6 Steps to Empowering Workers to Create Change within Your Organization

Editorial by Jim Fairfax

June 2012

Nine times out of ten, the underlying theme of Recruiting Projects we’re engaged in involves participating in, if not leading, process and cultural shifts that improve throughput, effectiveness and profitability in an effort to maintain or improve competitiveness.  For decades now you’ve been attending seminars and reading articles about World Class Manufacturing, Lean Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma and the like and all too often your enthusiastic messages about their values either went unheeded or stalled after implementation and became just another “flavour of the month” in the eyes of the cynics.

The following article we noticed in Industry Week doesn’t deal with the messages of the need to improve but, rather, with a method of communicating the messages to get understanding and, through understanding, more engagement. It simplifies the need to drive the messages down through the org chart to the lowest levels of contribution and ensuring that employees at all levels understand the messages and are given the resources and empowerment to contribute. From the stories we here from clients and candidates alike, it appears that sound, logical messages all too often get stalled at an intermediate layer in company structures and, as a result, don’t deliver expected results. Enjoy the article.

http://www.industryweek.com/articles/6_steps_to_empowering_workers_to_create_change_within_your_organization_27310.aspx?ShowAll=1

6 Steps to Empowering Workers to Create Change within Your Organization

By Travis Hessman

May 9, 2012

Raymond Floyd’s keynote address from the 2012 IW Best Plants Conference describes what managers must provide their workforce to help them become agents of change.

Suncor Energy (IW 1000/116) vice president Raymond Floyd closed this year’s IW Best Plants Conference with a surprisingly informative keynote. Rather than simply providing case studies or an overview of what his company is doing to develop their lean practices, he provided attendees with a point-by-point recipe for building a successful team of workers who are empowered to cause change within their organization.

The result was a remarkable and rare collection of insights from a man who is no stranger to building successful teams — to which his 2011 inauguration into the IW Manufacturing Hall of Fame can certainly attest.

The following are Floyd’s six steps to creating a system of engaged, change-causing workers that helped him develop award winning teams at Suncor and Exxon (IW 500/1) throughout his career, in his own words.

HOW TO CREATE A SYSTEM FOR CHANGE

Step One: Give people the goals that you will pursue and give them the goals they’ll pursue in terms that enable them to contribute.

The company I work for has a goal of producing a million barrels of oil a day. You go to a person who is all by himself working on a truck, midnight on Sunday and say “How ’bout them million barrels of oil?” He’s going to blink at you and keep on working on the truck.

If you go to the person who is all by himself working on a truck at midnight on Sunday and say, “Our goal is to produce a million barrels of oil and the way you contribute to that is to treat this truck like it’s a pit stop and get the truck back in the mine. And by the way, I’ll teach you how to do that.” Then all of a sudden he understands the shared goal and he understands his role in the shared goal and now he can help you.

If you don’t go through that process, you’ll never get that outcome.

Step Two: Give people skills.

It doesn’t do us any good at all to walk up to a guy working on a truck at midnight on Sunday and say, “What I’d really like you to do is, instead of taking 72 clock hours to perform the maintenance on this truck, I’d actually like for you to do three of them during this shift.”

It doesn’t sound possible, it doesn’t sound like something he’s interested in doing.

But if you teach him the skills of SMED, if you teach him how to plan his work and give him a nice, 5S, orderly workplace with all of the attributes that will enable him to have the tools and the equipment and the experience and the parts — and if he has everything he needs and he’s been trained on how to use all of those things — all of a sudden you can begin thinking about doing three trucks in one 12-hour shift instead of one truck in 72 hours.

But we have to give people those skills. They don’t naturally have them.

Step Three: Give them access to resources that cause change.

If you want to cause change, you have to have the resources that cause change. In some cases that means engineering, in some cases it means money, in some cases it means time. We control people’s access to all of those things when they’re at work working for us, so if they need those resources in order to cause change, we have to provide those resources.

Time is a special attribute of resources because time is one of the things that, when people are at work, we control most closely. If we want people to take the time to do the work and have the time to cause improvement, we actually have to give them that time.

Quite often, we want people to cause improvement as part of a team or cause improvement as part of a cross functional team, not just their natural work group, but other people who are interested in the same improvement. We have to give them time and we have to schedule the coordination of that time so the teams come together.

Step Four: Give them boundaries.

People at work all know that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed, but we very rarely spend the time to define those boundaries for them. If we want them to cause change, we have to be able to give them the boundaries within which change is permissible.

I’ll give you a specific example of the value of knowing what the boundaries are: We run 400 ton trucks — trucks that will carry 400 tons. Typically our shovel operators put four scoops into the truck, four 100 ton scoops.

Routinely, everybody in the industry knows the 10-10-20 rule — 10% of your loads can be more than 10% greater than the rate of capacity of the truck, none of your loads can be 20% greater than the rate of capacity of the truck. Everybody knows that.

The result, though, is the shovel operators were routinely under-loading our trucks. We only put about 360 tons into our 400 ton trucks.

Then we put an onboard weighing system so as the shovel operator loads the truck, it tells them how much is already in the truck and then he knows whether to put in a big scoop or a little scoop for the fourth shovel. Turns out we’re now routinely carrying 430 tons.

We got about a 20% increase in the capacity of our fleet of trucks just by telling folks where the boundaries were. They knew there was a boundary and they were afraid of crossing it, so they historically didn’t get close to it.

Step Five: Give them a framework for action.

What we mean by a framework for action is, if they’re going to cause change, and especially if they’re going to cause change as part of a team, there has to be a way for the team to come together. There has to be a way for the team to know how they propose ideas to their team members, how the team members together vote to promote something from an idea into action, how to allocate the resources that are available to the team. They have to actually give the team the ability to conduct that intelligent improvement activity or they can’t do it.

Step Six: Give them a process for change.

Basically the process for change has to be one that leads up to a new one right way of doing things. You can’t just have people doing random changes. All of their changes have to lead to a new one right way of doing things.

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