Recently I caught a few moments of the reality show where the CEO goes out "undercover" – albeit with a film crew – to capture what is really happening in the trenches of an organization. It reminded me of how frequently we fail to understand what is going on in our own world during the off-shifts and so on.
As I have mentioned many times in the past, you cannot manage people or build relationships with them from behind a desk. You have to get out where the work occurs and inspect and interact. In the end, we get what we inspect. It is not just getting out during the day shift, but how many of you as managers actually rotate around on the different shifts?
One plant manager that I know required her staff members (all of them, including those in finance and human resources) to pull a six-week shift rotation every year, covering all production shifts. It forced them outside of their comfort zone to learn about the issues in the factory and how they could better support the people who do the work.
As a maintenance and operations manager, I would often overlap shifts and come in at 2 a.m. to work. No one knew when I might show up, as it was not a published schedule. No, I was not trying to hammer people. I was simply trying to see what processes worked and understand the issues with which the people were struggling. Sure, when I started, people were suspicious of my motives. It is all about how you approach people and the relationships you build. I worked hard to show them that I was trying to improve the work environment and support their efforts.
As it was not a union environment, I could help an operator by sweeping the floor around a machine if needed during a startup shift while they lined out a packaging machine. I can tell you that they really appreciated the effort. I might come in during a changeover or during a production shutdown. I might spend some time looking at the maintenance and operations shift overlap communications. There are endless opportunities if you will just look for them.
I challenge you to go look for some opportunities as well. You just might be surprised at what you find. What are you waiting on?