By Becky Ferrell
Ugh! That commercial! My hand reached for the remote to turn the channel or, at the very least, turn off the sound! Then it hit me…Wait a minute, there’s a message here for many organizations.
What commercial? I’m sure you’ve seen it. The one selling a spray to neutralize “those” smells of dirty socks and sweaty uniforms in your athlete son’s room. You know, the ones you don’t smell because you’ve gone “nose-blind.”
Time to look around
Nose-blind? Really? Well, actually, I’m sure there’s a more scientific term for it. But, basically your mind got so accustomed to smelling those odors in that location that it didn’t register. The smell hadn’t gone away, and had a neighbor or friend mentioned the smell, you probably would have noticed it immediately. Or not….
Other examples? Well…
- Think back to when you were reading or proof-reading something and your mind provided the “the” or “a” that was missing from the article or document.
- You have a 50-minute commute to work and take the same route every day. One day as you park your car, you realize you don’t remember anything you saw during your drive. (Time to change the route!)
- Closer to the manufacturing world, my plant had a safety glasses requirement. One day, I observed a manager, wearing the mandatory safety glasses, talking to an employee who was not. I expected to see the manager remind the employee to put on his glasses. After several minutes with no change, I stepped up to the conversation and gently asked the employee to please put on his glasses. With a funny look on his face, the manager confessed he had not noticed the absence of safety glasses. Why? Because we were so used to seeing them on everyone’s face that our minds simply “filled in the blank.”
Identifying “normal” gaps
Okay, so where are you going with this? Indulge me…
One of my assignments was to calibrate Lean Manufacturing implementation in our overseas plants. In Asia, calibrations were taken very seriously and no one wanted to have any gaps or deviations cited. As I entered one of the plants, the Supply Chain members greeted me with “we’ve evaluated the plant and you will find no gaps!” Internally I smiled and followed them to the factory floor. At the end of the day, I headed for the hotel to pull together my report. The next day, I presented my findings and observations (gaps) to the Supply Chain team, and worked with them to identify potential solutions/ideas to close those gaps. Were they disappointed? Of course! Did they acknowledge what needed improvement? Yes. Would they do better next time? Absolutely!
So why was it I could, in one short visit, identify gaps they missed? Certainly, my years of experience were instrumental, but the key here is that the team members “lived” in the plant. Working there daily, they’d gone “nose blind” to seeing things on a daily basis that did not quite align with the standard…saw them until these things were “normal.”
Would it surprise you to know most employees, and even leaders, walk the floors of their organizations never seeing things that could be improved or need change?
A fresh perspective
For this reason, organizations should welcome visitors who can provide them and their employees an outside perspective, a fresh set of eyes. A knowledgeable, experienced resource to walk your operation, identifying best practices your organization may have as well as opportunities for improvements, AND offering ideas/solutions to make those improvements reality.
One plant had implemented a standard process of handing each visitor a survey card at the opening of their visit or meeting. Two questions:
(1) What did you see that could be improved?
(2) What did you see that was commendable?
The plant received a wide variety of feedback, from safety violations to process improvements. This wasn’t about finding things “wrong,” but rather exploiting the value from fresh perspectives visiting their operations. This feedback allowed them to continually update and improve their processes and physical environment. As to question 2, it should be noted they received many positive accolades, both of processes and observed employee actions, giving them opportunities to recognize those employees.
So, what about it? Have you gone “nose blind?”
HVM has experienced resources who have worked in many cultures and across many organizations. These resources would be happy to walk your facility and offer a fresh perspective with both ideas for improvement and recognition of excellence! Give us a call!
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