OEE and Morale

Is employee morale impacting your OEE?  If so, how much of a concern is it?  As we wrote in one of our recent posts,  “Perhaps the greatest “external” influence on current manufacturing operations is the rapid collapse of the automotive industry in the midst of our current economic “melt down”.  The changes in operating strategy to respond to this new crisis are bound to have an effect on OEE among other business metrics.”  We would argue that these times of economic crisis demand, now more than ever, that Lean Practices must become even more prevalent in our manufacturing operations.

People are concerned about the state and stability of the company’s finances and the industries they serve.  The automotive industry has been devastated by the recent decline, or more accurately, collapse of the market.  Significant changes in operating strategy including lay offs and reduced production days have impacted all of the OEM’s including Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda.  No one company is immune from the effects of the current economic conditions.

It is clear that the auto industry fell behind the “power curve” and crashed.  Did conditions change too quickly to avoid the inevitable?  Was it so big that, like the Titanic, the ultimate demise could be predicted but not avoided?  Toyota was the number one producer of automobiles in 2008 but failed to yield significant profits.  Conditions such as these were ripe for continued growth in years past.  It is clear that even the best of the Lean practitioners are not immune from the effects of the current economy.

A company’s agility will certainly be tested during times such as these.  Sustainability and viability are among the few significant objectives of Lean dynamics.  As such, Lean dynamics should be at the forefront of every business leader.  How adaptable is your business?  Are you reinventing your business in response to the changes of your industry?  The true Lean practitioner is certainly challenged to eliminate waste and variation beyond current means and traditional approaches.  As change is constant, we must continually seek out ways to redefine or “better” define our businesses.

At the most fundamental level, everyone is concerned about the state of the economy, however, individuals, at the personal level, are concerned about their jobs and careers.  We all want to preserve our current life style to some degree and, at a minimum, continue to pay our bills.  It would be a difficult task to estimate the lost productivity that occurs when someone’s state of mind is focused on their own personal situation versus that of the company.  We have observed first hand how employee morale has diminished as a result of the recent economic doom and gloom.  Nothing can come between an indivual and their prosperity – this is an instinctive, almost primitive, response mechanism – a self defense position.

Recommendations:

While you may not be able to change the economy, we would suggest that you can influence the “morale” of your employees.  People will understand that you didn’t cause the current economic crisis, however, they do expect that you will let them know what the impact is to your business and ultimately to themselves.

Be honest with your employees, let them know where you stand – where they stand.  They need to prepare for their futures too, whether it is working for you or someone else.  During times of crisis such as this, it is time for the executive leadership to stand behind their Vision and Mission statements and treat their employees – THE PEOPLE -the most important assets a company can have – with the dignity and respect they not only deserve but worked so hard to earn.  Be present and available to your team.

Our employees recognize that we only attract, retain, and hire the best employees.  Regardless of the economy, the standard remains and we take great pride in the strength of our people.  They know this intrinsically.

People come to companies to work for PEOPLE.  Their immediate supervisor or manager is, in their eyes, the company.  Arm your staff with the information they need so people can make informed decisions.  Believe it or not, people are motivated when they feel that they are part of the process and not regarded as part of the problem.  Reality check:  “People come to companies to work for themselves.”  How does this statement change your perspective?  Who do you work for?

How many times have you heard, “Our labour is just too high,  we need to cut back.”  Well, who made the decision to hire the people in the first place?  Look in the mirror.  Treat people like they are part of the team, part of the solution.  Get them engaged and focused on moving forward.  Will they be motivated?  They will be if they feel that they are valued players on the team, performing meaningful work that is contributing to the success of the company.  Times of crisis tend to bring teams closer together and, in the end, they become stronger for the cause.

A great business parable written by Patrick Lencioni, “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”, may provide some useful insights to motivate your team and even grow your business into a more profitable venture despite the current economic crisis.

While people think they work for a company or other people, we ultimately believe that people work for themselves and we, as a company, are the beneficiaries of their efforts.

Conclusion

So how does all of this tie to OEE?  Weill, performance typically lags when people are not focused on the task at hand.  There is a sense that, no matter what they do, they can’t change the current circumstances so, “Why bother?”  Distractions of this magnitude are hard to ignore.  As the leadership of the company, it is your responsibility to be in tune with the morale of your team and workforce in general.  It is possible to mitigate the effects of low morale by addressing them early on and encouraging employees to be part of the turn around process.

This might be one of the few times in history where the term “CHANGE” will be viewed in a positive light and actually be embraced by your team.

We may just discover the 5S process for managing our economy with a real process in place to manage the fifth “S” Sustainability.  Another one of the “anomalies” that just don’t make sense is, “This is just part of the nautral cycle of the economy.  We were long overdue.”  Somehow, that doesn’t say much about our governments or industry leaders. Why?  Because it suggests we should have been more than prepared to deal with this a long time ago.  The current scramble suggests the contrary to be true.  Secondly, what is “natural” about the economy – it’s manmade – driven by the decisions of business leaders and governments around the globe.  Natural? Never.  A logical excuse that every one seems to accept as part of “nature”?  Maybe.

Until next time – STAY Lean!

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