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Employee Involvement and Problem-Solving

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Guest blogger Curtiss Quirin returns to The Methodology Blog to discuss the role of employee engagement in addressing challenges in your organization.

Success in problem solving begins with two ingredients: people and information. When you add leadership to the mix you get a recipe for serious improvement. What management often forgets (or chooses to ignore) is that we need more than people’s hands—we need their heads. Many times poor attitudes in a group are the result of frustration and can be turned around with a little participation.

Employees Outside

© Flickr user NCDOTcommunications

A leader needs to create an environment that encourages employees to help solve problems, to focus energy on improving things that are both important to the business and to them. Do not make the common mistake of asking your employees to work harder. That approach rarely succeeds.

What does prove effective, is asking: what can we do to make an employees’ job safer, less stressful, more predictable, and more efficient? How can we get them involved in the solution? To answer these questions, you can use a four-part strategy that will take you and your team from the recognition of a problem to its solution.

Step 1: Gather Data for Weak Areas

To begin, you must first decide what you want to improve. It could be many things, like: Quality, Operational Availability or Health and Safety. The operations area should be the primary source for your data collection. Make the data collection process easy and not a burden for your busy employees, keep it clear and straightforward; sometimes simple tally sheets are a good place to start.

Step 2: Make the Data Meaningful

The second step is to analyze the data for meaning. In other words, you’ve got to take all that raw information and use it to create understanding and give your team new insights into the problem at hand. Pareto charts or concentration diagrams are excellent for this purpose because they are vivid and help convey information immediately.

Step 3: Share the Information

The third step is the most important one, because it serves as a transition point. In this step you must share the information your employees have collected and you have analyzed. Use the opportunity to engage them in an open dialogue about how to improve the workplace. You can share the data at daily team meetings, weekly departmental meetings, plant meetings or special task team workshops. Whichever format you choose, the process of sharing information in a meaningful way will have many benefits:

  1. It will keep the employees interested.
  2. It will tell them that you care.
  3. It will eliminate opinions and replace them with fact.

Step 4: Solve the Problem

Now we’re ready for the final step, problem solving. We’ve collected the data on our weak area, synthesized it, and presented the facts in a meaningful format. This information will have a very strong basis for idea generation from the people who work the process every day. Remember from Boss Kettering, “a problem well defined is a problem half solved” and once you are in a position to take a close-up look at definable issues, it becomes much easier to address and correct them!

Curtiss QuirinNo one plays a game or watches sports without keeping score, and most people want to know how well they are doing on the job. Involving your employees helps to keep their heads in the game. Remember, people collect data that feeds into analysis. Sharing the analysis creates understanding and the generation of ideas for solutions and improvement.

Curtiss Quirin is the Chief Operating Officer of Easter Seals Crossroads Industrial Services. He is a highly motivated leader with years of experience in identifying opportunities for growth and building bottom line results. His emphasis on developing strong relationships with clients as well as external manufacturing partners is a valued business philosophy that resonates throughout the Crossroads organization. With a broad business background in directing a variety of operations on an international scale, Curtiss is an authority on positively managing safety, quality, productivity and inventory while helping clients to reduce lead time and boost revenue. He applies his Six Sigma lean manufacturing knowledge and focus on operational excellence to improve processes and reach target objectives that create growth for both Crossroads and its customers.

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