My goal IN BETTER MAKES US BEST (see previous article) was to apply new technology to old manufacturing processes, to transform underperforming companies into profitable ventures. Some of the underperforming companies we acquired were in danger of losing supplier status with their customers.
You can provide machinery and technology but if you lack employee commitment the formula won’t work. The buildings, the machines, don’t really do much unless people have the motivation, the desire and the know-how to do a good job. They turn it around. We provide leadership and creative management.
I wrote and published a book, describing the “Better Makes Us Best” philosophy, which was distributed free of cost to all of our employees – over 7,000 people at the time.
That was important because it got the word out on the plant floor that we were serious about this philosophy. We wanted everyone to start thinking about how to be better. Then we backed up this effort by encouraging managers and supervisors to stimulate discussion at the plant level along the same lines.
We also asked our managers to file reports describing their efforts. The responses were gratifying. People actually began thinking about how they could perform their daily tasks better, about how they could improve working conditions, about how they could increase output and make better products.
The employees began to understand that job security is a two-way street. As a corporation, we provide jobs. The employee’s (including management) responsibility is to perform those jobs to the best of their abilities, to acquire training (which we provided) and to be flexible in the face of change.
I would like to interject here that one of the things our employees are learning is economic literacy. That is important because the traditional employee in the United States is economically illiterate. He doesn’t understand how his performance affects the company or the economy. If he’s careless the company can lose a customer; that customer may go abroad for suppliers if he can obtain better quality parts overseas. But if that employee is careful and does a quality job the company can win more business which, in turn, gives the employee job security.