BYLINE HERE AND OTHER CONTRIBUTOR INFOMATION
CI DILEMMA SEPTEMBER 2019
Fighting fi res
A company deals with the every-day, smaller problems over and over again, which it
fi nds makes long-term goals and subsequent growth almost impossible
T he problem we have is fi nding the
time to focus on our biggest
priorities and the things that can
really drive our business forward. We seem
to spend most of our days responding to
the crisis of the moment, always dealing
with the same problems: missing stock,
quality issues, machine breakdown,
absenteeism – the list goes on. Several
years ago we recognised that we needed to
focus on our people and that if we were to
be successful over the long-term we needed
to develop and invest in this capability. We
also continue to invest signifi cantly in the
training, education and developmental
opportunities. When I step back and
look at how this ‘investment’ is being
applied I mainly see expert expediters
and fi re-fi ghters, not the leadership and
technical capability we created. Although
our KPIs are the most important refl ection
of performance I do feel we now measure
success based upon how many surprises
have we have dealt with.
I wondered what advice or steps we
could take to tackle this problem as all
we do is fi ght fi res?
CI Solution Adam Buckley, leadership & enterprise excellence coach, TMI
Without any advice you have made the fi rst
step and identifi ed that there is a problem.
Anyone who has experienced these
interactions will recognise the intense
focus on today’s performance with little
regard for what happens tomorrow, next
week, next month, never mind any
longer-term strategic plan. “Just get it done
now, we’ll worry about tomorrow later.”
Inevitably, fi res will happen, and you do
need people to put them out. The problem
is these people become the ‘heroes’, the
ones who keep the organisation going.
Yet these heroes are the ones that ignore
standards, fl y by the seat of their pants,
make quick, gut-based decisions, and
hence make mistakes and ultimately make
the system worse.
In our experience when the fi refi
ghting culture has become so ingrained
in an organisation, only a radical swing in
behaviour will produce a lasting change.
Because the changes required are
behavioural you must have a realistic
expectation about the time it will take.
Importantly, as management helped foster
these behaviours, they must also take
responsibility for changing it:
Do not let fi re-fi ghting become a career.
What kind of behaviour gets promoted or
rewarded in your organisation? It is easy
to prize fi refi ghting, because it is very
visible, whereas prevention is much harder
to see. Promoting and rewarding
fi refi ghters sends out a strong message to
employees as to the behaviours that
are valued by the organisation.
Establish clear goals and
objectives. Remove any
confusion about what is
important and what is not by
having a clearly defi ned set of
objectives. Be realistic about
your planned objectives by not
having too many. The outcome of
unrealistic plans that try to achieve
everything, result in achieving nothing,
as each initiative falls behind. We then
become confused as to what is vital and
inevitably start trying to recover progress,
only to see our diverted attention result
in a domino eff ect, as more and more
initiatives begin to falter.
Solve problems permanently. This is
better than having to deal with them
repeatedly and most fi res are preventable.
As the source of many problems occur
outside of an operator or supervisor’s area
then managers with greater infl uence
must support the solution. So rather than
the supervisor treating the symptom they
can address the root cause. Otherwise the
action of treating the symptom (to correct
a failure elsewhere in the system) is just
‘rework’. But without addressing the root
cause this gradually becomes ‘standardwork’.
development of our all people through
As a result, the failure remains
‘hidden’ and process complexity increases
along with the cost of doing business.
Appoint process owners.
Allocate supervisors ownership
of core processes with the
responsibility of improving
the process, linked to the
focus on longer term
performance and solving
problems permanently. It is
imperative they are given the time
and space to work as individuals and as
part of cross-functional collaborative
teams. This is a big commitment, but
eight hours solving problems at root
cause is better than eight hours of
fi re-fi ghting. This will build momentum,
fi res will become less frequent and
effi ciency will improve, freeing up time to
focus on more challenging opportunities
and longer-term objectives.
When this is all done correctly you will
start to see a change in behaviours and
eventually a cultural shift. There will be
fewer surprises, the organisational
capability in which you have invested time
and money developing will start to
emerge, the team will be more proactive
and you will see long term planning begin
to work. There will be fewer fi res and
focus will shift to where it should be: on
sustainable, long-term growth.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you agree with our expert? Have you found another way to keep smaller problems at bay?
Send us your views and you could appear here next month. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org