Thursday, August 28, 2008

Crafting an operating philosophy.

The key employee behaviors identified by the leadership group at Ford's Hermosillo assembly plant were:

* Behave responsibly.

* Contribute ideas and suggestions for improvement.

* Continuously develop skills and abilities.

* Cooperate and work together as a team for the good of the plant as a whole.

Managers were then asked under what conditions they believed this would be possible. Their answers formed the plant philosophy which was subsequently used to guide operating policies and practices at Hermosillo. Here's what they said.

Policies and practices should reflect our belief that:

- People are trustworthy.
(Always start with this assumption and deal with exceptions promptly as they occur).

- People will behave responsibly when they have a clear understanding of what they have to do and are provided timely feedback on their performance.

- People will contribute to their full potential when they have a vehicle to be heard and are not afraid to speak up.

- People will grow and develop their skills and abilities when there are opportunities and incentives for doing so, and when they understand the business sufficiently to be able to actively influence what they need to learn.

- People will cooperate with each other and work together effectively where there are well-defined, shared goals and where there is mutual respect and understanding of each other’s responsibilities.

This philosophy statement served as a further set of criteria for decision making during the design phase and were used to guide the subsequent operation of the business.

I've seen this work in many different settings - paper manufacturing, hotels, hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies, and many others. It doesn't take long to put this in place. Once done, it makes explicit the assumptions behind the design choices, and guarantees the application of consistent values across the whole organization.

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