It does not matter what degree of experience we possess, from beginner to subject matter expert, from time to time we need to stop and look in a mirror and then ask, “Am I writing my own script for the way I approach things or am I playing a role in a playbook that someone else has written?” In today’s environment, it is all too easy to use a playbook prepared by someone else. There are many companies doing business like everyone else and in the same old way and wondering why things never seem to improve. They keep asking themselves, “Why do we keep having problems with certain activities?” Why are we accepting performance that should be better?
As we gain experience with our profession and with life in general, we do many things out of habit. There is nothing wrong with that unless they are bad habits. Things like not quickly returning phone calls to customers, suppliers, (or even team mates); avoiding tough questions; avoiding tough answers; using the same run-of-the-mill supplier, not thinking outside the box or being overly critical of those who do, and the list could go on. These habits sometimes get ingrained as a part of who we are and where we have been and we do not realize that we have developed a bad habit or two. It is much easier to conduct “business as usual” rather that change the status quo because when we decide that something needs to change, we must change with it. Most of the time, we do not like change but we need to break bad habits.
When working for another company years ago, we were having issues with a supplier. The supplier basically provided a good product, but there were many little things that plagued the customer-supplier relationship. Initially they had trouble meeting delivery schedules and sometimes the work was a little sloppy and documentation was incomplete. Instead of continuously complaining and arguing with the supplier, we paid him a visit to see if we could help solve the problems in with a coaching/teaching approach. We learned that the supplier had not adequately planned for the large volume of components to be produced and was in a “catch-up” mode most of the time. We assisted the supplier in assessing his overall process, made a few recommendations, and agreed to eliminate for 90 days, all penalties for late delivery. That took the pressure off of the supplier and allowed him to focus on the problem instead of the financial penalties related to the schedule. In less than 45 days, all the problems went away. It would have been easy to have continued to write-up the problems, complain, and penalize but that would have been going by someone else’s playbook and conducting business as usual. We broke that habit and replaced it with another one which can be summarized by two words: open communication.
Another time we subcontracted a supplier to perform a particular service. As we begin to use this supplier his rates begin to increase substantially and he was always finding ways to justify additional fees. The supplier had very little competition and was not very cooperative. We tried the same “open communication” with him but he thought he had a corner on the market and would not consider changing anything. Within a few months, we found what seemed to be a very highly qualified company to do the exact same thing and at a lower price. Although we really did not want to take a chance with a new supplier, we decided that it was time for a change. We asked the tough questions and made a tough decision.
The new supplier performed in an exceptional manner, was easy to work with and was very accommodating to our needs. I still have a great working relationship with this supplier. We broke a bad habit of not wanting to take a chance with something new. We replaced that bad habit with one that is not afraid to ask the tough questions to ourselves.
Achieving excellence is not accomplished through a quality program or a procedure. It is a team attitude; it is a working with a mind-set for excellence. Developing habits of excellence is what the phrase “continuous improvement” means to BT Utility Specialists. Doing “business as usual” or doing something just because we have always done it that way is not in our playbook. In everything we do, whether a task is large of small, we strive to improve and develop those habits of excellence.
Until next time,