comes down to the agreement.  Compensation = Filled Position.

If you are paying your supervisor less than $47,476 per year,  then I have to say, “You get what you pay for.”  I know that can be harsh in certain markets that only provide the thinnest of margins.  Still, good leaders are hard to come by.  There is competition for them and if you don’t pay them enough, they will leave for greener pastures.

Of all the companies I have worked with over the last 28 years, probably none of them paid less than the $47K bar set for overtime wages (in today’s dollars).  Discussion about this law states that it protects 4.2 million salaried employees.  In truth, they may be protected but are probably not affected.

In short, the impact of this law is far more political than practical.  Chances are great that you will be unaffected in some major way.

Change Management

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Let’s suppose someone walked into your office and said, “I just did some math and it looks like we need to make a change.” At that moment, you should realize that the easy part of Change Management has just been completed.

Yes, I’m saying that “Math is the easy part.” Putting pen to paper and arriving at a conclusion that calls for change requires only an idea and mostly high school level math skills. This is really only step one in what could be a long and complicated process.

Step One: Identify the change to be made.

This post is not about Step One. It’s about all of the other steps that must follow in order for change to be successfully implemented. Consider this the Cliff Notes on Change from someone who has spent the last 28 years making the most complicated and emotionally loaded change a company can undertake – changing shift schedules.

Here is how I do it…in no particular order:

Communicate. Talk to the people who are affected; letting them know the Why’s, When’s and How’s. Talk to the people that are unaffected but near the periphery of the change. They will hear rumors and if you leave them out of it, they will assume the worse.

Find the Feather. In every change, there are going to be good things and bad things; not necessarily balanced and not necessarily spread equally across all affected parties. Look for the “feather in the cap” as it may apply to everyone involved. Give them something to look forward to; something positive that will result from the change. Don’t leave it to them to find this for themselves.

Communicate. When telling people about the change, don’t overwhelm your audience. Too much information too quickly will result in the opposite of what you hope to occur. Instead of understanding, you will create confusion. With confusion comes anger and resistance. Meter out your information in digestible chunks.

Perspective: Understand the perspective of your stakeholders. I guarantee it’s not the same as yours. For you to address their issues, you need to know what they are concerned about as well as what they value. For example, when changing shift schedules, the workforce will care very little about how such a change strengthens a company’s competitive position. They care about how it affects their income and their time off.

Communicate. Do not hide the downside of a change. In fact, actively bring it up. Doing so will let your audience know that what you are proposing isn’t just a snow job. They will see downsides and you ignoring them will seem disingenuous. In presentations, always address the elephant in the room early on. People will know it’s there and they won’t hear a thing you say until you address it.

Create Ownership. Actively look for degrees of freedom when multiple options will lead you to the same result. Next, solicit input from your stakeholders as to what options they would most like to see pursued. They may also have options you may not have considered. In short, get them involved in the solution. If the change reflects, at least in part, input from affected parties, those parties will be more likely to support the outcome.

Communicate. (As you can see by now, I’m a proponent of communication.) When deciding what to communicate, be aware of The Fear of the Unknown. In the face of unanswered questions, people will make up their own answers. This is not a good thing. We all inherently have what is known as a negative bias. In short, our survival skills depend on our never underestimating a situation. We assume the worse because the penalty for being wrong is less than if we mistakenly assume the best. For example: Caveman Jim sees a brown blob off to the right. He can assume it’s a bear and run or he can assume it’s a rock and ignore it. If it’s a rock but he wrongly assumed it was a bear, he ran away for no reason. If he assumes it’s a rock and ignores it, but it’s a bear, then caveman Jim is going to have a bad day. To overcome this negative bias, eliminate the unknown. Communicate clearly and often. Perfect information makes for smoother change processes.

Leadership. Understand that there are different leadership styles and different situations call for different styles. Coach others to help achieve your goals when possible. Be authoritative as needed but remember, people don’t like to be told what to do. Coercive styles are rarely productive. Look for ways to empower people. Treat them with respect. Listen and respond. You want people to follow your lead by choice, not by directive.

Communicate. I’ve heard over the years that people need to hear things at least 3 times before they sink in. While this may not be a law of physics, it certainly seems to be good advice. Not only must you communicate the same message several times, you must do so using different methodologies. Group meetings are great, as are PowerPoint presentations; but they don’t work for everyone. Some people will just want to spend some informal time with the “message giver” to help them better understand what is being communicated. Some people need to read a message instead of hearing it. Many of us need some “soak time” that will allow us to process a message before we can respond. Look for innovative ways to communicate the same messages multiple times.

The 5% rule. It has been my experience that 5% of every workforce, managers included, come to work to say “no”. They are like Eeyore on Winnie the Pooh. “It will never work.” I’m not going to tell you to disregard someone that says this. After all, they may have a point. What I’m going to recommend is that you don’t over-empower these nay-sayers. Accept the fact that you will not get everyone on board with your plan. Trying to do so will have the following two consequences: (1) Your plan will eventually morph into something you didn’t originally intend and (2) You will never get that 5% on board anyway.

Communicate. Don’t put this on your to-do list and then cross it off when completed. You will never be done communicating. From conception to congratulations, communications will play a vital role in the success of any change process. Communicate timing. Communicate intent. Communicate changes in the plan. Communicate recognition. Communicate progress. Then communicate some more.

And finally, all change is loss and all loss must be grieved. I don’t say this as a low note. It is an inevitable part of life. Accept it, not as a roadblock to be overcome but as a sign that you have in fact reached that point where the inevitability of change has arrived and it is time to move on; time to implement that change. We get over this grief. Sometimes we need help but we always get over it. In the end, you will have made a change for the better.

You can contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or call at (415) 265-1621

Jim Dillingham, Partner

Shiftwork Solutions LLC

 

Preparation is part of Doing

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I just saw a post on LinkedIn where a LEAN expert mentioned that 20% of implementing LEAN is having the right tools. The other 80% is mindset. In other words, the table must be set in order for dinner to be served.

It strikes me that this is an “oft-overlooked” phase of every project.

I worked with a company charged with writing software for an entire state’s medical insurance program. There were several hundred programmers; all of them busy all of the time. As I began my process of evaluating the workload in preparation for a schedule change I was surprised at what most of their work consisted of.

When I asked, “What do you spend your time doing every day?” The average answer came back as “I spend 80% of my time with my customer, identifying their needs. I spend the remaining 20% writing code.” Another instance of “measuring twice before cutting once”.

I recently had a deck at my house painted. It took about 20 hours. This wasn’t a large deck and I expected it to take much less time (although I wasn’t in a hurry). As I watched the painters work, I noticed that nearly all of their time was spend sanding and taping off different areas. When it come to actually painting…that took no time at all.

Whether its implementing a LEAN program or writing code or painting a deck, preparation is the key to success.

In my world at Shiftwork Solutions, things are no different. Implementing a shift schedule takes preparation as well as process. In a sense, the preparation is part of the process. Sure, you can go online and find schedules anywhere; we even put them on our website. But don’t be fooled into thinking that what you have found is the key to success – because its not.

My advice – Do it right the first time.

If want to know what that means, give me a call at (415) 265-1621.