How Committed Is Your Organization?

In order to improve and grow, companies need to demonstrate a commitment to change. Yet, how do we know if our organizations are ready for such a commitment? After working with many companies over the years, I have compiled a list of key attributes that should help you discern your company’s commitment level.

• Committed companies communicate their performance metrics throughout the organization. All successful companies are driven to achieve the maximum results for their efforts. Metrics are established to monitor these results on an ongoing basis. Whether the metrics focus on sales levels, on-time deliveries, lead times, quality performance or inventory levels, they should all be compared to a plan or budget of some type and shared with the entire company.

Posting critical metrics in a highly visible area shows the company’s willingness to communicate key results. This offers a couple of benefits: First, it allows everyone to see for themselves the good and not-so-good aspects of the company’s performance. Second, it reduces the chance of rumors being started. Generally, lack of communication creates a void that is too often filled by damaging rumors.

• Committed companies focus on training. Companies train for many things. Some types of training are specific to a certain machine or process. Others are more generic but still are intended to raise employee skill levels. Regardless of the type of training in place, this process clearly shows a company’s commitment to developing its workforce. Quite simply, training demonstrates that a company is trying to get better, which sends a positive message to employees. Unfortunately, some organizations give “lip service” to training and are all for it until it conflicts with the need to manufacture parts.

A company president I once worked with summed up his feeling about training with the following statement: “We could justify canceling all training because we are too busy, too short on staff or too ‘anything,’ but then nothing would ever get better—so we don’t.” To him, training was a critical element in his continuous improvement philosophy and necessary to achieve the gains he sought for his company.

• Committed companies discuss and apply lean manufacturing concepts. Lean techniques for supporting process improvement are widespread. However, there are still some companies that are unaware of or have a misperception of the role of these techniques.

A friend of mine recently shared a story about a plant manager who was interviewing him for a position. The plant manager was talking about all the good things that were happening in the company, then started to talk about the role of lean manufacturing and said, “Yes, we are fully committed to lean manufacturing. In fact, in the last 6 months we have doubled our warehouse space and cut our production area in half.”

Such a misperception gave my friend cause for concern and motivated him to accept a different job offer. Companies that expect to prosper and grow in the coming years must be acquainted with lean manufacturing concepts and eager to apply those that make the most sense for their organizations.

• Committed companies have a sense of optimism throughout the organization, even during slow times. I believe that perception is, or often becomes, reality. Company managers who remain optimistic have a greater chance of keeping their employees motivated to perform at a high level. Managers who perceive that things are bad and will not get better will find a way to turn that into reality.

Even in slower times, companies have the opportunity to remain stable and possibly even grow. However, this requires confidence and a belief that better days are ahead. Maintaining a sense of optimism in the organization is necessary and is yet another way to demonstrate commitment.

• Committed companies consider new capital equipment. Companies need to periodically upgrade their capital equipment. There needs to be a budget for this equipment, and companies should continue to investigate the best equipment available to meet their needs. It is natural that if business slows down, some capital expenditures will be put on hold. However, there should still be a plan for capital equipment acquisition so that when things pick up, the company can bring in the right equipment and put it to good use. A lack of vision regarding capital equipment acquisitions shows a lack of commitment to making the company better.