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Ask The Consultants- Following The Plan 1

“Our route drivers are not following our vending machine fill diagram. We’ve had multiple classes, individual interactions and reviews on it and generally have made it a point of emphasis, yet we find in our site inspections that it continues to not be done [right]. How do I get my people to follow the plan?”


I would like to begin the conversation by asking the simple question: “Why?”

Why was the currently ignored system created in the first place?  What is its purpose? How are the results produced by following this system different from those produced when the system is not followed?

When building an organization, mandate as a management system is usually effective for a time period correlating to the level of supervision and the consequences for not following the mandate.  We suggest that mandate as a management system is the foundation of many ineffective management programs, and thereby of many ineffective companies.

You run a successful company, so whatever you are doing is working on some level.  But, if what you intend is to achieve improved results, the first step is to bring your people into alignment with that intention.   What is it that you are looking to accomplish?  To whom does that have value?  If the value is only to you, the CEO, good luck getting people to operate according to direction for long periods of time without intense supervision.  People are, generally, creative and independent.  Try to force them into a small box and you will be spending all of your time managing and reinforcing the box.  This is not easy when your people are out on the road without you.

Now, if you enroll them in the value (to the company and themselves) of doing things a certain way, you have access to a new commitment.  I will assume for the moment that the process you have created is not random, that it serves some purpose and the realization of that purpose is good for the company as a whole.  I further assume that what is good for the company is good for the people who work there, insofar, at least, as it allows them to have their jobs.

What would be possible if you opened it to them to create the most efficient process?  What, first, would happen if you only discussed with them the results you are looking to produce (improved inventory systems, better customer service, increased sales, etc.) and let them know the impact of these results on the company and on them?  Would they then be more compliant?  Most likely they would, but in all likelihood only to a limited extent and for a limited time, even with access to the reason for the mandate.

What we have seen as the most successful approach is not very different from the one above, but the difference is critical. This is called “Ownership”: the experience of which keeps people engaged, and gives them an opportunity to be responsible for results.  Giving people ownership involves delegating results, rather than tasks, perhaps giving them a possible way to produce those results, but most importantly providing them with the freedom to create.  Most people will participate willingly in the process of producing results where they get to contribute to the process.

So, in answer to your question, I would suggest that you meet with your people and tell them the results you are looking to produce and why.  Give them a stake in the success of the project and let them know how you think it can be approached successfully.  Then, invite their feedback and contribution.  Create, with them, a system to monitor results and then watch what happens.  Sometimes, in an environment such as the one in the example question, staff follows exactly the roadmap they have been given.  They find it the easiest way.  In others, we have seen the staff come up with a way to get things done that produces results far beyond what leadership was expecting, or even hoping, to produce.  Engage and empower your people, and make the results you were hoping to achieve into an opportunity for them to win.

I look forward to hearing what your team produces.

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