The “Who was helpful?” Culture

This sanitation procedure is unsafe. Why isn’t the new plant manger correcting them? The meeting is almost over. Say something! People are standing up. I do not want to be a know-it-all at my first training session. I must do this.

“This procedure is not correct. You put a tag on a sanitized tote to let everyone know the tote can be used for rework. When an employee starts using this tote, he takes the sanitation tag off the clean tote. Quality assurance then has a few hours to retagged the tote as safe to use.

When the floor drain clogs and totes are moved around, errors are likely to occur. Which tote was sanitized? Which tote needs to be sanitized? Nothing is tagged. The sanitation tag must be left on the rework tote until QA adds its identification.”

The plant manager quickly seconded the motion. The procedure was reluctantly changed.

Things were not going well before this training session. First shift treated me like I was an idiot. After the training session, things got worse. First shift refused to talk to me. The person I relieved did not update me on critical factors. He told the other second shift quality assurance tech. I was being put in my place. I finally told the other second shift tech that he would have to handle any problem on my side if he continued to support this blackballing.

Every day, third shift employees left notes in my drawer or on the bulletin board. “I would thank you for helping us but since you didn’t, I won’t.” Third shift’s first task was to take samples from newly filled storage tanks. Daily records revealed they didn’t take samples until two or three hours after starting their shift. I ran eight hours everyday. If anything, they should be helping second shift. When I mentioned this, the notes stopped.

When I was eligible for my post training raise, the boss was out of town. I asked the human resource manager when I would be getting my raise. I will always remember her exact words, “Last I heard, you were not doing well.” I was breathing fire when the boss returned. I received a raise without saying a word. Later I found out it was only a fraction of the normal raise.

The plant manager never talked to me again.

When the next employee started in the lab, someone asked if I would help make her look incompetent. Otherwise, she would get the next promotion.

When the plant held its one and only kaizen blitz, the guy who asked me to sabotage a newbie’s career was the lab’s representative. The blitz’s goal was to identify oil waste. The main waste of oil was actually not using the proper amount of water in margarine. Less water used equates to wasted oil. I did not help. The blitz only focused on oil going down the drain. A minuscule amount compared to the 2.5% waste of oil in the margarines.

How could we have caught this problem sooner?

The problem was competent employees were being forced out. At least six tenured, trusted employees against the newcomer. It was easy for management to side with the majority.

I prefer to make my own judgement on the competence of each individual. My first task is to objectively identify innovative behaviors. Correcting a procedure during a training session would be an innovative behavior. Anytime a procedure is changed, I want to know. Achievement is a key component of conscientiousness. People who care about our customers make improvements.

Employees exhibiting innovative behaviors will be asked, “Who was helpful?” Only helpful people will be promoted.

The simplest and fastest way to identify innovative behaviors is to ask each employee for a list of lean stories.

4 thoughts on “The “Who was helpful?” Culture

  1. I have shown over and over that an Effective Induction Training creates the right culture. Most organization miss the boat right there. Only when people truly share the culture we can expect team work and mutual helpfulness.

  2. Enrique,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree. Once we obtain the innovative culture, we will use lean stories to maintain the culture. New employees will spend a good chunk of time reading stories.

  3. Hi Kevin,
    your story reflect the real Cultural issue that needs to be addressed in many organisations. In most cases i have experienced the ” Innovative Ideas” or Suggestion collection is just a formality (namesake) prozess. Collection of practical ideas from normal employee needs Leadership that is willing to give the employee to be a Change agent.

    I find your stories really impressive. Please do keep writing.
    Best Wishes
    Nikhil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *