In my last column for The Manufacturer I touched on digital transformation across the value-chain and why it can only be successfully achieved through true alignment of people, culture and processes. This week I want to bring in the why and the how. It all starts and ends with one thing.
When faced with a problem people fundamentally do one of two things. Sweep them under the carpet and pass a growing snowball of a problem on. Or show willingness to tackle the problem and solve it.
The latter have a dramatic effect on the success of the products we manufacture. The former simply isn’t acceptable and leaves others with mountains to climb.
Whether in-house, upstream, downstream, ‘the right people’ are needed across the entire value-chain. I define ‘right people’ as those with a motivation to grow and a willingness to solve problems that arise. For me, it starts with attitude rather than technical skills. As a good attitude reflects a desire to learn.
Patience will pay off
To train the people who work within the value-chain, we must show a level of patience.
If selecting on attitude – a potential culture shift for any given organisation – it will take some time for the person to develop technically. But if you nurture a good attitude it will be worth every ounce of energy used. The alternative is a person with proficient technical skills but a somewhat lackadaisical approach.
Ok, some people will have both. But it’s by no means a given. And this is about long-term sustainable success, not short sharp wins.
Yes, some of this you can’t control, but some, you can. The bottom line is that people with an intrinsic desire to grow and improve will bring more value to your team, the value chain, your products and therefore to your end customers.
Top down or bottom up?
So, how can people work best together across the entire value-chain?
I’d say strong, clear and open leadership plays an almighty role. So, however, does a sense of empowerment from the bottom up. As without buy-in from the people further down the pecking order so to speak, average output at best is achieved.
You cannot simply walk into the shop floor one fine morning and say ‘from next week, you guys are going to be doing different things’. It has to be a process that involves your key people.
Consult with them. Understand where their pain points are. Because remember without an approach such as this you slowly start to see value disappear across the board. What you don’t want is to make life difficult for people.
To add value to your company, business and across the value-chain right through to end customers, you must be totally transparent about what lies ahead.
Yes, you may need to move them from a comfort zone into one that’s less comfortable. But you can communicate that there may be some short term discomfort as we adapt to fresh challenges by learning new skills yet over a period of time the longer term benefits will be X, Y and Z.
The ‘right people’ will respond and join you and your products on their journeys. They will follow with enthusiasm, while enhancing your culture and processes.
Digital – an enhancer not ‘the answer’
Digital transformation only enhances your organisations’ capabilities. It won’t solve underlying problems. Those problems can only be truly solved by aligning people, culture and process.
For example, imagine you want to run a marathon. However, in order to do so, you need to train for it.
And to be able to train for it, you need to be free of injuries. So, if you’re nursing an injury and still want to train for a marathon, you need to first focus on recovering from the injury before starting your training. It all has to be aligned for it to work successfully.
So, with regards to people, and my view that everything starts and ends with human beings, what exactly are we talking about? Let us explore three valuable traits intrinsically linked to the ‘right people’.
Today, the world is a tougher place – given there are even more ways to fail than to succeed – than it was 30 years ago. Which means having an ability to recover quickly from setbacks and difficulties is a key quality. As difficulties, like it or not, are not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ and will arise.
When I talk about resilience I view it as discovering ways in which to succeed in whatever one chooses to accomplish. It is not the same as stubbornness as resilience grows when we learn to accept failure and understand that failing is ok so long as we learn from it.
When our value-chain contains more people with this trait than not, we can bring a great deal of value to the table.
Simply put, critical thinking is the ability to look at a given situation from multiple perspectives, some of which often conflict with our own internal biases.
The ability to focus on a problem, combined with the empathy to understand how and why it affects people is essential across the institution of manufacturing. And there’s good news as with practice coupled with the right attitude one can get good at it.
In our experience at Equitus a good place to start is looking at the problem and how it affects other people, not just oneself. When I say people, it’s not about passing blame or pointing fingers.
It is about acknowledging that there is an impact on people and then minimising the bad and maximising the good. Critical thinking is essential to effectively solving problems.
As the phrase suggests, there are two stages at play; the problem and the solving. Only with perseverance, inquisitiveness and willingness to ask questions can you truly get to the root cause of problems.
Once identified the solving stage begins, and with the right attitude, will be welcomed.
Finding the solution is perhaps a more positive way of looking at it. As positive behaviours will help your people operate with both consistency and efficiency in this crucial area.
Yes, better solvers of problems will require technical ability but if your people have already displayed qualities like resilience, critical thinking, a willingness to collaborate and recognise problems, they will pick up all the necessary technical and on-the-job skills easier than most others.
So in summary, why does successful digital transformation across the value-chain require the right people?
They can deliver true value
I mentioned in a previous column that ‘the bottom line is, if we do not add value to the target audience, we will not be in business for very long.’ And this really comes to the fore here as people are our greatest asset, and link to every single aspect delivered across the value-chain.
Digital transformation and improvements – a huge subject that won’t be going anywhere in a hurry – can only be rolled out successfully by people with good adaptable attitudes.
The Engineering team at Equitus has the ability to help companies with roll outs of digital transformation, based on specific requirements and advantages. We’re always ready for a chat.
About the author
Raam Shankar, Founder and CEO, Equitus Design Engineering and Innovations