I’ve been reading a lot about “lean manufacturing” systems. I love the idea of companies becoming lean and changing their culture and techniques for running those companies. Not only will the company gain a great deal of efficiency and increased profits, but also employees are treated as valued partners in the process.
Part of that valued partner treatment is asking for advice from everyone. I’ve always felt that our employees are experts at the job they do. Unfortunately, in many companies we don’t treat our employees as experts. In fact, we do much worse; we treat them as idiots who have no idea how to do their job.
Dilbert became a tour de force for a reason. There is much in that cartoon that’s true about companies we work for and own. I don’t want to run a Dilbert company; I want to run one where everyone is engaged and proud to work.
A key component of a lean company is having one where everyone provides suggestions. A problem with having a good suggestion program is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas.
An idea or suggestion program means that someone has to evaluate the idea and then someone, often the same person, has to organize implementing the idea. If we go for big ideas that cost lots of money there is sure to be a bottleneck around this issue.
Instead, lets work towards getting small ideas first. Starting any new program in a company is one of experimentation. Starting with small ideas that are easy to implement would provide a better chance of success than looking for the big idea.
Small ideas can be evaluated on the spot by a local supervisor. Often the person who makes it can implement a small idea.
Pushing the decision making process for implementing new ideas down to the shop floor helps build trust as well making the program easier to implement. We are showing our line people that we trust them and think they have ideas how to make the company better.
People want to see their ideas implemented because they want the company to be better and their jobs easier. Allowing ideas to be evaluated where they’re made will help change the culture of your company. It will show in a tangible manner that you think your people are smart and that you trust them to make the company better.
Isn’t this something that would help make your company a more interesting place to work?