POWERS Management Consulting Culture Powers Business brand logo

Culture Powers Business™

Too Many Tools, Too Much Data, and Not Enough Training: Let’s Take a Wrecking Ball to Those Communication Barriers!

Too Many Tools, Too Much Data, and Not Enough Training: Let’s Take a Wrecking Ball to Those Communication Barriers!

Instead of breaking under the strain of too many tools, techniques, technologies, and terminologies, let’s break down the communication barriers between the knowledge “haves” and “have nots.”

Continuing our conversation on identifying and breaking down communication silos in your organization, let’s dig a little deeper and implement some improvements. Let’s start breaking down those barriers to productivity and more positive business outcomes. In short, we may need to take a wrecking ball to those walls that have built up over time!

Like any business, there is no end to the insider terminology and jargon that make up the manufacturing industry language. Layer in some commonly used acronyms, and it gets far worse. MOS, MRO, CRM, WMS, APS, BI, ERP…the list is practically unending. The compilation of acronyms for Inventory Management alone is pretty staggering. 

One of the most challenging cultural barriers is language. When we travel to another country, we may need help understanding the ins and outs of the local culture simply because we do not speak the language. 

The same can be said of the “country” or “domain” of business and manufacturing. One of the significant barriers to entry and advancement in any industry is that new people simply do not understand the language.

Beyond the waves of insider jargon lies a sea of software applications and technologies and their oceans of data, flooding our systems and pouring out nonstop. We’re drowning in the stuff. We swim against the rip current of 24/7/365 information and struggle to tread water, let alone make progress. 

The learning curves for each new software tool and technology we implement are getting steeper and steeper. As a result, the ROI moves further away from the shore, off into the distance.

Instead of breaking under the strain of too many tools, techniques, technologies, and terminologies, let’s break down the barriers between the knowledge “haves” and “have nots.” If information is power, and the more you know, the more you grow, as they say, let’s share the wealth. 

As part of our business discovery process, we sit in on many meetings and work alongside a lot of people at differing levels in each organization—from Line Operators to Shift Supervisors to Maintenance Technicians to CEOs. 

The executive leadership team often looks at their data set and uses their own language to make sense of it and make decisions. Accordingly, so do the frontline supervisors, operators, and technicians. They have their own vernacular and understanding of what the job requires. And, of course, a giant chasm exists between what a CEO may know and what a line operator may know. 

Unfortunately, and all too often, we find that vital information, like daily KPI targets, is kept on computer dashboards or whiteboards in senior management offices and away from the workforce that must reliably perform to those standards. Why is that?

Sharing vital information with the employees responsible for performance should be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, critical information transparency is often overlooked or purposefully avoided.

Here are four ways that you can begin to break down communication barriers and inspire higher productivity and performance. 

1. Strip Away as Much Jargon, Acronyms, and Insider Terminology as Possible, Especially for New Hires

Insider jargon, terminology, and acronyms can become an easy shorthand for long-term employees in well-entrenched departments like maintenance. But for new hires, the ease and familiarity with that terminology may not be there yet. So one of the most inclusive things a department head can do is break down the commonly used language for newcomers so that it’s clear and understood.

That new hire may be very experienced and eager to perform but may come from an organization, industry, or sector that uses different terminology to refer to the same job, task, or more.

Both parties can learn a lot by making no assumptions that acronyms and insider terminology are automatically understood and agreed upon. If you’re a new hire coming into an organization and don’t understand a term or acronym, ask what it means.  

2. Make Critical Performance KPIs Highly Visible

Nothing can undermine a business culture like unspoken or invisible performance standards. As a result, you don’t know how to perform to the target because no standards were ever agreed upon or made visible to you. 

If your plant needs a line to operate at a specific capacity each shift to meet customer orders and conform to ROA calculations, everyone who touches that line must know that number. And they need a real-time way to “see” if they are “in” or “out” of performing to that standard.

Without visible daily performance targets, it’s like running a race with no designated course and no finish line. No one wins, and work can become mundane and repetitive, like an endless treadmill, leading to burnout and high turnover. 

3. Clearly Communicate Expectations

Making performance metrics visible is a good start but making them viable requires clear communication and mutual agreement. Do your managers and frontline leaders know how to secure that agreement from their direct reports and inspire performance? Telling someone they need to hit a target number each shift is only part of it.

As a leader, you need to uncover whatever may be hindering that performance, bring it out in the light of day, and deal with it. Show them how to meet their targets by listening to their concerns and removing obstacles. Clearly set expectations are the basis for evaluating performance and the first step toward improving!

4. Train, Coach, Reinforce, Repeat

There is no such thing as “one and done” when it comes to training. Instead, training is all about delivering information critical to your organization’s success, whether it be operator training on a new piece of equipment or training and developing leadership skills to improve a manager’s capabilities working with their team. 

Training is about clear communication until the information is received and repeatable by the trainee. They must own the knowledge and have it committed to muscle memory. And you must transfer that ownership in a way that’s effective for them. 

And bear in mind that people learn through different techniques and at different paces. So beyond the one-and-done approach that doesn’t work, there is also no “one-size-fits-all” method to training and developing your people. You may have more visual or experiential learners, for example, so be sure to broaden your approach and training methods.

Conclusion

These may all seem like simple steps, but I can assure you, based on our experience, these fundamental communication barriers can really trip up an organization and impact productivity, performance, and profit. 

We see simple things like daily KPIs being kept from shift supervisors and line operators all the time, and as a result, there’s no goal for the production team to shoot for and no way to determine if production is on or off track. 

When it comes to people in a room working together, take basic communication practices seriously. Everyone is at different levels of capability. For example, millennials in the workforce may often struggle with face-to-face communication. Or you may have people on your team who don’t typically speak up in big group meetings. As a result, you may need to spend more time with them one-on-one.

It’s up to you, as a senior leader, to work with your frontline supervisors and managers to identify the communication methods that work best for your team members. If you want to remove obstacles to peak-level performance, begin with breaking down barriers to effective communication, it can pay immediate dividends in performance.

The POWERS Difference

At POWERS, we focus on Frontline Leadership Training and Development to connect the dots between exemplary leadership behaviors and your desired operational performance outcomes. We help you build a growth and performance culture that operates at peak levels to lower costs, increase productivity, build agility, and sustain that performance over the long haul.

Our team has helped executive leadership across many industries operationalize their culture for rapid and sustained performance improvement, increased competitive advantage, greater value, and a stronger bottom line.

To put our experienced team and proven track record to work for you, schedule an initial discovery and analysis by calling +1 678-971-4711, or emailing us at info@thepowerscompany.com.

Get the latest Culture Performance Management insights delivered to your inbox

About the Author

Sean Hart

CEO, Managing Partner

Sean Hart is an industrial engineer with a background in manufacturing supervision and project management. Sean’s background is in improving overall plant efficiencies and implementing Lean techniques to improve processes.