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Team Communications

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I think it's pretty easy to see by now that the "system is not the solution" and businesses that view it as such become disenchanted when things don't get better immediately. The failure is obviously the fault of the inadequate software or the expectation-missing consulting group, and the only change that needs to be made is to get more software/ consulting help. Wrong. May we have the next contestant please? My whole reason in putting this paper and presen­tation together was to point out the fact that a back-to-basics approach has to be the direction you take to deal with these complex issues. I'm a firm believer that you have to execute the fundamentals properly to be successful.

Any attempts to deal with the communications issues we've talked about so far have to include an examination of the fundamentals behind the issue. Like a basketball team, regardless of how talented the individual players are, unless everyone executes the fundamentals well and un­derstands their role, the team won't win and very likely won't have a lot of fun playing the game.

What do I mean by the fundamentals? Well, basic commu­nications skills are the best place to start. Don't take it for granted that your staff knows the proper methods of verbal and written communication. We're not born with that gift—it has to be learned and nurtured. Offering classes to your employees, supporting their efforts and making it easy to pass information along will do a lot to alleviate the problem. There are various team building programs avail­able that stress the need to communicate and pull together towards a common goal (like making the business success­ful!). Everyone has to realize that there's a big difference between telling someone something and communicating with them. The simple practice of running a meeting with a preset agenda so everyone can prepare takes away the ability for the various players to focus on their own issues and can really keep things on track.

Another useful method of focusing the efforts of various departments is to institute a formal system of performance measurements that purposely cross traditional bound­aries. When multiple groups are suddenly faced with a common goal, lines of communication can open up. The study of group dynamics has shown that a group will take more risks than an individual and that may steer you towards some real innovation from a communication and business standpoint.

A mini-focused-factory concept in one or two areas or the institution of a planner-buyer for an area are also ways to challenge the creative side of your people and break away from that "safe and happy" wasteland. One item to stress is the responsibility of anyone who receives information to follow up on that data. Communication at any level has to be a reiterative process, not a linear one. The necessity of developing a feedback loop must be insisted upon by upper management; remember that the big reason for communi­cating in the first place is to create an environment where things can be done correctly the first time around. Every time that you add the prefix "re" to the front of any word (rework, redo, redesign), you are losing money somewhere.

Two-Way Street

Effective information flow is not a desirable attribute in business today, it is a critical resource that must be invested in and maintained just as you would an expensive piece of capital equipment. It also has to be a shared goal of your organization to remain effective. I've often heard the analogy of a business system being like an old Model T; the managers can get out and turn the crank and the motor might sputter and run for a while, but the hard work lies in keeping the motor running. The creation of a self-perpetuating system that will help avoid duplication of effort is critical to long-term success.
The entire issue of successful business communication is an enigma. We recognize the problems but can rarely implement solutions that continue to work over time. If you learn anything from the information I've presented, let it be the fact that simple is sometimes better and solutions that are based on simplicity have a better chance of standing the testof time than more complex systems sometimes do. Take advantage of the benefits that technology offers, but base your solutions on a good foundation.

Try backing away from the major issues affecting your business and see if you can break them down to a more basic level. Once you've had some experience doing that and recognize the fact that attacking the fundamental issues will yield some pretty big benefits, you'll be well on the road to a more productive environment.

For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02


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