You’ve started collecting some simple data in your plant and the missed opportunities are both frustrating and exciting. Your mind is racing with improvement opportunities here, optimizations there, and a huge profit at the end of the rainbow (followed by a well-deserved promotion).
But hold on a second. Your big vision for the future will fall flat unless you can pick one idea and execute. The trick is finding and refining one idea just enough that you can make it happen.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you refine your idea and get ready to test it out:
Think lean: launch, learn, and iterate
Your machines may cost millions, but your improvements shouldn’t. Even a “big idea” should be divided into smaller bits, allowing you to focus and execute on one small thing first.
By creating bite-sized initiatives, you’ll see lots of advantages: you can get buy-in from everyone involved, you can be confident that results are actually due to your change efforts, and maybe most important, you can learn what works and what doesn’t – so you are smarter about how to take the next step.
Focus: keep it simple and well-defined
In order to get good results, you’re going to have to stay focused. Pick one number you care about and define it clearly. Think about things that are simple, but that have a big impact on your company’s profits (e.g. machine downtime). Remember, the goal is to walk before you run.
Think about how your initiative will empower your teams to improve against your key metric, what the potential side effects will be, and how to avoid or minimize those side effects. For example, if you’re trying to minimize machine downtime, are you accidentally encouraging employees to run the machine even if the materials aren’t properly loaded, to avoid having to talk with the boss about why they missed their downtime goal?
Get Buy-In: show how you will make life easier
You’re going to need to get buy-in from each individual involved; first you need to put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Their job is hard, often complex, and prone to errors or constant change. Your new “pet project” will continue to look like the latest management trend unless and until you can explain to each individual exactly how it will help them.
Keep in mind that the focus should be on empowering your employees, not on presenting another demand from management. If the outcome of your initiative is, “the boss knows who is falling behind,” you’ve already lost. Instead, show how your line workers can be the hero – how your initiative will give them more power to do what they’re doing already, but giving them the tools to do it better, faster, hit their incentives, get paid more, and be happier at their job. Now they’re listening.
One huge benefit of staying focused is that you can move quickly. No one wants to change everything, only to wait 9 months to see if it works. You’re asking people to change their routine and promising them that they’ll see results; you better be able to deliver quickly, or people will tune out and go back to “the way it’s always been done.”
Communicate, communicate, communicate
It’s shocking how much a workplace can be like a game of telephone. Even well-meaning people often have myths and misperceptions about what’s going on. You’ll need to be consistent and persistent to get the message out there, keep it out there, and keep people on board: this is what we were trying to accomplish, this is what we implemented, these were the results. Make it a single slide, three lines that you can recite in your sleep – because you’ll need to repeat it all the time.
As a result, your messaging will need to be simple too. You may feel like a broken record, but that’s the hard work of what the politicians call “staying on message.” There’s a reason they say a simple thing over and over: because it works. People buy in when we have a simple, easy-to-understand point that they hear consistently.
Let your data be the guide, keep it simple and focused, and communicate constantly; that way, you’ll be well on the way to a successful roll out that you can continue to build on. Need help filling in the details? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Ponstingle is the COO at Pandata and Craig Paulette is a Data Analyst.