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Is ‘why’ the missing link?

September 12, 2022
The reality is if the why isn’t meaningful ‘enough’, the what and way we do it will probably waiver over time.

A manufacturing site we support has 7 lines (it’s big), runs 2 shifts per day and sometimes 3. Each line is divided into high, medium, and low risk areas. These areas are physically divided. About 8 months ago the Line Leaders (those who lead 1 of the 7 lines) were told to complete downtime forms.

These forms have since been ‘completed’ to varying degrees. All the talking in the world was not working to change the behaviours of the Line Leaders as a high percentage of the downtime forms were still not being completed. We needed to try something different.

We hypothesized that the Line Leaders didn’t know why the completed form was important. Yes, they had been asked to complete it, but the link to why it was important was missing.

We provided the Line Leaders with downtime graphs (the output of the downtime forms) of each line over the last 4 weeks. We also discussed that fact that the information from the forms was entered into a spreadsheet and decisions were made based on these facts.

I had a discussion later in the day with one Line Leader and they said “Let me give you an analogy … We had been given a piece of a jigsaw puzzle and we didn’t know how our piece fitted into the overall puzzle”. I asked them to clarify, and they said “We’ve been asked to complete the form and the reality is we sort of did it because management wanted us too – we did it so we didn’t get in trouble. Now we know why we are filling it in and as a result we are making informed decisions to help fix our problems”.

It’s only been a week, its early days, but the quality of completed downtime forms now submitted is much higher. I asked the person who enters the data yesterday if they had needed to see any Line Leaders to clarify information in the forms and in the last week only 2 from 210 needed clarification. Yes, it’s early days and time will tell if the behaviour change lasts. It seems the chances of behaviour change improved a lot when we took the time to communicate the why.