One Man’s Lean Journey: Respect People and They Will Fight for You
The assignment was to oversee the completion of rebuilding several hundred television sets. This was back in the day of picture tubes and rear projection TVs. The sets would be sold in discount shops across the country.
The manufacturing facility was well known for its union and their insanity to horn-swaggle the company. The assignment typically takes 7-8 weeks. I was given a union crew and the production area was set up a good 1/4 mile from the nearest production area.
The first week went bye with no problem. Then in the second week we started encountering hiccups in our production. The typical stuff. We didn’t have the parts we needed, there was no one to move the product for us and even some good old-fashioned infighting in the group.
I pulled the team together and we discussed not having the parts we needed. I asked them how we should be producing the TVs. What sequence would work best? They commented they had never been asked for their ideas before. The team came up with a sequence based on their knowledge and a process to get the parts. Every afternoon, one of the employees and I would look at what we have completed and look at what was next on the schedule and determine what parts we would need. I would drive my car over the main plant, gather the parts with the employee and help her carry them back to my car.
I addressed the issue with fighting employees as well. We had one-on-ones and worked through their issues of working together.
Our production rate sky-rocketed. It was almost double what I was told we would be able to do based on past history.
Then came the bombshell. One afternoon, a union steward showed up in my area and proceeded to yell at me in the middle of the production area so everyone could hear. Apparently, helping someone carry heavy boxes so they don’t get hurt and helping my employees move TVs is going to put the union out of a job. He was threatening to file a grievance against me.
Being 21-years-old, I didn’t take too kindly to the yelling, especially in front of the employees. So, I proceeded to yell right back about how I will do whatever it takes to help my employees get the work done and he could….well you can use your imagination for the rest.
It wasn’t 45 minutes later, my manager for this project was out there trying to cool me off and telling me to play the union game. I was shocked at how quickly he collapsed to the union. Ridiculous! Truly pissed me off. I told him that if he wanted me to stop then the union needs to stop delaying my work.
This is a lot of back story to get to this. The union employees on my team went to the union head and got the steward to back off. When I asked them why they would do that, the response was “Because we like working for you and you stuck up for us. We should stick up for you.”
My parents had always instilled in me to treat everyone with respect. And this was a moment where that lesson truly became ingrained in me forever.
We finished the project in 4.5 weeks. Almost half the expected time. As a thank you, I gave them a half day “off” where we hung out in our production area and I bought pizza for the team. It really was something I will never forget.
* People appreciate being treated with respect more than anything else you could give them
* Involve the people in improving the work and they will work hard to make sure it gets implemented properly
* Once people feel safe in giving ideas, then the floodgates will open