Coach's Corner Newsletter - Sept 2018
Clarity dooms drama
Now that is a simple statement, and I’m sure many folks are saying: “We have clarity where
I work. We have all kinds of processes and checklists. Yes, we have clarity.” That is certainly the answer I would expect from management; and often is the one I get. When I talk to the team
members, however, I get a different story.
By the time you finish this newsletter, you may question your beliefs on the subject. Gaining clarity is more challenging than you first might think.
Let’s take a look at what clarity really entails. Let’s say you have brought the right folks together and have drafted a good checklist for residential HVAC installations. Getting the right folks involved takes many man hours and a good leader of the work group. But you did it. In fact, objectively, it is one of the best that could be produced. It will reduce mistakes and drive your bottom line.
Then you put it through a sixty-day field test. Yes, you must do a real field test when you are working on a “new thing”. There must be a specific time set for the field test and a specific date when you evaluate the results of the test. You have done that and worked out all the bugs, and yes it will need to be tweaked. Now you have the final checklist. Now you think you have clarity, right?
You have completed only 25% of the clarity project. Yes, it took a lot of time and man-hours to get here, and everyone feels good about the process, but that is only the beginning.
Now we go to the second stage of the clarity process – training on how to use the checklist
for everyone affected by it. “Wait a minute, didn’t you say this was a really good checklist. Why not just hand it out to everyone and tell them to use it?” I suspect that you have tried that method at some-time in the past. How did that work out for you?
If you did hand it out, talk about it briefly, and then asked everyone if they got it, what do you think the answer would be? If you asked if anyone had a question, would you get a lot of them? And would they be good questions? Just answer based on your past experience.
You must understand a very important dynamic here. When management presents a “new thing” many of the team members don’t believe it will be around very long. You have said: “This is the way it is going to be” before and whatever “it” was soon faded away; never to be heard of again. I know you can think of many examples of the “new thing” that didn’t last very long. Often times it doesn’t
make it a year and we are off on a different “new thing”. Too often, management has lost credibility
about “new things”.
Thus we do some very serious training on the new checklist. Take time for group training and for
individual training. If you are giving this new check-list a lot of training time, they might begin to believe it will be serious this time.
You see part of the training is on how important this new checklist is to the company and to
the individual's own success. In the training you are not just going over each line item on the checklist; you are selling the value of the checklist. And more importantly, you must be selling the value not just to the company but to the individual technician who will be applying it. If this checklist reduces mistakes what is the value to the company and the individual? I believe you can answer that.
“OK Coach, we have done a great job getting the checklist finalized and we have had extensive training on it. It seems that folks have bought into it and are using it with good results. Are we done yet?”
Congratulations, you are now halfway there; just 50% done. “Come on Coach, do you realize how much time and effort went into this? And it does seem to be working. Give me a break.”
Now comes the most challenging aspect of the clarity exercise. One misstep here could unravel all the efforts and all the results achieved so far. We will talk about holding the team members responsible soon, but first, we need to address a far greater issue. “Does management hold itself accountable?”
You see, accountability is a double-edged sword. What do you suppose would happen if the install manager told the install crew to: “Forget that checklist stuff; this is a fast track install so just get it done.” Do you suspect this might have happened in your experience with something that was the “rule” that someone told you to ignore. Or maybe you told someone else to ignore it.
If a co-worker says to ignore something, that has some impact. But when a person in authority does it, there is a monumental impact. And you wonder where the drama comes from. That incident will soon be throughout the organization and probably exaggerated at that. Just go back to the section where I said folks don’t always give the leadership credibility.
It’s not just when we stop doing the “new thing” altogether, but also when someone circumvents the checklist. What do you suspect is the end result of such action? It is so serious we might as well discard the entire checklist and start over. Or, the person who subverted the
checklist must have a serious consequence for doing so.
Whatever the situation, when folks do the wrong thing there must be consequences. That could mean more coaching or termination and all the gradations in between. This breach is serious.
Walking the Walk; not just Talking the Talk.
Now we get to the number one reason we have challenges with drama in the workplace. Lots of folks will talk the talk, but then they don’t walk the walk. Do you believe team members pay more attention to what you say or what you do? Remember that old expression – “actions speak louder than words.” Well, it is definitely true.
Managers or supervisors who give lip service to the “new thing” but then subvert the effort cause great damage to the entire process. Particularly if it is a senior manager or a senior supervisor their actions have a greater impact. I have seen many examples first hand of this happening. The results were basically a total destruction of the “new thing.”
That is why the upfront work of getting buy-in is so critical. Get the right team members involved in the
creation and the right managers. Then during the training, it is important to sell management on the value of the “new thing.” Never roll it out if there is any major dissension in what you are trying to accomplish.
Of course, there is always a “good reason” to ignore the rules aren’t there? I have heard some very creative excuses for not doing what we agreed was right. Do you suppose if you don’t walk the walk that others will notice? Even if you did it in secret, the word will get out. One thing I have discovered is that there are no secrets in your business.
Walking the walk is the biggest challenge for managers and supervisors. It is the major reason team members believe the “new thing” will not last. People at the top will start ignoring it a little at a time, and then we will need to come up with the next “new thing.”
Hopefully, you have felt the punch in your solar plexus on this.
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Tagged:Teamwork, Workforce Development