Larry W. Dennis, Sr.
Charlie, a piping superintendent for a large general contractor in eastern Washington told Session 8B of the Leadership Development LAB:
“Instead of our regular 7:00 a.m. safety meeting, I decided to hold a brainstorming session with my crew. I had hoped to get some ideas that would help us speed up the pace and flow of production at our Tillamook Cheese factory job in Boardman, Oregon. The meeting consisted of twenty or more fitters and plumbers. With an easel and flipchart pad of paper, I told them we would try a Turbo technique to involve them a little more in the organization of the project. I wanted to get more of their input into how to improve our production process. I told them that I have always found surrounding myself with knowledgeable, motivational people like them helped me make better, more well informed decisions.
I wrote ‘In What Ways Can We Speed Up Production?’ at the top of the pad, stood in front of the men and asked for their ideas. You would have thought I had asked for their paychecks back! It was deathly silent for what seemed like hours. Then one of the plumbers finally said, ‘How about overtime?’ I thought that would break the ice, but I was totally wrong. I encouraged them for any and all input, but still no response. Empty-handed, I walked back to my office feeling like a real failure and
even a little mad.
Later that day crewmen began to walk over to me and offer ideas and suggestions on various aspects of the project. I could see the men pick up their pace and began in small ways to show more interest in our project. Even though I didn’t get the enthusiastic participation in the meeting I was hoping for, I could see that I was beginning to gain some of the advantages of engagement, involvement and empowerment. I plan to give brainstorming another try next month. I’m betting it will work better as I persist in my inclusion efforts.
The lesson I learned from this experience is when faced with a new idea, not everyone will take to it with the enthusiasm I might want, but given time to think, they will absorb the idea and begin to contribute. I learned that I must persist in my efforts to create an empowered crew.
The action I call you to take is to make the effort and step out of your comfort zone and create ways to help your crews who have done things the same way for a long time to step out of their comfort zone. The benefit you will gain is better ideas and a more informed and involved workforce. Your pace of production will pick up and everyone will enjoy their jobs more.”