To ensure all your employees are striving towards meeting the objectives of your organisation, there is a strong need for them to be fully involved. Involvement of your people will enable their abilities to be used for the benefit of your organisation, and will see many other positive actions by your people. These include:
Think about it - your staff know their processes inside and out. Many of them were probably working there years - some before the senior management team (SMT). They’ve seen management fads become hot, then disappear without trace. They know what goes wrong. They see patterns. They know exactly who in your organisations is lacking in training or experience. They know which people really have a grip on things, those individuals who can quickly and precisely cut to the heart of a problem. Newer staff also have much to offer – they have seen how things worked (and didn’t work) on the factory floors of your suppliers or competitors.
And yet … few Quality Managers ever ask staff what they think, or know, or see. Once a year during an audit they might ask a few staff a question or two. But for the most part, your staffs’ knowledge and experience is never drawn upon. Instead, managers tend to spend most of their time talking with each other, or asking questions of their peers on sites such as LinkedIn.
I was reminded of this recently when talking with a colleague who is a Quality Manager of a local factory. When he first started at his job, he was knowledgeable about the quality management system (QMS), but he lacked any practical experience. He was a young guy starting out, and his challenge was big – he had to introduce a new QMS into an established manufacturing site.
If that wasn’t tough enough, he had a spanner in the works in the shape of an older man who had worked at the place for years. This man had influence, but he also didn’t give a damn about QMS. And not only didn’t care, he was also a master at bucking the system, at subtly and not-so-subtly undermining any attempts at change. He was belligerent. He was intimidating. He had the potential to stop the QMS in its tracks, and he knew it.
My colleague’s response was simple – he went to the "Gemba". In Japanese Gemba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the gemba is the factory floor. In other words, he went to seek the truth. He walked the manufacturing floor every day, and each day made a point of talking with this man. They discussed the man’s fears (that he might lose his job; that he might be asked to do things that he couldn’t do; that he might be made to look a fool). They talked about the principles behind QMS, and about the various issues the employees had with it. My colleague asked a lot of questions, and did a lot of listening.
Over many weeks, the older man learned that he could trust my colleague, and with that, his behaviour did a 180 degree turn. The belligerent, negative QMS-hater turned into a staunch advocate of the system. The man who had been against the very idea of a QMS became its very vocal cheerleader amongst the other employees.
My young colleague gained a lot of respect from the other workers and from management for being able to turn around such an influential naysayer. The QMS has gone from strength to strength, and is deeply embedded into the organisation.
The company has achieved ISO 9001 certification and is regarded as the leading QMS amongst its corporate group. It could have so easily been a very different story.
Only good things can come from engaging your staff.
If your staff are involved, they are more likely to take ownership of the QMS and hold each other to account.
So make the most of your organisation’s assets, and be sure to engage your people, every ... single ... day.