Suddenly the boss is there on the shop floor…

Leadership and Organizational Development

Freda von Stackelberg, Projekt Manager, STAUFEN.AG

People who want to initiate change in a company‘s culture have to lead by example: they need to practice what they preach and show genuine interest in others. This perspective is something Freda von Stackelberg learned from her consulting work at Staufen. Anyone can learn and grow if they have a willingness to change. And that willingness can exist at any age, as von Stackelberg believes. What matters most is for people to be willing to identify the individual advantages they face due to the changes ahead.

In her work, the Staufen consultant has encountered a wide range of personality types. There is still such a thing as the stereotypical manager who would prefer to remain behind the closed doors of the executive suite. In other companies, the typical manager might rush from meeting to meeting and have hardly any time left over for employees, whereas elsewhere, the boss is always the best worker of them all and would be happiest taking care of everyday business in the factory hall personally. The latter kind of boss often loses sight of the big picture, management-wise.

As different as these three types of managers may be, they do have one major thing in common: each of them has an approach that is absolutely the wrong way to successfully implement changes in corporate culture. This can only be achieved by consistently implementing Shop Floor Management, i.e. constantly optimizing processes by shaping daily management routines and jointly solving problems with the employees on site.

Early successes move the process forward

To be able to get such a broad range of personality types excited about making changes, it is important to emphasize the individual advantages they can expect. “The thing that creates momentum from the outset is BestPractice visits,” as von Stackelberg says of her initial steps in implementing Shop Floor Management. “Among other things, this includes talking with managers who have followed this path already – from being a supervisor in the classic sense to being their employees’ coach and mentor.” And then it‘s critical for them to see success quickly: lighthouse projects help everyone involved experience the usefulness of their efforts, and people talk about them with pride. Here, von Stackelberg concentrates on issues such as increasing the speed at which many smaller topics are implemented. Or perhaps she might assist managers in resolving a problem that has been plaguing them for a while. Sometimes she also arranges a sit-down among people whose communication has not been functioning well so far.

…from being a supervisor in the classic sense to being employee’s coach and mentor…

Freda von Stackelberg, Projekt Manager, STAUFEN.AG

Jointly developing customized approaches

It is very important for companies to develop their own form of Shop Floor Management based on methods and plans to succeed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here, and if there were such a thing, it wouldn‘t work. Companies are as different as the individual strategies they need. Certain standard tools can be useful, such as a board where key process indicators are posted or other ways of visualizing progress. But there is no way around a company developing its own individual approach.

The task at hand is always to change the company’s culture, and that can only succeed if every manager all the way to the top is convinced and if everyone gets involved. If there is nothing but lip service accompanying the change process, it will fail. “First and foremost, I prioritize winning people‘s confidence and approaching them personally. That’s the only way I can stir up their interest in new behaviors and creating a new culture,” von Stackelberg says of her work.

Concept workshops and individual coaching sessions which are held as needed may be one thing, but Shop Floor Management in real life is another. After all, the real objective is to make decisions quickly and solve problems while integrating the employees. One central aspect of a consultant’s work is guiding managers in their development – and to do so right on site and within their sphere of responsibility. Constructive feedback is vital, especially if the client is not used to having direct contact to the value chain. And this feedback is only possible if the managers can be observed in the process of their work.

I prioritize winning people´s confidence and approaching them personally.

Freda von Stackelberg, Projekt Manager, STAUFEN.AG

Supporting the value chain is what matters Introducing

Shop Floor Management is often a novel experience for employees as well. Suddenly their manager is there in the factory, wanting to talk. At first, this can give rise to very unusual feelings: does the boss have bad news, or is he just planning to criticize the things that aren‘t working? After all, the employees have no way of knowing that leadership by asking questions is a key aspect of Shop Floor Management. Von Stackelberg works with everyone involved to help push past these kinds of resistance. She does this in part by accompanying the managers and in part through discussions with employees. When impending changes are communicated, it is essential for managers to see things from the employees‘ perspective. And then managers need to make clear that they are really taking it seriously. People issuing commands will not help: instead, a genuine transformation calls for leaders who will support value-chain processes. They have to question what has gone wrong, actively and openly integrate employees into improvements, and accept criticisms about their own work and their own conduct. When managers truly lead by example, they have taken the first step towards improving their corporate culture.

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