Ask this of everyone and you will discover a number of policy problems, organizational issues and questionable manager and supervisor functions that are currently missing or failing in your company. Question any profit center, high margin product line or luxury service your firm features when it unexpectedly becomes stalled, slows down or stops producing any profit every day.
Your people become used to earning less profit for the firm. Everyone slows down and after a while, the delay becomes routine and people come to accept that this is the normal isn’t it? A manager asks a question about the delay, his boss is not smart enough to pick up on a production or organizational process problem, belittles his employee which ensures this question or remark does not get repeated. This is why you must directly ask employees this question.
Question to ask everyone: When you come to work and try to do your normal job, what makes you wait?
Keep your question short, simple and unbiased. Keep it open-ended; do not paint it in any way so you get straight untainted answers. It is a good question to ask nearly anyone who spends time in your company or any of your production facilities. Merely observing any operation that occurs any day of the production week will yield good ideas when an employee watches any machine or process, but one must directly ask the person involved what keeps him from doing his job.
Do not just watch; ask and listen. Ask everyone because it will pay off. You will not get the exact reason for delays, but you will get a lot of great clues. Many people do not remember things that happen at work because they become accustomed to the environment until one asks specific questions. Be patient and ask everyone. Allow them to take their time. Remember that they have been waiting to do their job so long, they think the delay is the normal operation method.
Questions to ask that will immediately identify production problems:
- Do we cause people to stand around waiting for the next operation because our process is not well thought out or well designed?
- Do you notice something that the machine does that makes it take too long to work?
- Is there anything that you notice that seems a waste of time? Is there any process that seems to duplicate the same effort or waste time of the operator or the person working on the machine?
An initial gut feeling sometimes pays off; so do not be judgmental. Ask employees what about their job seems to take too long in the facility. Everyone has ideas and thinks processes are too slow or are flawed even if they are not. Employees complain about machines, they are reviewed by maintenance and then the employees are told there is nothing wrong. Sometimes it may be a good idea to call the service representative in to check on your machines. Maintenance people get used to “the way the machine has always operated.” Try a different service man, group or outside firm to check machines.