Help the Wounded – Leave the Stragglers

Help the Wounded – Leave the Stragglers 

Operational excellence is not complicated, but it is hard work. Some of the hardest work is accepting and solving the inevitable problems that an environment rich in standards creates.  Leaders within organizations react in different ways to the discoveries. Many see the problem identified as an opportunity and work to take advantage of it. Others turn their attention in denial and explain away the evidence with excuses, blame or worse, apathy.

Successful organizations support and even reward those who attack the problems, even when they fail to solve them. Those same successful organizations are quick to abandon those who deny the problem, blame others, or simply do nothing. Successful organizations help the wounded and leave the stragglers.

Help the wounded

The scientific method fails forward – that is – it learns from its mistakes. Even when the hypothesis is totally disproved, victory comes in the form of learning. Celebrating the victory in learning builds a culture of trying.

A plastics injection molding machine was consistently missing the hourly targeted production.  An energized supervisor was convinced the problem was operators adjusting the weights and temperatures, causing the process to drift out of control and create scrap. His solution was to lock down the machine controls and take the adjustment capability of the operator away. The result was less scrap indeed, but now less production because the machine was being stopped rather than adjusted when the poor quality occurred.

The supervisor was quickly seen at fault by the operators – and had lost credibility. In reality, the experiment to lock the controls identified a problem in the process that was actually causing the scrap and requiring the adjustment. Maintenance could fix the root cause and production resumed – now without scrap.

When a frustrated operator asked the leader, “how about that supervisor?,” the leader responded, “yeah, he really is something. The way he helped us prove the operator adjustments were not the problem allowed us to truly solve the problem!”

Leave the stragglers

The scientific method fails without a hypothesis and an experiment. Nothing can be proven if nothing is done. Successful organizations quickly abandon those who do not propose and test a solution.

A plastics injection molding machine was consistently missing the hourly targeted production.  When asked the supervisor explained the machine was old and that, honestly he had been having trouble with the new operator on the night shift. He went on to explain that he would be talking to the night shift guy and would straighten him out. The following day however he reported he had not had a chance to talk to the new operator.

His leader responded, “I am honestly not sure if the problem is the age of the machines or the operator, but what bothers me the most is you are not testing either idea, so we will never know.”

The difference between the wounded and the stragglers is they both think they know the solution, but only one takes the effort and risk to find out if they are right.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Latest posts by Patrick Putorti (see all)

Speak Your Mind