We research and write a lot about the growing importance of adopting next-generation technology and software applications for manufacturers to remain competitive. Indeed, a quick look at the tech mega-trends of Big Data, Mobile applications, and the Internet of Things shows the leaps that are being made in technology capabilities, and the potential for some associated transformational things in manufacturing.
But while these next-generation Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) applications are carrying more of the heavy lifting in real-time data delivery, data analysis, optimization and so on, in the end the resulting actionable information still needs to be properly acted upon at some point by a real person who has been effectively directed by their leaders.
In this post, we'll discuss 5 best practices around setting expectations for a company's Operational Excellence journey and how to build effective teams to carry them out and optimize performance.
The Top Operational Manufacturing Challenges: The Importance of Leadership and Team Building
According to our 2013-2014 MOM Survey (375+ respondents) the top operational challenge manufacturing companies face today, with 26% of responses, is how to break down informational silos within organizations and departments and foster collaboration. Right behind this, with 25% of responses, is the challenge of dealing with disparate systems and data sources.
Both of these challenges--particularly the former--have a strong leadership and team building component--they both speak to a lack of communication flow and direction. The following are five ways leaders can get their teams in the right frame of mind to create full engagement and accelerate their company's Operational Excellence Journey.
1. Don't go overboard with initial expectations or project scope
Operational Excellence journeys can be overwhelming in time and scope. The best approach is usually to start with a single area of potential improvement, one that represents a major operational pain point. While this creates realistic and achievable gains, this approach is also critical to boosting employee morale and increasing their engagement and buy-in with the initiative at hand, because they will see first-hand the "quick wins" that a dedicated and narrowly-focused effort produces.
2. Develop a strong vision and the ability to articulate and emphasize business imperatives
Related to the above, employees at all levels of the organization need to be convinced of the urgency of the competitive landscape and why they are being asked to alter their behaviors. They also need to understand how altering this behavior will ultimately benefit not only the company, but also how it will benefit the roles they serve within the organization for lasting change to take hold.
3. Consider taking your organization through a strategy decomposition and goal alignment process
While a company strategy is "top-down" by definition, the alignment of strategy, actions, and measures as they relate to individual areas of the business is a cross-functional engagement exercise that allows employees to clearly see the relationships between their efforts, others' efforts and the company as a whole, as well as how these efforts fit within the 'bigger picture' Operational Excellence initiative.
4. Determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and all related procedures and actions
It's crucial to identify a specific set of manufacturing KPIs that will help you measure progress and identify areas for adjustment. Equally important to having these measures, however, is a related system of communication procedures, processes, and incentives around the KPIs to ensure that they are being accurately measured, interpreted, communicated, and acted upon.
5. Establish and foster open and regular communications to build momentum
It's important to publicly recognize and celebrate success while also fixing any issues that arise. There's no such thing as a perfect Operational Excellence journey, and transparent communication--through trials, successes, failures--is key to building employee trust, as they see that management and employees are all in the same boat.
Elevate Your Success by Developing Strong Leadership and Processes--Supported by Next-Generation Software Capabilities
Effective leadership and team building is absolutely foundational to success, but it's greatly enhanced when supported with the most effective processes and software tools to improve information flow, speed time to response, and eliminate unneeded steps. Find out how to combine these three puzzle pieces for optimal success in the our report: "The Importance of Leadership and Employee Engagement for a Successful Operational Excellence Strategy."