It's not always the case that you get two kicks at the can to see if something works but if it worked well the first time there's probably no reason to think it won't work again. We got that chance and the results are in.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a piece for EMC and that’s simply down to me not wanting to repeat myself or get too “preachy” when it comes to some basic core beliefs I hold. Ironically, my first blog in some time sees me doing just that – repeating myself (and probably getting a little preachy too). Hopefully, you’ll see the value of both in the end.
A number of you may have read some of my earlier articles (see my Member Blogs on the EMC website) about the successes we had at World’s Finest Chocolate and the growing pains we endured at Blommer Chocolate. I want to bring you up to date with where we’re at here at Blommer Canada and to do so I’ll be referencing some of the themes from those pieces below because, in my experience, they quite simply work.
Over the past ten years our Campbellford facility has grown from an annual volume of 6 million pounds to the current 82 million pounds. Plans are in place to take us over the 100 million mark in the next couple of years. It’s pretty astonishing to have accomplished it – more so, to have survived it. It was slow at first and then the floodgates opened. Now we’re growing and flourishing and operating “ahead of the curve”. We’ve gone from being the most expensive Blommer facility to the least. We’re leading the Company in almost all performance metrics including both health & safety and error-free deliveries. We’ve transitioned from fire-fighters to fire prevention. It’s a good place to be.
How did we do it?
Well, in the simplest terms we just went back to what worked for us at World’s Finest. The old adage “if it’s not broke, why fix it?” seemed to be applicable. If nothing else it would give us a starting place. In the end, it was all that we really needed.
We built a simple 5-year plan around creating an engaged and self-directed workforce. The premise was pretty straight-forward – we want the right person in the right place at the right time making the best decision possible because a/ they are often the most capable and b/ it provides the degree of adaptability and flexibility required to be competitive in today’s marketplace. We want to be able to operate effectively but more importantly – with pace.
The roadmap to get there…
a/ we focused on culture by re-launching our core values with a “respect” campaign. Employees post thank-you notes on a hallway bulletin board. They also actually hand each other notes citing examples of respect. We reward those people “walking the talk”.
b/ we want to model the appropriate culture throughout our facility so all of our Supervisors/ Leads/ “high-potential” employees participate in “Step Up” training which gives them the tools to become the coaching/ mentoring leader we want and our culture needs them to be. One-third of our workforce has gone through some level of leadership training. We develop our leaders from within.
c/ we trained a number of our employees in problem-solving leadership roles where they learned not only how to problem-solve but also how to lead teams.
d/ we created a bonus/ prize opportunity for all employees by allowing them to form autonomous, problem-solving teams led by our problem-solving leaders and coached by our Supervisors/ Leads. This allowed everyone to put into practice the tools they’d acquired. The results have been pretty amazing.
All of this has led to a more engaged/ self-directed workforce in possession of greater skills. It’s no coincidence that this has also helped to vault this facility to the top of the plant performance charts within Blommer.
We’ve selected a group of Lean Leaders and they (having completed Lean leadership and value-stream mapping training) will shortly be embarking on a series of kaizen events that will not only leave us with the results of those events but a group of 8 in-house kaizen facilitators.
If you look back at the old articles you will see a lot of similarities in approach. We’ve always believed in establishing the necessary cultural foundation first (the hard bit) before doing what we always considered the “continuous improvement” piece. Truth be told, it pretty much happens somewhat simultaneously so I now see “CI” more in terms of cultural improvement or comprehensive improvement. However you choose to see it, it becomes pretty clear that once you’ve lived it a couple of times, it’s so much easier to get the results you need by focusing on making your workforce the best they can be. They will take care of the rest.
1/ create a strong, supportive culture steeped in core values
2/ invest in and develop your people
3/ grow leaders and build teams;
4/ give people a purpose and make them relevant
5/ transition away from the traditional top-down leadership structure to one where leaders coach and mentor self-directed teams
6/ let people make mistakes and trust them to get things right
An engaged workforce is something that we all aspire to have. We’re not where we want to be but we’re well on our way – the second time around.