Instead of dread, plan ahead
Ian, the finishing and shipping superintendent for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 9B of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
"In August we received an email from CN Railroad to our Logistic manager explaining to us that they could no longer supply us with our quota for 50ft high cars. Instead they would be sending us 60ft high cars. Instead of procrastinating until the cars got here and deal with it then, we started brainstorming sessions with all of our operators, Head Weigher and switch crews. We needed to have a plan in place so when the 60ft cars arrived in September, we'd have a jump on the proper loading pattern.
We gathered all the information we could from CN on the new cars. In addition to getting all the information we could from CN, we called and talked with the crews of other mills who were already using this type of railcar. We put all the information we had together and went to work making loading patterns using our present loading program as a template to work from.
When the 60ft high cars arrived, the new loading patterns we had designed worked for some diameters, but not so for other diameters. We patented the ones that worked, then we went back to the crews and brainstormed for ideas on how to load and stack the other diameters that did not work.
There were a couple of weeks of loading and unloading cars all day and all night until we found the right new patterns. Once we found the right patterns for a size, we
patented it. All the operators were determined to make this work. They knew that this would give our customer a better payload. The new cars and patterns would also make it easier for unloading for our customer. The increase in payload would also save our company 13% per car shipped out. We checked to be sure our customers were prepared to receive this type of car before loading and shipping them. We didn't want them to be surprised. We also asked the customer to send us a picture of the opened doorway when the first car arrived. Very soon after, Kansas City Metro received their first 60ft cars. They sent us pictures back boasting about the new cars, the loading patterns we had followed, and assured us that the load showed up in perfect shape.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to never procrastinate. Don't wait until it has to be done. Instead, prepare in advance. Procrastination will never make me a good leader.
The action I call you to take when you see change on the horizon is to begin to prepare long before it is urgent. Involve your team in preparation, include them by explaining all you know, do your research, and brainstorm immediately with any problem big or small. The benefit you will gain is a product that your customers will boast about."