January 1 of 2017 might seem like a decade ago, but it’s only been six months. How about the goals you and your team set out to achieve this year? Do those also seem to be in the distant past, or are you still making progress on them?
For many companies, the goals set in the beginning of the year have been overshadowed by the daily firefighting: chronic issues that pull time, attention, and resources away from the activities that get us closer to success. During our benchmarking trips to Japan in the 1990’s, Milliken learned that most of our U.S. counterparts were spending more than half of their time firefighting.
The results of our own internal surveys confirmed that the 40/60 split was true for our own operations. This meant that we weren’t spending any time innovating or improving our processes. Any goals set at the beginning of the year were doomed to fail.
Once we embraced the Milliken Performance System, we were able to reallocate time and resources away from firefighting and channel them towards continuous improvement projects. For example, instead of finding a new way to fix a recurring breakdown of a weaving machine, associates worked on eliminating the problem that was causing the breakdown. Once that breakdown was permanently fixed, the associates were able to use the newly available time on eliminating other problems, time that was previously spent repairing the same problem over and over again.
Moving away from firefighting and towards a culture of continuous improvement can’t be achieved by a short term initiative, however. Many organizations unwittingly encourage firefighting by recognizing employees who “save the day”: getting an order out by working way past quitting time, fixing an unfixable machine by using the spare parts hoarded in a tool chest, etc. Heroics are easy to identify for both employees and leaders. Recognizing the preventative, daily due diligence is much more difficult.
One tool we use in Performance Solutions by Milliken that helps us focus on the activities that matter is our Daily Management System (DMS). It begins by selecting the key goals that will bring the organization closer to its vision. Subsequent goals and targets cascade down from those and serve to guide what metrics are discussed in shift meetings and reviewed in management conferences. This kind of alignment helps to create a culture where work becomes much more proactive. Daily tasks and routines become more value-added. As you check in with your 2017 goals, you might ask how non-emergencies have diverted attention away from these goals, and how implementing a Daily Management System could help.
For more information on how Performance Solutions by Milliken can help your company become a group of former firefighters, please contact us.