Effectively Managing Temporary Employees

I have a client that is experiencing a significant positive ramp in their business.  From April to October, their output will almost triple.  Then, from December to January it will go back down to where it was in April. How do you manage that? If you hire new employees, not only is there a cost for training and a period of fitting in, but then in January you lay them all off. That potentially has a negative impact on morale and the company’s reputation and ability to hire in the future could be severely degraded.  The solution was a carefully crafted program of using temporary workers.  That also provided a challenge because at the height of activity, the total number of temps actually exceeded the total number of regular employees. How do you manage that?

The solution was actually fairly simple, yet one that most companies would not try. My client assigned a mentor to each temp. The mentor was a regular employee that had a high level of skills, but was not normally a supervisor. This employee was responsible for making sure the temp produced the level of quality and output needed by the company.  The mentor was empowered to recommend releasing the temp if they weren’t meeting the necessary standards. Not only did this solve the problem of managing the temps, it also was an opportunity to develop regular employees into potential team leaders. One of those clear win/win situations!

© 2010 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Do you know the “Main Thing”?

Have you ever felt like your plate is overflowing? Does your boss keep piling things on your to do list?  Many people I talk to are overwhelmed with the number of things they are trying to juggle while trying to do a good job and being responsive to the needs of their company. This seems to be especially the case in this environment of layoffs and consolidations due to the economy.

So how do you set priorities?  In his book “Monday Morning Leadership”, David Cottrell describes “the main thing” or main things that a manager needs to focus on to make progress on their goals. Your main things should be established as part of the annual planning process and reinforced/updated throughout the year. In my work with clients on Operations and Supply Chain, I have found that most managers actually have two, three or four main things.  It is critical to reach agreement with your boss as to what the main things are for you (and I highly recommend no more than four!) and that you are allowed to say “no” when someone, anyone, trys to distract you or reset your priorities to their main thing.

The following response may be useful – “That is not on my list of main things to do. Is there one of these that you think is no longer a main thing for me”?  This even works with CEO’s!

© 2010 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Do You Need Kaizen Events to Make Improvements?

Many Lean practitioners seem to take the position that the way you do process improvement is through Kaizen Events. In a Kaizen Event (sometimes known as a Kaizen Blitz) a team of people focus on a given work area or problem, and they develop and implement improvements. While these events can take from a half day to a full week or more, the definition of the event put forth in “The Kaizen Blitz” (AME – 1999) suggests that three days is best. This is not incremental improvement; it suggests significant improvement over a short period of time.

But do you need to wait for a Kaizen Event to make improvements? NO! I was talking to a manufacturing executive the other day that has many small activities going on all at the same time (he won’t even refer to it as Lean) that resulted in about a 7% annual cost reduction/profit improvement on total sales! He believes that continuous improvement by itself empowers people in operations to make many improvements which over time, add up to big numbers. Some of the improvements might take only minutes to identify, plan, do, check and adjust. Others may take hours, days or even weeks depending on the scope. His thought is – don’t limit people to an event to make improvements. Empower them to make them continuously and it becomes part of the culture.

© 2010 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

How Do You Start a Lean Journey? Paint the Lunchroom!

When many companies begin a Lean journey, they wrestle with where to start. Some will begin with training, trying to help employees understand the basics of Lean. Others start with 5S (work place organization) because it is fairly easy to do and demonstrates visible results. Still others will establish new policies such as no lay-offs (due to the Lean process).

I suggest you start by painting the lunchroom! What has this got to do with Lean? Actually, several things – first, it shows you are really serious about changing the environment of the company to one of quality. Second it shows you really care about the environment in which the employees work. How can you expect them to go the extra mile to produce Lean processes and then allow them to eat in a dump? Painting the lunchroom says 1) we want quality, 2) we support you and care about your work place, 3) we are serious about culture change. You could also get new microwave ovens and a refrigerator! If your lunchroom is already in good shape, find something else that will make a statement to the employees.

The first critical step for a Lean Journey is to convince yourself and the employees that things are going to be different; that the culture is going to change. A great way to demonstrate that is to paint the lunchroom!