Catalyst Strategic Consultants

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A Rework Epidemic – What to do?

Last time I talked about a pandemic of screw-ups plaguing our capability to execute even simple customer fulfillment tasks.
The missing tire, the pants, the this, the that. I’m sure you thought of lots of your own. They’re not hard stories to find: they’re everywhere, in the big and the mid-market.
It doesn’t do any good to take it out on the front line people. Their behaviour is the outcome, the symptom, not a cause. The core truth to be learned here? THE FIX IS UPSTREAM.

To overcome the damaged processes, we are up against formidable opposition.   The first is our own defensiveness. Not me! Not here! Just think of the last time something had to be redone at your cost. The latest warranty cost for something flawed that got away from you that had to be replaced. The last time you observed chronic repetitive wasteful activity. It’s everywhere.

It isn’t just you. With our people, we’re fighting diminishing attention span and the “whatever” factor I wrote about before. Media addiction and short term focus is driving front line people away from caring and sustained concentration.   We are all living in a world of overwhelm, distraction, information overload. Carving out learning and changing time has always been tough – but it has always been able to be created in better organizations by leaders dedicated to gaining results and who ABHOR WASTE.

You don’t need to suffer waste and irrevocable loss. I spoke to one of my Presidents the other day about a case: in 15 minutes, he was able to use these concepts to realize that his LARGEST VOLUME customer was costing him money. Not only was he not making profit, he was GIVING his hard earned cash – lots of it – to this sinkhole.

He figured it out quick – a special site supervisor to attempt to override the local incompetent “directing” the work for the customer. Loads of supply mis-ordered and sent back. Site work being drilled out and replaced. Billing fights about whose fault it all was. AND LOW MARGINS BECAUSE HE WAS BIG VOLUME. It doesn’t take much of that to fuel the drive for a big shift. And if that takes a bit of investment, how about converting some of that thrown away money?

There’s a shortage of process minded people: folks who naturally think of root cause analysis and build permanent ways to fix the systemic issues identified. They don’t do the short term fix just to get past the moment’s problem. They look at patterns: build structure.   When you find them, they are treasures.
Trying to tackle the issue without that mindset working for you is folly. Start there. Those people are usually right under your nose. Build your team.

Next is to learn and buy into a system of – ready for it? – good old fashioned Total Quality. It goes by contemporary names: Lean manufacturing, 6 sigma – these are the big time, spend a fortune, big company solutions.

But the basis of Total Quality was discovered in the 60’s and widely implemented in the 70’s and 80’s in all scales of businesses. The guidebooks and systems are still very much around. They need to be rediscovered – big time! BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER KNOWN WAY. Are you still grumbling or yelling at people – expecting them they to fix it themselves? How’s that working for you?

Here’s a great book from Amazon: Quality Management Demystified by Sid Kemp.

The concepts are dead simple:

– the people who do the work need to be taught simple analysis and planning tools – and how to work together to use them. This is not a top-down implementation.

– they need to be brought full frontal with the consequences and sources of WASTE and the impact on them, not just on the company

– the processes delivering your value need to be visually mapped, debated and understood by them – in chains leading to ultimate results for customers

– data needs to be collected by them so they can see for themselves the sources of cost of quality – rework, redo’s, repeating interactions, extra makeup costs to fix messes – without blame. Learning and driving systematic change is the goal.

– redesign and adopting process innovations developed by people doing the work leads to radical gains in productivity, identifying and ending of no-win tail chasing patterns, drastically reduced cost and waste. They implement – not you.

A completely delightful outcome? The growth of a culture of collective intelligence and high morale.   When people see themselves as helpless to change an oppressive work world they are defeated. When they can fix it themselves – they light up and become the elite workforce they and you can be proud of.

Eventually you’ll come around. Sustained systematic change effort is the only way. Underpinning strong concepts gives skeletal strength. Teaching and training realistically equips your people. And accountability through strong focused supervision helps them make it happen.

No, you can’t do this all through computers – that’s the lie of the age. Once you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Not here. People are not programmable dumb terminals. Not to say that smart systems can’t cut human cost. Smart systems supporting and reinforcing sharp people? Now we’re talking!

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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