Getting clear on the problem
In today's audio, I discuss one of the most important but overlooked steps in solving any problem..
You can listen to the audio by clicking on the play button below. Beneath the audio, I have provided a general transcription. There will be some small differences between the audio and the transcription.
It's Carthage here again from Live Your True Story with another quick tip for you.
Alan is a former client of mine.
Alan came to talk to me about problems he was having in the factory which were related to communication. He was worried because the staff on the factory floor did not communicate clearly with the staff in the office.
There was just no mixing between the 2. It was as if they worked for 2 separate companies.
One problem which Alan highlighted, which was constantly causing problems was that the purchasing manager regularly got the stock levels wrong. There wouldn't be enough material and the reason this seemed to be happening, according to the purchasing manager, was that the system was not accurately recording the stock usage and that the supervisors were not putting the information in correctly.
Alan didn't believe this to be true, but he did think he knew the actual source of the problem. He believed it was more to do with how the system recorded scrap and wastage; all those stuff that had to be thrown out because of course, not all products are perfect. So, if there was a bad product and it had to be thrown out, material was required to make that product and Alan didn't think that was being recorded properly. He didn't think there was the facility to actually record it and that's what he wanted to get clear.
So, I asked Alan ‘Have you sat down with the purchasing manager to make this clear?’ ; and Alan told me, 'No in our factory the way it works is I communicate back to my manager, the production manager, and then the production manager sits down with the purchasing manager.'' The problem here was the production manager didn't understand the system. He didn't need to understand the system because his job didn't entail the recording of materials used. It was the supervisors who were supposed to do that. The purchasing manager then made the decisions for ordering based on that information.
So, I said then why aren't you communicating and what's more can you actually demonstrate to the purchasing manager what the problem is? So, Alan thought about it for a few minutes and he said well you know the next time it happens I could do that, So, we agreed that the next time that there was an issue on Alan's shift with the recording of materials, in particular those related to scrap and wastage, that Alan would call down the purchasing manager and go through everything with him.
And, that's what he did about a week later when the situation arose again. He was able to demonstrate to the purchasing manager how all of this material was not being captured because it was not a product that was being sold. It was waste and it was having to be discarded. The purchasing manager came to and forth all day making sure that he understood everything that was going on and what was needed and, at the end of the day he was able to come up with a solution for going forward.
It took a few weeks to implement that solution but I it got everybody on the same page. The purchasing manager now fully understood why he was not getting the information he needed and he was able to take the action over the next few weeks to have the system amended to capture every piece of material that was being used, whether it went in to a product that could be sold or, it went into a faulty product which was discarded.
But not only that. Not only did it improve the purchasing system, it improved the relationship between the office staff and the floor staff because the office staff could now see that the floor staff could be trusted; that they were knowledgeable people, they had ideas, they were able to spot the problems and of course, because they were the ones working directly in production, they were often the best people to see the problem.
And bit by bit, after that, their relationships improved and of course, Alan's role in this was recognised. So today, Alan is now the production manager. He's been promoted up to that level and he makes sure that his staff on the floor are communicating effectively with the office; that wherever he sees a breakdown he knows himself the first thing to do is get everybody who needs to be in the room together into the room together. To get them talking to each other and get on the same page so, when they understand the problem, they can identify the right action to take in order to move forward and correct the issue. But they cannot take the right action until they fully understand the problem and, they see it from both sides; from production and from the office side.
So, next time you have a problem with communication, make sure first of all that you're talking to the right person. Alan was telling his problems to the production manager. That wasn't getting him anywhere because the production manager didn't have a role in that particular issue. The purchasing manager was also speaking to the production manager but again not speaking to the right person.
So, make sure that you speak to the right person and to make it extra effective; if you can demonstrate the problem, if you can show the problem in action, it's far more effective and it will aid understanding and that way you can work together so that everybody benefits from the situation.
So, that's my quick tip for today.
Thank you for listening and I'll talk to you again soon.
If you lack the communication skills to talk through problems and work effectively with others, check out How to Talk So Others Listen.