People who are managers are given a responsibility of those who report to them and caretaking of the organization. You wield power over a large aspect of most people’s lives. You have the ability to inspire, encourage, coach, direct, and critique. Being a manager with direct reports is a heavy responsibility, not the glamorous job you thought it was going to be in business school. To be a good one, you need to be good leader, to be a great one, you need to be great person.
I just got restructured – and I don’t care what anyone tells you – business is personal. People say otherwise, but they live in an incongruant world where they follow up “Don’t take it personally” with “Business is all about relationships”. Business is personal, our lives are a big mixing pot. And so being impacted in restructuring hurts you, it causes a stumble, a pause, where you wonder what’s wrong with you.
But just a pause for most, when you pick up the pieces and move forward to something better (while occasionally looking back and thinking “those bastards” and eating lots of grilled cheese sandwiches).
The worst thing about getting laid off is the telling other people. You have to cause impact to ALL of your relationships. Spouse, family, mentors, close friends, personal and professional suppliers, customers, colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances and strangers. And that piece of information changes the dynamic of that relationship – you get all sorts of reactions (kind and otherwise – overt and below the surface), but always changing the other person’s perception of you and your relationship with them.
This played out yesterday when I was enjoying the new found freedom of being able to get my haircut during the day on a week day. My stylist – who I struggle to chat with to begin with because I am intimidated by his hipness (let’s not delve into that issue within my psyche today) – asked me “So, not working today? Day off?”. This was his attempt to get conversation rolling – a safe bet normally.
I am sitting there getting my $80 haircut when he asked me that. Yes, I know, one does not *need* $80 haircuts, but if I have to have all of these conversations with everyone, I am going to at least look well groomed, attractive and in control. It is bad enough I have to now forgo eyelash extensions, manicures, and facials, but I am not going to give up on my hair. (as I write this, I am realizing the impact to the Vancouver economy my termination is causing and I apologize to my “team” for the impact to their business – Christmas is cancelled everyone.)
I hesitated when he asked, tried to get the right combination of strength/humour/wistfulness in my voice when I answered “Yes, in fact I have every day off now. I was laid off a couple of weeks ago”. He didn’t handle it well, he got paralyzed between showing appropriate sympathy, wondering if I am embarrassed/sad/angry and not knowing me well enough to ask further questions for details. Further attempts at conversation for the rest of the haircut petered out pretty quickly. Awkward silence was thankfully eventually interrupted by the blow dryer.
That went well. Only 499 more conversations to go.
February 16, 2016 Extra-Ordinary: I still tipped the same amount I always do – unemployed or not, I didn’t want anything to change. Plus he does a great job – my hair is pretty dope (do the kids still say that?)
I have a tough job. But most days I love it. Other days I do not. Other days I really do not. You have to generally love working in manufacturing in North America because it is an industry without glamour and under continuous pressure from all aspects.
But all that aside as today was a good day.
All three were somewhat nervous – one was absolutely terrified and kept telling me she would be sick that day.
I got through my portion and then it was their turn.
I thought I’d get the terrified one the chance to go first – get it out of the way. And she was shaky. She was wavering. She was hesitating. But then she started to remember why she wanted to tell the story in the first place. And started to tell it. And connected with everyone.
Then up was number 2 – my prickly team member that I can’t often figure out what she is thinking. British and contrary. She told her story beginning with telling all of us how much company and the people who work there mean to her. And she started to cry. And she got hugs and applause and managed to carry on with her story. And we saw a different side.
Last is the rising star. He was nervous but would never admit it to me or anyone else. So, he got up there and told his story that he was really proud of. And stood even a little taller.
As I stood there, I was teary eyed with pride watching all three of my team members stretch to grow and overcome fear, knowing that I helped a little to get them there. They did it, but I helped a little. I am proud of all three.
September 4th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: A day of clarity when you understand exactly who and what you are working so hard for.
It’s annual physical inventory (just after fiscal year-end), and I have time for work, sleep, eat and laying on my back watching reruns of Modern Family trying not to drool on the couch. Not much else (and sometimes not even those).
So I am not up to date right now – and won’t be for another week. Forgive me – my husband has.
I’ll be back consistently at the end of next week!
When we moved to Vancouver, my husband got an official job before I did, but it was a 7 month contract. That was 6 months ago. This week, they decided to extend his contract. Until September. Which means he now gets benefits for the duration. And they are talking about full time too.
February 20th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: There was really little doubt – everyone likes Emile and he is great at what he does – but we’ve been here before. Nice to have it official.
If any of you reading this works in manufacturing, operations, or supply chain management, you’ll cringe when I tell you what I have been doing this week.
Financial institutions and accounting departments see them as necessary, but I see them as a source of stress, pain, sleepless nights, anxiety, and error. Because you shut down production and count everything you own, it gets boring very fast. And when you are counting a 40,000 square foot warehouse, it takes a very very long time.
