Today’s guest post, while I recover from surgery, is from Tim Gardner. Tim is the Director of Organizational Effectiveness for Kimberly-Clark. He is also an HR blogger and can be found at The HR Introvert.
By Tim Gardner
Manufacturing jobs have changed substantially since my first couple of engineering assignments at the beginning of my career. The first factories I worked in required employees in many parts of the process to manually move product from one conveyor to another, or to move up and down conveyor lines clearing jams and re-establishing product flow. Automation has made those manual jobs obsolete. Today, though there are still industries where some manual, non-skilled work is still required, it has lessened considerably overall.
So now employees frequently work in teams managing the asset itself. In High Performance teams, there may be a great deal of cross training, and teams are accountable for the operation, maintenance, and effective output of the process. There is less a hierarchy of jobs and more a collaboration of skills.
Some managers want to make the most of this concept – of high performance teams – and they focus on getting the best talent they can find for the roles – they want Rock Stars. And when they tell me that, I roll my eyes a little and say “I understand, sort of. But let’s talk about what that means in terms or real qualifications and competencies.”
Even then, with good talent you haven’t cracked the High Performance barrier. I suggest you consider these three things as equally important as talent is:
- Systems that support collaboration. You have to make sure you have effective ways for learning to be spread across a high performance team. If you have a shift change, it needs to be managed with more than a tag team approach. How do you record progress to goals and how is that information shared to the team? Is it frequent enough to allow them to make changes and adjustments, or is it every quarter where they may no longer remember all the low and high points of the single number result?
- Processes that can help the team move toward the goal. In this case, I mean the processes of improvement, primarily. How are failures analyzed for permanent fixes? Are standard practices required, and are they modified according to a planned check-and-adjust cycle? Things don’t get better without bringing new energy into the work, and good problem solving practices are critical to improvement.
- An expectation of development. Sure, one of the core principles of high performance is that we are each accountable for our own development. But if my development, as I planned it, doesn’t match up with the burning needs of the business, then it is wasted time and effort. We can’t just hold people accountable for their development, we have to provide opportunity and content as well, and make sure we are expecting people to apply the learning in ways that matter..
A team does not become High Performance by branding them as such. It takes a full foundation of support to assure that the end results are greater than the sum of the parts.