Tag Archives: ownership

The power of organization and ownership.

Sometimes, getting the workplace organized and orderly can have a bigger impact on performance than most people realize.  Recently, a team in the upholstery department of a client in the aircraft service industry took on the task of “cleaning up their act” and reorganizing their shop.  Part of the reason for the change was the increasing number of Corrective Action Reports they had been receiving.   Here are the “before” pictures:

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They started by learning the principles and practices of “5S” – sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain.  By the time the project was completed about three months later, every inch of the space and assembly process was changed around, producing results that surpassed everyone’s expectations.  Before the change, processes were highly irregular.  Now, the entire flow from sewing … to assembly … to gluing … to the foam area … is precise and consistent – and people aren’t stepping on top of one another anymore.


Organization Pays Off Big
Part of the resulting benefit has been faster, easier access to the tools and materials that everyone needs to do their jobs.  In the old layout, tools were scattered, and it was hard to find what people needed.  Not surprisingly, when they started pulling all the tools out of various places to get them organized, they found some they didn’t even know they had. Now all tools are in lockers with shadow boxes, and the team uses the sign-out/sign-in sheet whenever a tool is taken out or replaced.

The same approach is used for parts and materials that had been spread around and tossed into cardboard boxes before the redesign. Now everything is orderly, and items are placed in clearly marked, transparent plastic bins that are staged to minimize the time to access what people need.  Here are the “after” pictures:

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The results of the change have been nothing short of amazing. According to one person on the team, it used to take her a week to do four chairs.  Now she can complete the same work in two days. Another employee claims that it’s improved efficiency by 50% or more.  Productivity gains of that magnitude are almost unthinkable in most organizations – and that’s only half the story of this project.

In addition to dramatically faster production times, quality has improved, as well.  Before the change, foreign particles sometimes got inside the seats, and the team had to rip them open and start over.  That problem has been virtually eliminated, and they’ve cut down a lot of rework.

Ownership Pays Off Even Bigger
Aside from the tangible improvements in quality and productivity, the project has had a noticeable effect on the pride and professionalism of the team. It’s too early yet to determine the ultimate impact on long-term sales, but the effect on marketing is clear.  When customers and prospects visit the facility now, the upholstery area is always showcased on the inspection tour, and the team is making a highly favorable impression.

The director of manufacturing engineering, who provided support for the project, says that 5S gave the team valuable tools, but their success came mainly from one thing – ownership.  She told the team from the outset this was an opportunity to create a work space exactly the way they wanted – in a way that would be beneficial for them and their work.

At least three important lessons come from this project.  First, when employees are given a chance to create their own work space, and they’re given the tools to do the job right, their level of dedication and performance can be truly amazing.  Second, no one knows the details of a particular system or process – and what its potential might be – better than the people who work with it every day.  Third, no traditional marketing tool can surpass the impact of proud, fully engaged employees in making an impression on prospective customers.

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Would you like to produce similar gains in quality and productivity?  Give us a call, or send an e-mail and we’ll show you how we can help.

Ownership is more than a feeling.


When employees feel a part of the success, business thrives
When employees feel a part of the success, business thrives.

One of our clients recently had a bad experience at a hotel where they were holding a management meeting.  To make matters worse, the meeting had been planned by the president of the company, and he was leading it himself.  The next day he wrote a “strongly worded” letter to the local general manager of the facility, which is part of a well-known chain.  He outlined the transgressions in detail and told the manager that the company would not be doing business with them in the future.

You can draw different lessons and conclusions from that story. 
Some might say that the employees just didn’t care, and they should be reprimanded or even fired.  I tend to be of the opinion that crap rolls downhill.  I’ll wager that if guests and clients at that hotel are being treated with disregard and lack of respect, that’s what employees are experiencing all along the chain of command from the top down.

When people get past the usual finger-pointing and blame-pinning for problems like that, they sometimes step back and realize it’s not an isolated incident.  Then management says it’s time to “change the culture.”  Before long, they spout the next management bromide about needing to “create an ownership mentality among employees.”

Truth is, you either own something or you don’t.
It’s not a state of mind, and it has nothing to do with feelings.  Owners have a unique stake in the outcome of a business.  The more money the business makes, the more they get to put into the bank.  On the flipside, when times get tough, they’re the ones who take it in the chops. It’s also up to them to take responsibility for getting the business back on track.

That’s not the typical employee compact.  Some companies have backed up their “ownership” expectations by creating profit sharing or gain sharing programs for employees that go down to the front line.  But it’s still not the same as being an owner.  As a practical matter, it’s not always feasible to build employee compensation around a true ownership model.  More to the point, though, programs like that aren’t needed in order to get the performance and behavior that actual owners want from employees.

It’s more an issue of respect and responsibility.
The hotel industry is notorious for poor employee treatment and high turnover.  A notable exception is Baldrige Award winner, The Ritz-Carlton, whose legendary motto about employees is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”  That statement is backed up by the company’s remarkable policy that permits every employee to spend up to $2,000 without approval from their supervisor to make any single guest satisfied.  That’s not exactly the same as ownership, but it’s a strong sign of the trust and responsibility that management places in the company’s employees – and their outstanding reputation proves it works.

Still, there is something special about actually being an owner, and some companies operate with employee-owned models that have remarkable impact when done right.  A story ran on ABC a few months ago (see video below) about a business owner who was retiring and decided to give the company to his employees instead of selling it.  Why?  He said it was because he tried to make all of his business decisions based on what was good for employees – not what was going to make him the most money.  Of course, that’s indeed what made him money because it turned out to be a place where employees loved to work – and customers loved doing business.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

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