Judging Manufacturing Awards: a nice change from ugly babies (#23)

Today’s subject: Be careful of always looking for the weakness

One of the drawbacks (and skills you develop) in my job is telling mothers that they have ugly babies. Few mothers (owners, founders, MDs) will openly concede that their baby (business/factory) has a face for radio. Of course, it's all in the framing and you become good at delivering the news clearly but respectfully without the need to be accompanied by a minder to fend off enraged employees.

I raise this because for a couple of days this week I had the pleasure of judging & assessing shortlisted companies in the The Manufacturer MX (TMMX) awards. I tweeted a little about it here and here. As much as we were there to validate a submission & confirm the reality in the business, we were also there to recognise the formidable efforts of businesses going beyond their peers, often on a resource shoestring.

It bought to mind a conversation I had 20 years ago with one of my Japanese trainers whilst walking around a consultancy client. 

Trainer: "What do you see?" (heart sinks and breathing tightens)

Me: "A is a weakness, B is poor and C is wasteful"

Trainer: "Anything else?" (gulp, he's having a right root around now)

Me: "Um, parts presentation of D is a problem, E is causing rework"

Trainer: "Is that it?" (he's gotta be kidding, I'm new to this)

Me: this answer was so vague and weak I seem to have erased it from my memory, either way I pointed out a perceived problem.

Trainer: "Do you see nothing good?"

...and the penny drops. He wasn't trying to push me to find more and more fault, rather make sure that I also recognised the good things. If we tell our people enough times that their efforts aren't good enough they'll come to believe that they can do no right and give up. I'm looking at you Operations Managers taking 20 photos of the poor 5s condition and then emailing them to the supervisor from the comfort of an office chair.

For me, on the occasions that I forget to recognise the good and only filter for the lean gap, I miss a chance to, ahem, harvest (steal) ideas to use elsewhere.

Please balance your critique of your people's efforts. Even facially challenged babies can have beautiful eyes and cute hands.

Another post next week to catch up from my holiday break.


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