In any operations environment there will be challenges unique to that particular industry. However, there are some challenges that remain constant regardless of organization type.
Two of these cultural challenges are functional friction and inter-shift rivalry. Functional friction exists between departments to some level at most major organizations. An example of this in a manufacturing or operations organization occurs between production (operations) and maintenance functions. Anyone who has spent any amount of time working in either environment has heard process operators complaining about equipment that doesn’t run correctly and, conversely, maintenance technicians present the argument that production continues to break it. The problem exists due to a lack of ownership. Production is traditionally held accountable for getting product “out the back door”; maintenance is held accountable for “keeping the equipment in good working order.” (This relationship exists between other support functions and operations as well. E.g. Human resources, sales, safety, finance, etc.)
Strategies For Minimizing Functional Friction
- Incorporate cross-functional training into the onboarding process. Having support staff spend a few weeks in each operational area is time and money well spend. The same goes for operations as well.
- All functions should be held accountable for revenue creation in some shape or form. Referring back to the maintenance technician example, Maintenance managers can be held accountable for production targets. If managed properly, this will have a collaborative effect between production and maintenance.
The other area that ubiquitously exists in production (operations) environment is inter-shift rivalry. Multi-shift operations is occurring more and more frequently in today’s changing economy. Multi-shift operations provide for better asset utilization when large capital expenditures are not viable options for many companies. Front-line managers are your best defense and detection that inter-shift rivalry is building.
Signs Of Inter-shift Rivalry
- Complaints by team members that a specific shift isn’t “pulling their weight.”
- Exclusion of off-shift team members during company activities/ team meetings
- Setting the next shift up for failure (purposely or through salutary neglect)
Strategies For Mitigating Inter-Shift Rivalry
- Inter-shift Communication: Communication between shifts is paramount. If twenty four hour coverage is utilized. It is well worth the time required by having a shift to shift transition. During the changeover meeting the biggest thing that needs to be covered is exception reporting. There is an agreed upon standard (formal or informal) that each shift is responsible for; if the standard is not met due to operational considerations, the reason needs to be discussed during changeover. I have literally seen two opposite shift team members almost come to blows over the trash not being taken out. A little communication goes a long way!
- Team Based Performance Targets: Eliminate individual shift performance targets if possible. Having a production target of 1,000 widgets for each shift has the side effect of minimizing teamwork across shifts. A much better method is using daily targets such as 3,000 widgets per day. Then, the importance of setting the next team up for success can be emphasized much easier.
- Cross-shift teams: Give different team members the opportunity to work with people that they don’t normally have access to. A kaizen event is a perfect time to get this done.
- Shift Rotation: Although this one can be taxing on management, It can be beneficial to have shift-team members work different shifts over the course of their employment. Some companies rearrange shifts and departments every year effectively. Standard work and proper cross-training are doubly important if this strategy is utilized.
Please share individual examples of cultural nuances in the comments section below.