Say NO! to the office arsonist

Day 2 of #SayNo week

Creating a zen like workspace is ABSOLUTELY impossible. You're always going to have externally driven issues arise, but let's eliminate some of the internally created fires we fight daily and maybe, just maybe, we can get closer to zen than we previously thought possible.

Planning

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Ok, but it's true. Outside of the military, I rarely find a "steady state calendar" or anything by any other name that resembles that. There are LOTS of businesses that go by the rule of the monday meeting and reports due by x o'clock on Thursday, but a comprehensive calendar of deliverables is not typically found unless you're in the finance and accounting department and it's time for a quarterly. Lets start with what a "steady state calendar" is. This is a tool to schedule everything that happens every 5 years, every year, every quarter, every month, every week, every day, depending on the person using it. A daily steady state calendar would reflect that from 6:00AM to 7:00AM you're checking emails, from 7:00 to 8:00 you're doing some other task, and so on and so forth. From a business steady state standpoint, you should schedule a policy update every so often, 3 months, 6 months or yearly. This allows all of the leadership to collect ideas throughout the period and come with changes to the meeting. Scheduling this also means that the workforce isn't jumping through hoops (fighting fires) every time a rule or policy is changed. They know that every 6 months this meeting is going to happen and changes will be (WILL BE) neatly organized and effectively communicated. It also prevents departments from creating rules for other departments to follow without discussing the change with the interacting departments. This is largely an internal planning tool and helps from fighting those fires brought up last minute.

Planning also should affect policy on handling instances that occur regularly from external sources. A customer is angry at Pizza Hut. They have decided that EVERY employee has $5 to fix a customer's issue. Over that, get the manager involved and they have a higher discretionary fund for customer retention. It's planned. Some poor kid is at the counter getting yelled at by an irate customer and has to escape to ask a manager how to fix this is an unnecessary fire that Yum! foods has exquisitely extinguished. Many large companies have this type of rule. Do your service managers, or sales force have authority to relieve 1%, 5%, or 10% of the sale in the effort to save a relationship with a customer? Think of all of the problems you could solve with allowing a level of autonomy at the lowest levels. "If this type of problem arises, you have authority, up to x level, to solve it". WOW how empowering. The customer's you'll keep and the time you'll save is astonishing.

Planning ahead, says NO! to fighting fires.

Tools

Giving your employees the tools they need to succeed is of paramount importance. I have personally worked for companies that were so backwards that my request to make a change in a computer system that was already in place and paid for was declined. I've talked to plenty of leaders, on the other hand, that need tools for their employees and they fight tooth and nail for that item and get it done. This is a fire that some businesses fight and some businesses have solved. If a Union Glazier breaks a drill, one company replaces the drill, no questions asked. They also don't do a great job at tracking how many each person breaks over time... but at least the first step is taken care of. That employee could sit around all day, not able to do her job because they don't have the proper tools. Once I had a computer that would constantly crash. When I asked for a remedy, I was asked if this was my first job out of college and not to expect so much. Sorry, just asking for working equipment here... It demotivated me and disengaged me immediately. What I learned from that interaction is, what happens when I decline one of my workers an essential tool? They realize who's side I'm on, the budget's. You're losing money when they're not fully and sufficiently equipped. I spoke to a manager that requisitioned a leaf blower, something you can pick up at any hardware store for under $100. It wasn't "essential" because he could use brooms and a rake. It took one month to receive the go ahead to purchase. The company opted for red tape instead of giving this manager the autonomy to make a decision that would benefit the company. What's the lesson here? Segway into eliminating waste, how many hands did that requisition go through? How long were the workers raking and sweeping? So it costs quite a bit to not add that level of equipment autonomy into your system.

Tools aren't just physical items. At one company I am familiar with a request was made in the form of a new column of data in a database they were already using. There was a program that allowed attachments, and then there was a separate database that we manually entered the data into and then sorted the line item through the process (archaic). In this attachment for quoted jobs, they quoted how many hours the work should take to complete. This was not included in the database. My requisition was to add that column to the database so if a worker finished a job and had 2 hours left in the day, we could filter down to the 2 hour jobs and find him a job nearby that we could then call the customer and see if we could come to their location and complete. Denied. The process remained that we would have to find a job that was incomplete, then open it in the other program, go to the attachments tab, find the attachment and then open it up to find out how long it was going to take, we would often look through the same attachments on different days not remembering how long it was allotted for. After we found an acceptable job, we would then need to call the customer and make sure that was ok. This sometimes took the two hours the worker had left in the day. The worker sat in a van or truck for two hours making $45/hr., truck in idle, then they went home. This was FREE, it was a tool and it could have been easily implemented. I was again demotivated and disengaged. Being who I am, I quickly became re-engaged and moved on.

