Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Place to Get Started

There is not one way to start moving toward organizational excellence.  Here is one approach to getting started.

Learn to look at your organization with new eyes.  Where is the activity that does not add value to the product?  The amount of activity that does not add value can be thousands of times of the amount of activity that does add value. Figure out how to eliminate activity that does not add value.

For example, transportation of material does not add value.  Of course, product has to be moved from one operation to the next, but often we increase transportation by having unnecessary space between any two operations.  Because we have the space, we don't move each piece to the next step immediately, we allow the product-in-process to accumulate in containers, to the point where it can no longer be moved by hand.  Now we need a forklift to come and move the container.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Layoffs Can Be Costly

Over 20 years ago, after having worked for a multi-national corporation for four years, I was laid off.  It was a major reduction in force in which hundreds of shop floor jobs and hundreds of salaried jobs were eliminated.  The focus was on reducing costs by headcount reduction.
Those of us who were laid off from salaried positions were aware that at least a couple of dozen new employees had been hired recently, within a few months.  None of them were caught in the cutbacks.  This company felt it was essential to continually get “new blood,” while also “cutting headcount.”
I had run into my boss in a hallway during this period of major layoffs.  I asked him if I should be worried.  No, he said.  I was doing really important work, helping move a major machining line to Mexico.  I was assisting several Mexican engineers during that very time to become familiar with all the machines on the line and to study and copy all the engineering drawings.
The very next day, I received an email from my boss.  He needed to talk to me. How soon could I see him?  When I went to his office at the time I had suggested, he had a Human Resources person with him. He looked awful.  He thought he had seen the final list of layoffs, he told me. He was wrong.  There was another list.  I was on it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Uneven Unemployment

In my post yesterday, I asked what had changed in the Waste Management company, as a result of  being featured in Undercover Boss, beyond making things better for the people who were chosen by the television show's producers to be in the show.  Larry O’Donnell, the Waste Management COO, directed that actions be taken to improve the situations of those people with whom he worked in the show.  What about other decent, hardworking, under-recognized employees who are struggling to keep their homes?  Are things going to improve for them?

There is a lot that chief officers and high level managers do not see in their companies.  In his column yesterday, in the New York Times, Bob Herbert points out that there is a lot that we all miss about the employment condition of people. Most of all he draws our attention to the fact that our current unemployment rate does not affect us all the same.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Undercover Boss

The premier of Undercover Boss took place last night, immediately after the Super Bowl. In this latest version of a “reality show,” Larry O’Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management strips off his suit and tie and goes to work in several jobs in his company, as a guy named Randy, making a “documentary” about seeking entry level work. He sorts recycling, cleans portable toilets, attempts to pick up flying debris at a landfill and (for the first time in his life) is fired for not having what it takes.
He spends a day helping collect residential trash, where he discovers that his female boss for the day has to pee in a tin can while at work, because her schedule does not permit her to take the time to do it any other way. She also feels resentful of the inspectors who sometime follow her in unmarked white pickup trucks. Jaclyn, an administrative assistant to the a landfill manager on an administrative assistant’s hourly wage, is also the scale operator, the scale supervisor and handles all accounts payable and accounts receivable. She’s had cancer five times by the age of 25 (she is now 29) and supports a household that includes, in Larry’s words, three families. She has her house up for sale, because she cannot afford it.