Christmas Cheer

h“I think this is the last one.” said Judith as she tied the ribbon around the last basket of goodies. “Let’s get this lot into the car.”
Michaela and Judith have a great day planned, delivering Christmas gifts to their clients. They quickly load the baskets into the back of Judith’s car and drive out of the carpark.
“How have you enjoyed it here, Michaela?” Judith asked.
“I have loved it,” Michaela replied. “ It was a bit chaotic at first as I got used to everything but once I got into it I’ve really enjoyed it.”
“That’s good to hear. I know Pete has appreciated your help.”
“I like to be organised. I hope he doesn’t think I’m too bossy,” Michaela laughed.
“No, he doesn’t think that, What have you got planned for the do on Friday night?” asked Judith.
“I’ve ordered the food and drinks. We have been talking about a Secret Santa, what do you think?”
“That would be fun,” Judith said. “What about transport home afterwards?”
“I’ve organised a van to pick everyone up from home and deliver everyone them back again.”
“Here we are,” said Judith as they arrived at their first stop…

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Planning and all that jazz…

“How was your weekend,” asked Judith as Michaela sat down.

“Great thanks, I finished my Christmas shopping.” Michaela replied.

“Good on  you,” said Judith, “I still have heaps to do.”

Pete sat down and began the meeting. “Right,” he said. “Let’s get started.”

Michaela, Pete and Judith were meeting to begin their planning for next year.

“How’s the work with Eric going,” he began. “Do you think we can develop a system that will work?”

“I think so,” replied Michaela. “We’re ready to trial something with the next job. We will walk the client through the plan, detail by detail, and make sure we both understand where everything is going and how the space will be used. It will be worth taking the time at the beginning to make sure we are all on the same page.”

“Sounds good. I’ll leave you to get it in place. Do you think it will make a difference?”

“I think so, it gives us a chance to clear up any mis-understanding and to make sure the client has thought about what they need. “

“Right, keep me posted about how it goes. Let’s get on with planning for next year.” Pete responded.

They decided that it would be good to continue the improvement approach to their work in the New Year. The team had learned a lot and were keen to keep going. Pete also agreed to invest in training in 2013 to make sure the team had all the skills they needed.

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Making a difference

As Pete walked into Monday morning’s tool-box meeting, he heard an animated buzz of conversation. He thought they must be discussing the weekend, but as he got closer he was surprised to realise they were talking about the training they had all gone to last Friday morning.

He was even more surprised when Eric said, “I would really like to see if we can sort out how to make sure we are delivering everything the client expects.”

“What do you mean?” interrupted Pete. “Don’t we cover that when we sign off.”

“Yeah, we do,” Eric replied. “ But we often have to finish off niggly things. Not biggies, but things they expected, or things we have misunderstood, things that have changed. You know the drill.”

“So why is that an issue,” asked Pete. “We just get them done, client happy, we move on.”

“What we discussed at training has got me thinking though,” Eric said. “How much does it cost us, and them, to put in an extra plug, change a light fitting, redo a finish. We could save time and money and have really happy clients if we did it all as we went.”

“What do the rest of you think?” asked Pete.

The murmurs and nods from around the room indicated they agreed with Eric.

“Right,” he added. “ How do we tackle it then?”

All eyes were on Eric as he replied. ”Well, I’ve been thinking over the weekend and  according to the stuff we learnt we need to gather some data, and prioritise. I have gone over the last couple of jobs to see if there was a pattern. It looks like the most common thing we have to add later are extra power points and shift light switches that are not in the right place.”

“Right,” Pete was gob smacked. “Makes sense, what now?”

“We need to clarify the problem- I think  we need to work out how to make sure the electrical plan is going to deliver what they need, not what they think they need.”

Everybody started to talk at once with their ideas.

“Hang-on,” Pete exclaimed. “We need to follow the process we learned. No time to do it now- let’s put it on the agenda for Wednesday’s tool-box. In the meantime you can begin to think about it.”

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Taking Stock

It’s Monday and Pete and Judith are having a coffee together to review how things have gone since they made changes to the business earlier in the year.

“What are the team saying about the training,” asked Judith, as they sat down at their table.

“Yeah, good, I think.” replied Pete. “We’ve one more to go, called Lean Thinking. I hope it will bring it all together for the guys.”

“And for me too,” he added with a smile.

“Do you think it will be worth it?” asked Judith. “It’s put a bit of pressure on; having to go to the training very two weeks.”

