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Can Do and Want To

Posted by admin on June 20, 2012

“Winning isn’t everything.  Wanting to win is.” - Catfish Hunter

Effective problem prevention and problem solving in a manufacturing company requires that employees have Can Do and Want To.  When we talk about Can Do we mean “employees can do the task”.  In order to avoid and fix problems, employees need:

Skills – Can they analyze a deviation in order to pinpoint the root cause of the problem in order to make a permanent fix?  Can they assess the risks of a situation, determine what needs to be done to avoid the risks and make plans to deal with the problem should it occur?   While many people think these skills are innate, there are processes employees can learn and apply in these areas.  Through consistent use, these processes can be turned into skills.

Time – Are employees given the time to develop and apply the skills to make an impact on company profitability?  Teaching a process but not giving time to use the process is a waste of money.  It usually results in band-aide fixes and rearview mirror analysis that cost more time and money than avoiding problems and fixing them right the first time.

Data – Do employees have access to data they can turn into information to avoid and fix problems?  Data is the lifeblood of effective problem solving.  Knowing the boundaries of the problem helps pinpoint the root cause and implement a fix to alleviate the root cause, not the symptoms. 

The other half of the equation is Want To, as in “employees want to avoid and fix problems.”  Even if employees have the skills, time and data to avoid and fix problems, they may not do so because there are no rewards or there may be negative consequences for doing the right thing.  Let’s take a quick look a these two areas:

Rewards – Are employees given incentives for avoiding and fixing problems?  We would like to think people do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  But in the absence of positive reinforcement, people will often take the path that causes them the least pain.  If you don’t build in rewards to recognize the extra work involved in avoiding and fixing problems, employees are likely to take the path of least resistance.  These rewards can be monetary (a cash bonus, gift card, promotion, etc.) or non-monetary (recognition in the company newsletter or intranet site, or in an awards ceremony).  Rewarding employees not only makes them more likely to avoid and fix problems in the future, but it inspires other employees to do the same.  When thinking about rewards it is important to ask employees what they consider a reward.  We have seen situations where management’s idea of a reward was actually viewed as a negative by employees.

Removal of Negatives – Are there roadblocks to avoiding and fixing problems?  One of these roadblocks can be a supervisor who insists on temporary fixes to get a line running again or tells employees they are being “negative” because they analyze risks when considering a course of action.  Or the roadblock can be fellow employees who pressure the employee to “go along”, even when everyone knows the problem will appear again in the next day or two.  If employees see only negative and no positive in doing the right thing, they will likely stop trying to do the right thing. 

The job of managers and supervisors is to make sure there are Can Do and Want To so avoiding and fixing problems becomes a way of life in the company.  Without both halves of the equation, improvement efforts are likely to fail.