Point 9 – Are You Talking to Me?

Break down barriers

Break down barriers between departments and staff areas. People in different areas, such as Leasing, Maintenance, Administration, must work in teams to tackle problems that may be encountered with products or service.

Dr. W. Edward Deming

If you every want to see a head butting contest, put an experienced tool and die maker with a freshly graduated tooling engineer. If you don’t have a vested interest it can be entertaining. Certainly, I found it significantly enlarged my four letter word vocabulary.

The company faced an unacceptable defect level being generated from the tool. Root cause analysis guide us to a poor understanding, and therefore almost non-existent communication, between engineers and the tool makers. Each vocally attributed the problem to the other.

Our solution, have them trade positions for a day. The engineer got his hands dirty and once he got over being self-conscious actually had some fun running mills, lathes and all the other toys the tool maker used. The tool maker got to try his hand at CAD and got an earful of just how little information the engineer had to work with. Each came away from the project with respect for the other and the freedom to communicate instead of blame.

We started a program having new hire engineers working in the tool room and training toolmakers on the engineer’s toys. Each learned to respect the other. The groups went from snubbing each other in the lunch room to wearing a path in the floor tile between each others’ work stations.

Our next step introduced Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA). We now had people who were willing to work together instead of point fingers. As soon as we armed them with data and invited them to utilize their education and experience our quality made a geometric improvement. Where 3 sigma had been an unrealistic dream, we made the jump to 6 sigma and parts per million defect levels.

This break though came because we broke down barriers, increasing respect and communications. If we had started the FMEA without first developing respect between the participants our success would have been minimal.

Where are the communication barriers in your company?