“I think it will be. Michaela and Mike are on to it. We’ve tidied a lot of things up and they are pulling together as a team. Jono’s still a bit dis-organised, but the others are helping him to make sure he is prepared for the job before he goes out and that he tells them when things are not going as planned.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah, it is,” Pete agreed.”I’m still feeling a bit pressured, but Michaela and I have had a chat and worked out things I can delegate to her and Mike. And the stuff we have learnt on the courses is beginning to show how we can free  up time and be more productive.”

“They certainly seem to be happy when I come in.”

“It’s a really great atmosphere now,” said Pete. “They seem to have a lot of fun as well and definitely help each other out more than they did before. At the tool-box meetings they are solving problems rather than just raising them. So, yeah, I guess it is all worth it.”

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Getting Sorted

Pete is sitting at his desk wondering where to start. He is still catching up from his week away with the kids and then last week was a short week. The piles of paper on his desk are threatening to merge.

On Friday morning, he had gone with his team to the 4th 90 minute training session with Shona from Implement + Associates; it was called Introduction to Lean.

He understood the concepts and that it could deliver a more efficient process, but he didn’t think he would ever get the hang of the 5 S’s. As he pulled out the notes to check what they were, he couldn’t imagine where he would get started.

“Ah, here they are. 5S’s – Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. How do I begin to sort this mess out?” he wondered.

“Hi Pete,” Michaela called from the doorway. “How are you getting on with sorting your desk,” she laughed.

“I don’t know where to begin to be honest.” Pete replied. “where do you think I should start.”

“First thing I would do is to get rid of everything on your desk you don’t need.” said Michaela. “Look at this pile of client files, they should be in the filing drawer, so we can all find them when we need to. Why don’t we look at where they should go when you have finished, so I can see you have finished with them and file them.”

She picked up the files and took them away, the desk seemed less daunting already. Pete took Michaela’s advice and began removing everything he didn’t need on the desk…

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Peace of Mind

“Hope the weather clears, it’s freezing.” Judith says to Pete as they head out the driveway for their week away with the kids.

“It’d be nice to have some sun,” agrees Pete.

The family is going on a long overdue holiday as a family. They have no real plans for the week, a road trip to have some fun with the girls. First stop Ruapehu.

“I hope everything will be Ok at work while we’re gone. Eric and Jono are up to a difficult stage with their job and Mike and Jess will need to keep the pressure on to get their’s on track.”

“Don’t worry so much, Pete,” Judith replied. “Michaela will keep them on track and you said yourself they have stepped up since the training.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Can’t help worrying though, it’s been up to us to keep things on track for so long.”

Meanwhile, back in the office….

“Hi Michaela,” said Eric as the team got together for their morning meeting. “Did you watch the rugby?”

“Yes,” replied Michaela. “I got up early yesterday morning to watch the second half.”

Mike took charge of the meeting. The first agenda item is the training they have been doing. The session next Friday is about documented systems and they have some preparation to do before then. They have agreed to get a lot done before Pete and Judith are back from holiday.

Michaela put the process on the whiteboard and they spent a few minutes talking about what they might need to capture in their documentation, before they moved on to talk about the week’s work.

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What do I do now?

Pete is at his desk bright and early on Monday morning. The team had attended their second training module on Friday morning, looking at Quality systems. It had been a pretty intense session and he was not sure what to do with the information.

It seemed to be so much work and he was struggling to see the benefit to the business. Judith didn’t agree with him, they had spent a bit of time over the weekend talking about it and she had reminded him of the times things had gone wrong in the past and how much time and effort, and sometimes money, it took to sort it all out. Things like late orders, wrong orders, running out of important items, no-one checking the work of the trainees and customers complaining about the workmanship. And she had reminded him of the pressure when Sam left, how hard it had been to keep things running smoothly.  None of them were biggies, just always seemed to happen at the wrong time, when they were under enough pressure already.

The training had built on the work they had done since the last training, the steps that added value and the processes involved.

Under each step they had identified:

  • Key tasks
  • Responsibilities and authorities
  • Standards (of materials and workmanship)
  • Did they need preferred suppliers and who are they?
  • How they checked they had met the standards
  • What they would do if they hadn’t met the standard

“Hi Pete,” Mike called out as he came into the workshop, “ Did you have a good weekend.”

“Yeah good thanks,” said Pete.

“Right”, he thought to himself, “I had better get on with some work. I’ll get Michaela to organise a team meeting on Friday, to look at what they want to do after the training”

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