The worst part is that inventories cause as many issues as they resolve. The inherent issue of team members spending all day painfully counting and recording everything in a warehouse is fraught with errors. Its manual, and its boring and it is endless.
And when they finally are done? Then the recounts start.
Many organizations see inventory as a thing that can be controlled, that can be managed, but it truly is not. Inventory is a symptom of how well you are running your business. Forget “goal keeping” (delaying receiving transaction until after month/year end), forget manual manipulation. You will be partially successful, but you will never achieve high inventory turns through force alone.
Worry about accurate transactions, strong contracts with your customers (detailing inventory management), align your supply base with the needs of your customer, improve reporting, reduce lead times, eliminate purchasing outside of your ERP system.
But I digress.
February 13th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: Physical Inventories. The bane of any Materials Manager’s life.
I work in manufacturing in Canada. Manufacturing within North America has its challenges. We are a society that wants everything always. We don’t wait. We don’t save. We buy it. If it breaks or wears out, we buy a new one. That means things have to be cheap. That means the cost of manufacturing needs to be cheap. That means Canada – with our minimum wages; a lack of strong protectionist policies and artificial currency control; stringent safety regulations, and comparatively high costs of living – struggles to compete with other countries that may not have these things.
The two major cost drivers in manufacturing? Raw materials and direct labour. Sure there is overhead like the building, equipment, non-direct labour (office people), and other items, but its labour and materials that usually makes up 80-95% of each dollar of cost depending on the sector.
Cost Savings are generally fall into several categories:
- Raw Materials changes, cost decreases or vendor switches.
- Reduction of the amount of labour required for each unit produced. (or improved efficiency).
So, you focus on raw materials. What are my biggest spends? How can I use less, how can the vendor come down in cost, is there a cheaper, less quality option? Can I source from low cost geographies (China, India, etc)?
And you focus on your process. How can we do that faster? What is the bottleneck? Could we combine tasks in a way that nobody is ever waiting for a process to finish?
The way that this is supposed to work is that you do these things well and you keep your current and earn new business. Because you are continuing to produce the same product, but you can offer a lower price. Business moves to you and away from other companies that haven’t done as well on cost savings.
But I’ll tell you now: with few exceptions (say niche manufacturing or some luxury items), there isn’t a manufacturer in North America not trying to accomplish the same thing. Drive down the cost.
So, you’ll read in the paper about large corporations doing major cuts. It’s normal to pick up the paper and read about small and large layoffs. It happens all the time. Faceless “Management” just making sure their bonus is big again. And small companies rarely get press coverage unless they are in a small town.
But we are not out to make a buck – we are trying save jobs by reducing costs. We want to be here, we want our company to be here, we want you to be able to pay your mortgage, feed your kids, or pay for your trip to Hawaii. Do you think we haven’t reviewed every possible other option? Driven our suppliers to make the same difficult choices? Looked at ordering less stationary supplies, frozen wages, reduced spending in all areas of the business? “Management” has done that and more. Cutting people isn’t easy; it is hard, it is emotional and it changes the company.
This week, while me and my peers changed the story for many team members with a temporary layoff, we weren’t gleeful. We were disappointed that we couldn’t have done more to cause less impact on people.
February 4th-7th 2013 Extraordinary: My peers and team members showed respect and grace in a difficult situation and I am proud of them.
I toured staff of the Coquitlam Food Bank through our warehouse and facility today. I kept their coats and purses and other items securely in my office – I closed my office door so they felt comfortable.
So secure, in fact, that when we came back to get their belongings, the office door was locked.
With my keys on the other side.
February 1st, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: It’s funny how many extra keys are lying around when you are looking for just the one you need.
I left work as soon as I could on both Wednesday and Thursday. Both days it seemed to be one more problem, one more email, one more political maneuver than I had the capacity to deal with. Full up here, people.
And the weather seemed to suit this – dark when I got in, dark when I left, pattering rain on my skylight, and foggy, overcast for days on end.
So, Friday, when work began at 6:30 am for the first of my departments three team meetings, I expected more of the same. Dreary days with a burdened heart. Here I was telling my team members that “good enough is not good enough” and that I needed a shift in thinking from “what can someone else fix?” to “What can I do differently?” and here I was struggling to get through my days. “Working too hard to be only mediocre.”
January 25th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: I heard what I was telling my team members and my outlook changed too.
- 8:30 – 9:00: Production Status
- 9:00 – 9:30: Review of Skid Flow into Production
- 9:30 – 10:00: Establishment of perimeter cleaning schedule
- 10:00 – 11:30: Operations Team Meeting
- 11:30 – 12:00: Review of coverage for vacationing team member
- 12:00 – 12:30: Webinar to review Annual Physical Inventory Process
- 1:00 – 3:00: Software Training Session on Scheduling Module
- 3:30 – 4:30: Handheld scanner training and process establishment
January 18th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: Internet problems caused the Software Training Session to be cancelled. It was the most freeing thing that happened all week. 2 hours of unscheduled time – I didn’t know what to do with myself.