The “Ah Hah!” Moment
“In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.” – Author Unknown
This past year, we were going to transition to a new point of sale system (POS). After 5 months of set up and testing, we decided we weren’t ready to make the change. A big part of the reason was that every aspect of the sales and production process in the new system was a manual change. Unlike our existing POS, where the system automatically moved projects through the system from design to production, this new POS relied on humans!
Fear and trepidation filled my soul at the thought of people being responsible to move the projects through the system. I had visions of a job getting lost and never completed. It was at this point I realized our systems and processes for projects were not working.
I don’t know about you… but it seems that whenever something is weighing heavily on my mind, there will suddenly be that “Ah Ha! Moment” that makes everything clear and set you on a path to resolve the problem. That moment happened for me at the Colorado Sign Association Holiday Party. There was a presentation on process improvement. Everything that was discussed, was exactly what my company was going through
- Using processes and procedures because “that’s always how we do things”
- Onboarding new employees very long and difficult
- Consistent inconsistencies in work flow
- Errors made because of poor communications
- Frustration among the team
We had created a Frankenstein Monster of disconnected processes. I realized when we were a smaller team, it was easier to manage the work flow. As we grew and added more people, there are more “touches” to each job, creating miscommunication, mistakes and frustration. When this happens, the “blame game” takes over.
And don’t think I’m not part of the problem. Just the other night, my production manager and I discussed how to build a complex, dimensional sign. The materials and substrates I had on my quote were not the best options for this application. We decided to use different materials and fabricate a completely different way that we felt would be a better quality sign and more efficient for production. We left that night feeling accomplished.
The next morning, our production team came in and started routing and working on the sign. They used all the wrong materials as the order had not been updated. My production manager and I looked at each other in dismay and realized not only had we not changed the order to reflect the modifications, but we did not put it on ‘hold’ so we could discuss with production the “new plan”.
That day I called a meeting with our staff. We discussed what happened and what should have happened. I told them about the presentation I had just seen and how we needed to get manual systems in place that worked efficiently. We needed to come up with better, more efficient ways to run our business.
They jumped on board with this (some faster than others). We now have three teams to improve processes. Each team is assigned one process area. They are to work with another team member, a customer or vendor and a person completely not in the sign industry. We will question why we are doing what we are doing, how to improve the process and finally write up the process and procedure and present to the team. We will then implement the process into our daily business.
It’s going to take time and a lot of work. But we know we can eliminate the ‘Frankenstein Monster” One process at a time we will build an efficient production team, make on boarding new employees faster, and ultimately improve how we work with our customers.
Happy customers, happy employees and a very happy Dawn!
Bring it on 2018! Nothing can stop us!