Where’s Your Clock

I came to IP from the world of public accounting approximately 30 years ago.  I took a controller job at a multiwall bag plant which operated adjacent to a paper mill at that time.  One of the primary directives that I was given by the corporate finance group (along with the plant manager) was to improve the financial results and get the internal control system and financial reporting in order.

I recall one of the first observations I had during my time in the plant was this long line of employees at the time clock at 2:45 with a similar number of employees hanging around outside the building waiting to go in until around 3:15 or so.  After observing this issue on different shifts for several days, I asked the HR manager what was going on.  He explained that there was some old language in a union contract that allowed for a 15 minute grace period before and after shifts that was misunderstood and resolved years ago, but no one ever dealt with it on the floor with the workforce. 

So, this facility was in effect losing 90 minutes of day of potential production time each day because no one wanted to deal with the matter.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The management team and supervisory group in this plant were some great people.  Most of them worked their way up to these levels from entry level jobs over the years. I grew to enjoy working with them so much for the five year period I was there.  Also, I got to know many of the hourly workers and found them to be a terrific group of people as well.  We didn’t need to implement more rules or change the contract.  We didn’t need to replace anyone.  We just needed to address an issue with all parties involved and get that production time back for the benefit of everyone in that plant.  You see, the plant was not servicing customers on time (working a lot of weekends), was not performing well financially, and there was questionable job security for that business.  There was a clear “win” for everyone involved.  

We took care of that issue with no real scars.  My question for you is where is your time clock?  No, not the actual time clock on a wall, but where is the issue that you are not addressing?  Where is that issue in your plant, your shift, your department that has just been ignored and needs to be dealt with by the leader?

You see, you are building a culture in your plant/shift/department whether you realize it nor not.  What you allow, ignore, or put up with will eventually become the norm, the standard, and ultimately the culture of your operation.

If you talk about safety in a meeting, but don’t enforce those expectations on the floor, then your culture is that safety is just something we talk about, not something we do.  If you rely on others to be the safety police for your people, then your cultural reflects that you really aren’t the leader that they are accountable to, but rather just a supervisor/manager in title only.  If we talk about the importance of machine cleaning and reliability, but don’t make sure it gets done correctly, then our culture will reflect that misrepresentation as well.  I can go on and on about taking care of customers and other operational issues, but I think you get the point.

You see culture reflects more than just what we talk about.  It reflects what we expect, what we enforce, and what we execute on.  Our actions do speak much louder than our words! 

So I ask you again, where’s your time clock?  Take ownership of your area of influence and responsibility.  You need to own it!

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