I go to a lot of meetings related to operations. Some are on the floor with operators and supervision, some with business leaders discussing long-term planning and still others presenting out results from a project or process improvement. The most tedious ones I have been involved with up to this point are the production meetings with a plant operating committee. Why don’t I like them? Let me count the ways:

1. The discussion is usually about outputs of the process. Did the order get out? If not, why? Why is that product on hold? Where is the information on this issue? When will it be fixed? Does anyone ask how it will be prevented from happening in the future? Does anyone look at the inputs into the process instead of the outputs?

2. Free-form thoughts of the leadership – I am not saying that individuals in leadership are not knowledgeable or wise, but I have seen them choke out more discussions than start by telling everyone all the ways this won’t work, what worked in the past, what will work in the future. Where is the open conversation? Where is the learning? Where is the trash can? Get me out of here!!

3. or 2A – How often is it that the discussion meanders to places unseen and not part of the issue on the table? How many after event reviews have been ruined by “Funny story, I was the …..” I get it. You’re hilarious and have a side gig at the Improv. Do you know how destructive that is to analysis? Probably not.

4. Repeating the same thing over and over again. This is the flip side to 3. This is where someone is certain this is the issue. Can you produce the information to back it up? I don’t need information, I have been doing this for 20 years! Okay, well let’s go down there right now and look at it. I want to see this.

5. Conference rooms that might as well be in another country they are so separated from the operation. Do the meeting on the floor and go to where the issues are. Talk to the operators. Understand the process. Get it!!

6. Leaders as lap dogs. Make sure if you have your subordinates in the meetings presenting information, that you are supporting them. I have seen front line supervisors get grilled by their managers in front of their managers. What does that teach anyone?

The point here is that if you are leading, you need to discuss leading indicators and inputs. This means setting up triggers and discussing those anomalies that come up so that tomorrow will be better than today. Examples include, how many changeovers took over 10 minutes on first shift? If one occurred, what was the root cause, what can be done right now to fix it, is there a longer term solution? If so, how much will it cost and what other resources are required? What was put on hold today? Why? What is the root cause? What is the fix? What do we need to tell sales and customers? This takes organization and a committment to the process and the people. Beating someone up because a line didn’t run well may make you feel better but, in the end, you have dealt with the trivia of the day or created it as opposed to using triggers to focus on tomorrow.

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