Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do you have a Plan?

Do you have a plan?

Wrong question!  And if you ask the wrong question you will always get the wrong answer.

The first question should be:
Do you know what a plan is?
A plan is....

A plan is a story.

And my mother, a former English teacher, will gladly tell you that a story must address
  • Who
  • What
  • How
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
And then it is a story...or a plan.

The order can vary.  Some stories will put more emphasis on Why or How.  But a complete story, a complete plan, must hit all five "W"s and the lonely "H".

My awakening
I was involved in an equipment installation in an industrial plant during a long weekend.  I think it was Thanksgiving weekend.

The company brought in full crews of skilled trades on all three shifts and paid them double-time.

It occurred to me as I watched the train wreck unfold that my brothers and I had better planning when we executed "deer drives" than the best talent in this Fortune 500 company had for the four day weekend.

  • Who is going to be standing and who is going to be driving?
  • What is each person going to be doing?  Which way are they going to be looking or moving?
  • How are the drivers going to communicate?  How often will they zig-and-zag?
  • Where will each person be at any given time?  
  • When will they start?  When will they end?  When will they communicate?
  • Why are we doing things the way we are doing them?  Is there a better way?  Do we shoot at coyotes?  Is it bucks-only?  Are we putting meat in the freezer?

We did not consider it overkill.  Every one of us was capable of heaving a one ounce chunk of lead at 1600 feet per second.  Mistakes are expensive.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that a handful of "rednecks" absolutely crushed a bunch of hot-shot corporate executives in planning.  But it was a fact.

Back to equipment installations
The equipment installations became much more efficient over time, primarily due to better planning.

The single biggest gain came when each shift was assigned specific robots/equipment to program/prepare.

What had been happening was that each shift would come in and review the work done by the previous shift.  Then they would delete the programming because it was not exactly they way they would have done it.  They would download the programs they had saved on thumb-drives at the end of their shift the previous day.

At the daily meeting, the leaders would contend that they had no idea what the MFers on the other two shifts were doing because not a lick of work had been done in the previous sixteen hours.

This was particularly vexing to second and third shift. Upper management never showed up on second and third shift.  The only message upper management heard was that second and third shift were not only drunk-and-disorderly but that they deleted the work done by the workers on first shift.

The post mortem of the weekend was ugly.  Very, very ugly.

You cannot make this stuff up.

A good plan has clear assignments.

Deleting the work done by other shifts is industrial sabotage.  It was done very casually before the leaders got religion about planning.  It was perceived as "being fussy" which is generally a good thing.  It was not perceived as throwing away $20,000 of labor and frittering away one of the few four day windows of opportunity.

Later installations required that each shift "lock out" the specific equipment they were responsible for.  There was no way other shifts could mess with it.

Leadership's mentality had been that shifts that finished early could work on other shift's work.

Reality proved that there are many things that are worse than a work crew that gets done early.

Just remember:
  • Who
  • What
  • How
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
And my mom will be proud of you.

Do you have a Plan, Part II

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