Are You Winning or Losing?
Instead of looking at data or metrics for the answer, ask your team
If someone came up to you and asked, “Is your business winning or losing today?” how would you answer? More importantly, how would you come to that conclusion? Would it be looking at sales numbers? Safety ratings? Number of products made?
These numbers and metrics are obviously very important. But I challenge you to look at winning and losing a different way. Instead of crunching numbers, ask your employees who are taking care of the daily activities on the floor.
What insights they have might surprise you, and if you can identify trends and issues, it could lead to beneficial changes to your operations.
The value of hearing from people on the floor
We all have unique skill sets that allow us to excel at our jobs. For senior leadership teams, this is usually focusing on the bigger picture and long-term strategies for the company. But, this can lead to a disconnect from the day-to-day operations. To gain back that perspective, talk with your employees in different positions and departments. Ask them the question “Are we winning or losing today? Why?”
How ever they answer, ask a few follow up questions to find out the cause. If they’re feeling like they’re losing, why is that? Was a machine broken that day that slowed down production? Does your customer service team feel inundated with phone calls and it takes too long to respond?
The feedback can be useful to see if there are reoccurring problems or themes. If employees bring up issues, ask them if they have ideas for solutions. They’re the experts at their role, and their suggestions might be something that is easily implemented. Or, they might have proposals for operational changes to make everyone more successful.
At the end of the conversation, Don’t forget to thank them. Most importantly, follow up. This will keep an open chain of communication and reminds people they are appreciated and valued.
Find the tools to solve your problem instead of seeking out a problem for your tools to solve
How many times have you been pitched a cool new tool that will “revolutionize your business”? And how many times have you bought it, told your team to use it and been frustrated when the results aren’t as promised?
This is due to finding a solution and then looking for a problem to solve. If you’re looking for ways to use a product, or you don’t have a reason to use it right away, it’s not valuable.
Instead, once you’ve identified areas that need improvement via your internal conversations, start looking for a product to solve the problem. Keep your employees engaged by having them participate in choosing a solution. Not only will they have a better idea of what they need it to do, but it creates buy-in early on, and employees will be more likely to use it when it’s in place. Take the time to train employees on the new tool, so that they can be successful.
This method works.
We had a customer that followed a model like this. Viking Range produces high-end residential ranges and appliances and is one of the leading American brands in that vertical.
Senior leadership identified a need to increase their efficiencies in their publishing department. They system relied on an outside vendor to update their content via static PDFs and spreadsheets. Because everything had to be updated individually, if a part was changed and used in dozens of different pieces of equipment, it took even more staff time to make all of the updates. In total, it was taking TWO WEEKS to create a single parts book because of the processes that were set up. The technical publishers knew they needed a better way to execute revisions. Senior leadership listened, took into account the suggestions from employees, and researched and evaluated products that could fix this cumbersome process.
They chose Documoto, because the cloud-based relational database allowed technical publishers to update a part once and have it populate across any materials that part was found, solving one of the biggest frustrations.
Viking’s technical writers and illustrators started using the software right away, and the results were immediate. It only takes the publishing team 30 minutes to make changes and distribute. It has also given control over the whole process to the publishing team, instead of having to rely on outside vendors. This accurate and immediate information distribution has had a ripple effect and had a positive impact throughout the business. (You can read the full story here).
Viking’s story is just one example of how this approach can revolutionize your business using employee feedback and finding solutions to problems (instead of looking for problems for your solution). Once you’ve taken these steps, ask yourself the question again: “Is my business winning or losing?”
This time, the answer should be, “Winning. I’ve worked with employees to help solve our operational issues, leaving them happier and more productive, and our numbers and data reflect that.”