Don’t let them probe your buttons
Ron, TMP supervisor for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 7B of the Leadership Development Lab:
“A few weeks ago our R2 reject refiner plates crashed. They had been in operation less than 24 hours! This was, to say the least, disappointing, a huge letdown for the entire mill. Our TMP personnel were especially frustrated. The mill had been struggling to manufacture quality pulp with the old plates that we removed from the refiner just the day before. The new plates were expected to make life much easier and instead, things had just gotten worse, much worse, with not much hope in sight.
“After over 12 hours with few breaks, we were finally able to isolate the root cause of the problem. We traced the cause back to a defective rebuilt TDC probe. A TDC probe is an electronic device that measures plate gap. Because the plates cost in excess of $30,000 each, Operations was now tasked with finding ways to make quality pulp with the damaged plates. This is a very frustrating and cumbersome process because operating with damaged plates is non-textbook and requires the constant attention of an experienced, skilled operator. Success requires that you rely on the decision-making and good judgment of the operators.
“Many of our operations and maintenance personnel were frustrated because this was a repeat failure. Rather than letting myself get frustrated, joining in the angst, I used my adrenaline, my energy to gather the facts. I was able to put together sufficient data to prove that the rebuilt probe cost was actually more than the new probe cost. Armed with these facts, I could help mill management justify replacing the rebuilt probes with lower cost and more reliable new probes. The automatic tracking system has since been changed. The change will eliminate the repeat failures, reduce demand for maintenance resources, and lower our overall operating costs.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is that getting frustrated is a waste of energy. When I apply my energy to productive factfinding research, I can be part of the solution. Getting angry doesn’t solve problems. It only makes me a part of the problem. The action I call you to take is when problems occur, as they often do, don’t allow for the energy drain of getting frustrated. Use your energy in a productive way to find solutions, to be a part of the solution, and you and your team will see continuously improving results. The benefit you will gain is a great sense of accomplishment and another step closer to your goals.”
This approach of remaining centered helps ensure clear thinking, creates a learning organization, and your gains are sustainable. A part of maturity is learning that we live in a world we cannot completely control. The only thing we have complete control of is our attitude, our response to life’s breakdowns. By learning to control your attitude, you are an empowering leader that solves problems and contributes to the creation of an empowered, victorious team.
The Southwest Washington Contractor’s Association is sponsoring the first ever open enrollment Leadership Development Lab (LDL) in Clark County! For more info, call us at (503) 625-1867.
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