Where Consensus Rules, Confusion Reigns!
Who is REALLY in charge of your business? I mean REALLY—let’s be honest!
Thinking about a phone conversation I had a short while back with a struggling business owner, I still get a little hot under the collar!
The owner was having serious and expensive problems with constant, repeat errors and had called me hoping, it seemed, for some kind of miracle cure. I had given him my best initial thoughts about a workable solution, only to hear from him later that he had polled his employees about it and they had rejected the change flat out. These, by the way, were the same employees who made the most mistakes, he said.
Again, I ask—who is REALLY in charge of that owner’s business?
I’m thankful to receive many calls from business owners seeking AND offering solutions to problems most businesses face daily, such as:
- rework due to errors,
- late deliveries,
- not getting paid for corrections to customer files,
- the lack of written processes,
- poor quality control,
- messy production areas and offices,
- preventative maintenance issues, etc.
When I suggest what I know to be proven solutions, most of the owners tend to heartily agree with those recommendations. Unfortunately, they too often will turn right around and stick a finger in the air to see if the winds of opposition are blowing. If so, they’ll poll their employees to get a consensus, not trusting their own judgment or ability to lead.
If your business is experiencing costly, repetitive errors in production, I feel sure you would agree that something should— and needs to—change. If you find a simple solution you believe will eliminate those mistakes, why then would you ask those responsible for the repeat errors for permission to implement a workable solution?
Where’s the BEEF?
MY BEEF IS...WHY would a business owner who is risking everything he or she has, and who is bearing the weight of ownership, allow ANYONE a vote on whether or not to correct bad and costly problems?
I can just about hear some of your employees’ reasoning:
1. “We’ve been doing it this way for years!”
- [How’s that working for you?]
2. “Errors are normal and to be expected!”
- [Good excuse for continuing to make them!]
3. “We're human, and humans make mistakes!”
- [Teachable humans generally want to improve!]
4. “We tried things like this at my old job and they just didn't last!”
- [How long did THEY last in their old job?]
5. “We like our friendly family atmosphere, and systems are too dehumanizing!”
- [What’s more dehumanizing than having egg on your face from bad jobs?]
6. “Quality Control systems slow us down!”
- [Mistakes slow everything down!]
7. “Bob, your best employee, says he’s going to quit if a control system is implemented!”
- [Does Bob stay up nights worrying with you about what isn’t working?]
May I offer some further advice here? I would suggest that ALL of the reasons above are just so much horse manure—attempts to keep the status quo at the owner’s expense! Such excuses (which is what they actually are) fly in the face of everything known about fixing errors in manufacturing and service industries.
For years, the most successful companies have been testing, developing, measuring and re-measuring—to improve and prove solutions for eliminating errors and to save costs and allow businesses to grow and continue to employ others.
Therefore, it’s not up to interpretation, or silly and negative reasoning, such as I illustrated above. IT’S A PROVEN FACT! The worth of great systems has been proven by thousands of companies, including the likes of Toyota, Ford, Starbucks, Nissan and many, many more.
My company has been measuring improvement processes and quality control systems for more than 15 years, and I can say emphatically: errors can be almost totally eliminated by proven systemization.
So, when owners ask those “repeat offender” employees if they believe a certain control system should be implemented, the employee’s negative opinion—in MY opinion—becomes immediately suspect. I believe balking at needed improvement in a business comes with a certain bias, due to the fact that, if said solution was implemented, it would almost certainly expose certain bad habits, and the employee would be held accountable for their errors and other problems.
When I decided years ago that I was going to fix the problems in my chaotic business, almost every employee expressed doubt that the solutions I wanted to implement would EVER work; in fact, those closest to me echoed the same sentiments.
I’m a firm believer in getting sound advice or wise counsel as a business owner. I believe in listening to employees and getting their take on various subjects. However, I have little to no patience when I hear owners tell me they will make a decision based on a consensus of a group of employees that are content with stepping in that same horse manure, over and over, and calling it “business as usual.”
Margins are too thin, and good clients too hard to come by, to let people who don’t mind living in chaos, just because THEY still get paid, to have a vote in the decision of eliminating costly, wasteful errors.
Imagine an NFL football coach taking a team vote about whether there should be practice for improving their game, when their losses are measurable and their fans (customers) have stopped raving about them!
It doesn't work in football—and it sure doesn't work in business!
Here’s to scoring raving fans for ALL our businesses in the New Year!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.