Try to look at the problem from the angle of what it is costing the business to NOT act. Include physical costs monetized through idle workers, customers lost, and then add up the demoralization of your workers and how much turnover costs. Getting someone a free tool, or giving them the management tools to purchase a leaf blower is relatively inexpensive when you think of it that way. When the President wonders why you're hiring more people in your department even though you haven't made budget, you explain that you're in charge of that department and this is what you need. If they don't buy in, go find a new workplace. There's plenty of places that will.

Giving your workers the tools they need, says NO! to fighting fires.

Eliminate Waste

All any Six Sigma Black Belt wants to do is eliminate waste. Waste is bad! Streamline! It's on repeat if you've got one of us lingering around, but we're not wrong, and there's a method to our obsessive madness. Waste is anything that spends too much time, effort, materials, money on any one thing. Waste piles up and creates those fires that we shouldn't be fighting.

When you have a 1 hour project that you don't have the tools for, it turns into 2 hours, then you're late for the meeting, and the client is calling and interrupting. You should be able to make the meeting and address the client phone call because your 1 hour project should be done. That's how waste creates that additional hassle and fire that you've got to fight. It's internal and when you do get that external source of stress, you're just adding it on. And even after the meeting and remedying the client's problem, your project still has loose ends. ugh.

The fix? Try to eliminate waste in every aspect of everything you do. Did you just type out an entire quotation for a customer? Make a template (if you're working somewhere that sends out quotes often and you don't have a template talk to me, that's awful) for your quotes. If it's more complicated, save in a document what you did each time you did something... It'll come back around. How did we solve this problem? Who did we contact when we needed a jigamafloob transducer for the widget machine?

This goes back to tools, but give yourself the tools to reduce time in your personal tasks. If you don't have naming conventions for files, create one for your personal documents. All Quotes will be named Quote Underscore Year Month Date and whatever quote that was for the day. I'm on my third quote today so it's Quote_2017050203.pdf.

If you don't have that template of whatever you need regularly, create one in the evening when things calm down.

As for manufacturing, we all know that having to deal with waste products is a hassle. Recently a wine company needed to dump thousands of gallons of spoiled wine or "vinegar". In order for the business to do this, they needed permission from the government. This waste was created first because they didn't use the wine before it spoiled, but it created additional problems. Where do we store this vinegar? We need the containers it's stored in for other things, but now we don't have those, so we're going to have to spend money to buy NEW containers. Where do we put the new containers? When we DO get rid of the vinegar what are we going to do with the empty containers then? sell them, keep them? This was ALL spurred from not using a product in the first place and creating waste. That's lots of paperwork, lots of forklift moving, lots of talking about it during weekly meetings, and ultimately lots of money literally down the drain.

As a larger business you should already have some of this protocol in place, but for small business leaders, you may be REALLY good at making chocolate or repairing cars or building houses but that extra organization skill comes with that employee you may have not hired yet.

Remember, even real life firefighters teach you how to PREVENT fires.

Plan, Tools, Waste. #SayNo! to fighting unnecessary fires.

If you need help with planning, the tools, or reducing waste, give me a call today!

This is Day 2 of #SayNo! week

If you missed Day 1 it's right here Day 1: Tasks

Cory Myres - Lubbock Consulting

Cory Myres is a serial entrepreneur and wine connoisseur. A Lubbock Texas Native, he enlisted in the US Army shortly after graduating from Coronado High School. After a tour in Afghanistan, with the famed 101st Airborne Division he returned to Lubbock Texas to attend Texas Tech University. As a Red Raider he studied Architecture, Civil Engineering, Statistics, Economics and Graduated from the Rawls College of Business Administration with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship. From then he went on to become certified in Six Sigma as a Black Belt, and Project Management Professional in order to found his business consulting firm, Lubbock Consulting.