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The Voice of Culture how I facilitated a cultural adjustment

What do you see? Damaged Parts, Messy work environment?

First thing I observed is that the company did not appreciate the employee's "Gift of Time" by allowing good parts to be abused resulting in damage. More discouraging is that the employees did not transfer or transmit pride of their skills either in the product produced or how they maintained their surroundings. It was like their contribution of their "Gift of Time" meant nothing.

And that was only my observations, I had yet to meet with the workforce, I knew that I was going to face a huge challenge ... but people are people and in their hearts all people are Good and want to accomplish good things. So for me it was Game On !!

It was my first day on the job and I was getting ready to stroll the manufacturing plant, make introductions, and generally attempt to get know the process. I was already proud of myself. I had been able to find a parking space, the washroom and where to get a coffee. But wait !!! My desk phone starts ringing, I answer it, and introduce myself as the new COO, on the other end is Douglas the manager of a high-end appliance Manufacturer (we are a provider all of the trim pieces to all of the NA Appliance companies). Douglas decided to advise me that all we produced was crap, our parts were crap, they did not fit, the finishing was lousy and he was fed-up with our non-compliances. He demanded that I be in his lobby within 48 hours with a detailed plan of our corrective action strategy and timeline. He would accept no substitutes.

Well I did not feel qualified. I did not think Douglas would appreciate me travelling from Toronto to Indiana to tell Douglas in person that the most I know at the moment is where I can park my car, the location of the bathroom and where the coffee pot is was.

So I started my factory tour and had the opportunity to meet Roger. Roger and his team were the ones who were the worker bees that made the parts for Douglas. I asked Roger if he knew/realized that Douglas was mad at us. Nope, Roger stated !! I had a brilliant idea, I decided to send Roger and his Team to visit Douglas, assess the situation and commit to a corrective action that I would endorse and support. Unfortunately, Roger and his team had never travelled outside of Canada. I made a couple of frantic calls and the proper documentation was in order. I waved the Team good-bye wishing them well.

The Team arrived into Douglas's lobby and Douglas immediately called me, expressing he was not very impressed that I was not with the Team. I explained to Douglas that I would only be a hinderance and Roger was the only person that could make knowledgeable decisions and commitments on behalf of our organization. I also advised Douglas to keep the team as long as required to repair our sins and also until he felt comfortable that a committed corrective action was developed.

This was my first Cultural lesson learned, Trust your people, they truly know what they are doing and why based on the information provided. Do not be embarrassed to let them represent you and the company.

A few days later Roger and his Team returned. During our de-brief Roger shared how we now knew how our parts interfaced within Douglas's process. He shared how we could make some minor adjustments to not only improve our process but the overall process while providing a significant cost savings to the customer (Douglas) as a result.

I was elated that we were able to solve and salvage the situation but disgruntled that the resolution was going to have a detrimental impact to our cash-flow. That was until Roger gave me several RFP's from Douglas to provide additional goods. Douglas had committed to Roger that should he demonstrate a sustainable corrective action for at least the coming month then he would allow us (Roger) to quote on additional parts.

The best part is that Roger and Douglas had developed a relationship and if anything went wrong Douglas would contact Roger directly. This was Good an Bad ... Good because Roger was able to grow our business with this customer and removed a burden from our Customer Service and Quality Departments. Bad, because changes were being made on the fly and our documentation was not always kept current.

Since that first fateful encounter I thrust Roger into he has grown to become the Senior Operations Guru within the company who is now not afraid to make a decision on his own to visit any customer in peril to see what is happening and suggest corrective actions without fear of repercussion.

This story is important to share but took a bit longer, next week i will share my next step of cultural adjustment through the implementation of my three rules;

  • Don't put anything in my aisles and I own all of the aisles

  • Don't be late to any of my meetings

  • Meet your dates, that you get to establish and a reminder that the day ends at midnight

Plus how I also made a huge cultural mistake by almost tucking in a chair in our boardroom.

Read more next week ... on how I navigated a cultural adjustement.


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