Striving to improve our team by giving them the confidence to become independent in their decisions and improving their wellbeing at work, are key to our business success. Experienced team member Paul, has been our Internal Improvements Advisor for almost five years and has vast experience in quality assurance, systems/processes, H&S and HR.
We asked Paul how he has helped the team over the years and how he would persuade and advise other businesses on internal improvement.
What is the most rewarding thing about being an improvements advisor and NVQ assessor?
Watching a team improve over time and become competent enough to independently implement better methods of working. We have one person, who before systems of work were introduced, wasted a considerable amount of time and effort playing catch-up on his various tasks and becoming extremely frustrated in the process. Now that systems are in place he works much more effectively and is much happier in his role. Our standard operating procedures capture the best method of doing a particular task, finding the root causes of a problem and then eliminating them, using a range of key performance indicators to measure what we do, so that we can manage the business more effectively.
What is the most rewarding thing about working at MPM?
‘Seeing the team transform itself from well-meaning amateurs to polished professionals, people who take a justified pride in all that they do, but who have the humility to recognise and to accept that they can do even better. They have a set of values, and they live by them.’
What has been your biggest challenge when implementing change in the businesses which you have advised?
Persuading senior managers that systems improvement is the right and sensible thing to do. There is a saying, ‘We cannot do better than the system will allow.’ Get the systems right and everything else will follow. Senior managers who accept the truth of this and who have the courage to lead others by their example will carry their teams with them. This has become standard practice at MPM.
Paul recalls that he once worked for a Japanese company that had recently been taken over by a manufacturing firm based in West Yorkshire. The manager of that firm’s assembly department saw no need for systems, or process improvement. As far as he was concerned his team were, ‘only at work for the pin-money’ and not at all interested in making things better. The new owners insisted that system and process improvements had to be made and so they were. A year later the owners introduced internal competitions, in which the best improvement team from every UK plant of theirs would vie for the ‘Top Team’. The assembly team I’ve mentioned took first prize for three consecutive years (I left the company on the fourth year). ‘Their manager by then was extremely and justifiably proud of his team. He had the grace to admit that he was wrong about them and wrong about the need for effective systems!’, says Paul.
Paul was always destined from a young age to grow-up to be in a role where he could help a team.
What would be your number one piece of advice for any business?
Have a strong vision & values. I’ve seen other businesses say they have them but they don’t practise them; live by them and they will be a signpost to success.
What should be the number one thing any manufacturer should have?
They should have a clear idea of what the customer wants, create a plan to achieve it and also have the courage of their convictions to stand by what they say.
What would be the most rewarding thing for you to see at MPM?
There are 3 which stand out to me:
1) For MPM to be the customer’s ‘team of choice’ and to have the company participate in as many partnerships as possible across its customer and supplier networks.
2) To have a key industry visit or magazine article based on MPM, our culture and manufacturing excellence.
3) For all our team to achieve the top KPI score of 5 for happiness at work; which we measure weekly.
How does the composites industry differ from other sectors?
I believe a good business is a good business, and a bad business is a bad business. Attitude, behaviours and leadership dictate the direction a business takes; as well as the organisation and culture of a team.
All the team at MPM would like to thank Paul for his continuing efforts to improve our business. As one of our team members, Nick Robinson said, "The workshop has gone from a playground to a business", praising Paul's excellent skills in internal improvements.