We are Gathered Together to Join these People…
This article is a continuation of ‘For Better and Not for Worse‘, published December 2014.
Earlier this week, I received a text from Herb, a customer who was the plant manager of a major automotive assembly plant in Ohio. The text was brief stating, “I’d like you to sit in on the presentation next Monday.” Our onsite team at the plant was giving a presentation to the plant management team outlining how we planned to become Outcome-Based as opposed to Activity-Based. This change in our onsite behaviour was critical to our team being able to continually evolve and meet ongoing plant needs.
Due to construction, traffic was worse than normal, resulting in me walking through the door just as the presentation was about to begin.
“Glad you could make it,” Herb stated, as I looked for an open seat.
“Sorry. Traffic was a bit heavier than normal,” I responded, taking a seat next to the plant’s production manager.
“Floor is yours,” Herb said to our onsite management team, and the presentation began.
Our team succinctly walked through steps we would take to transform our team from being activity-based, where the focus is on completing scheduled tasks, to outcome-based, where the focus is on the impact tasks have on levels of quality, production, and waste reduction.
Our site manager summed up the fifteen-minute presentation with one last slide.
“Our team on all shifts will:
• Be continually advised on the purpose of our services and the needs of the plant.
• Be educated on the impact of every task and its impact on overall production.
• Be given the latitude, authority, and responsibility for improving how the work is completed, and to challenge the value of each task.
• Be given the responsibility for performing initial inspection.”
“And finally,” our site manager stated, “our management team will focus its time questioning what we can do to improve, combine, or eliminate tasks, and work with team members to find the answers.”
After a few questions from the plant management team, the room started to clear out. Herb called to me, “If you are not rushing to get back into that traffic, I wouldn’t mind a quick debrief with you.”
“Sounds good,” I responded while moving to a seat closer to Herb.
“You didn’t say much during the presentation,” he noted.
“I did not have much to add. The team did a good job both preparing and presenting.”
“Actually, your team did an excellent job, and that’s why I wanted you stay back.”
“Okay….” I said.
“You’re not the only service provider who’s struggled during our new model launch,” Herb said intently.
“And it looks like at least one of them will not survive the change,” I stated, looking for insight into a rumour that was running through the plant.
“Maybe two, and that’s why I want to talk to you,” Herb said.
Herb reflected on the past several meetings between his plant management team and our onsite team. He noted the steps we’d taken to understand the purpose of provided services, and how we assembled, aligned and assessed our processes to meet the purpose. He mentioned the improvements we’d made to the model due to new plant needs, and closed out his summary by stating, “You were able to be successful because you have a model and all of your team members know your model.”
“Herb, the fact that they know the model is how we are able to quickly react, update, and even add steps to the model.”
“Which leads me to my question. Is there a third part of the model?”
“People,” I answered.
“I thought so.”
” Purpose, Process and People are the three parts of our model. We call them the 3Ps.”
“Can you walk me through the People part of the model?”
“Mind if I use your white board?”
“Be my guest.”
On the white board, I wrote Assemble, Align and Assess – People, and started to explain to Herb. “Part 3 People, like Part 2 Process, begins with Assemble, Align and Assess.”
“You’re assembling, aligning and assessing people?” Herb asked.
“Exactly. It’s a critical step and mindset because the people, our team, work through processes to deliver on the purpose.”
“It sounds like a cause and effect relationship,” Herb commented.
“Absolutely. It’s the reason why our onsite team stepped up to the challenge. Using a system we call S.T.A.R., we assemble, align and assess our people to the purpose of our organisation and our customer.”
“Star?” Herb asked, puzzled.
On the white board, I wrote: Select, Train, Assess, Recognise.
“It’s one thing to say assemble, align and assess your people, but you also need to ask, assemble, align and assess to what?” Underlining the word “what” on the white board, I continued. “The answer is simple. We Select to a target, Train to a target, Assess to a target and Recognise to a target,” I said with probably a bit more passion than was necessary.
“Where do you get the target?” Herb asked with a surprising amount of interest.
“By having a clear definition of the purpose, we have a pretty clear picture of what a successful team needs to look like to service your plant needs.”
“Keep going,” Herb said
“You told me on more than one occasion you did not hire a service provider to be an extension of the problem they were hired to solve, but to be the solution to the problem. Subsequently, the DNA of our management team needs to be one that embraces solving problems and not hiding from them.”
“So you target problem-solvers?” Herb asked.
“Yes, we select people who are inherently wired to enjoy solving problems. We also provide training on problem-solving techniques, we assess people on how many problems they have solved, and we recognise people for solving problems.”
“Explains why your onsite team did not shy away from the challenge,” Herb stated with amusement. “What else do you target?”
“Using the S.T.A.R. system, we target typical stuff such as job knowledge and experience, but the key is behaviours like problem solving. We target people wired to play on teams, people with a desire to serve, people who are innovative and creative, and people who are goal-oriented.”
“So you have developed a behavioural profile of people who experience success?”
“Yes, and by assembling, aligning and assessing them against both the profile and the purpose, we can be better assured we have the right team, and not a team destined for failure. Not every team fits every situation,” I stated with authority.
“So S.T.A.R. is your people system?”
Situation – Understanding the actual situation a candidate will be placed in.
Task – Understanding the actual activities the candidate will need to perform.
Action – Understanding how a candidate will need to behave.
Results – Understanding what results will be required from the candidate.
Situation – Training/orienting teams to thrive in their situation.
Technical – Training in the required technical skills for the activities to be completed.
Attitude – Continually coaching the team on required behaviours.
Reality – Seeing the individual and their specific needs, and developing accordingly.
Situation – Evaluating how the team performs in their situation.
Training – Evaluating the growth and development of the team.
Action – Evaluating their attitude by their actions.
Results – Evaluating the team’s ability to meet the measurable targets.
Situation – Recognising the team for their accomplishments in their situation.
Team – Recognising everyone for their ability to work and perform as a team.
Above – Showing gratitude to the team for going above and beyond what is expected.
Results – Recognising the team for their measurable performance.
“It’s actually a pretty simple and straightforward people strategy, and very easy to remember and to train our people on because its actually only one word: S.T.A.R.,” I said, returning to my seat.
“It is, and it explains a lot. I’ve been in several meetings with our plant management team discussing our success with getting our service providers on board with our new goals. You guys are doing the best, and now I think I understand why.”
“I will take that as a compliment. Thanks, Herb.”
“Definitely a compliment. I have to get to another meeting, but I have one more question. Would you be willing to help one of our other service providers be successful by walking them through your 3Ps approach?”
“Absolutely,” I replied with no hesitation.
“Hmm, that was quick. Why so eager?” Herb asked cautiously.
“Herb, this has been a tough few months at this plant, but we have faced several situations like this over the past two years, and one thing is becoming increasingly apparent to me…”
“If the plant does well, we all do well. If the plant does not, no one does well. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. We either all win or we all lose. It’s in my own selfish best interest to help out the other service providers,” I said.
“Very accurate perspective. Let me put you in touch with them, and thank you,” Herb said sincerely.
Per Herb’s request, I met with the other service provider and set up some time slots to coach on the 3Ps. The manager of this service provider said that his team felt like victims and did not know what to do first. He kept saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” On the drive home I felt thankful for not being in their shoes. This inside-outsourcing business is tough enough, and I could not fathom how difficult it was going to be for them to have to both build a model plus meet the deadlines imposed by the plant for sustainable improvement.