Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 6:55 am on

Bob was a good plant manager who had a solid set of business skills. He had a great way with his people and was the type of guy you could count on to "carry the ball".

While Bob and I "saw eye-to-eye" on most issues, we were 180 degrees apart when it came to dealing with a declining backlog. Bob believed in "stretching the work" and would accept lower productivity from his factory workers during these periods. His theory was that running at or above standard would deplete the backlog sooner leaving him to face deep layoffs. My approach was to continue to achieve or exceed standard and deplete the backlog; and if deep layoffs causing the permanent loss of talented people were a concern, I might consider using the people on "busy work" projects like organizing, cleaning and painting after the "billable" work was expended.

Although some would say that both approaches produce the same the bottom line cost to the company, I offer the following for consideration:

  • Managers need to be consistent in what they ask of their people. Accepting less than best sends a mixed message encouraging workers to independently decide when and where standards apply.
  • A manager who lowers the standard for line workers is like a coach who begins to train his players at a relaxed pace. Getting the team back into shape for the big game takes time.
  • Cleaning, painting & organizing eventually need to be done. Waiting until you’re busy again often means that you’ll be too busy to get it done.

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