I am sure glad that the National Football League reached a contractual agreement and the 2012 football season is going to go on as normal. I like to use analogies from football in my articles and it would be very distressing if football went away and I could not use those stories.
I have often talked about the comparison of the morning production meeting to the offensive huddle. It is that moment when the production team gets a chance to know what the activity for the team will be that day. It is the time when the production manager ensures that everyone is on board and ready to do their part. I have also talked about the leadership role of the quarterback and how that correlates to the printing business owner who has to motivate and energize his staff to succeed.
So what is the goal of that huddle and the leadership effort? Well, clearly, it is the need to have total teamwork. Just as the football team needs all of the players contributing their part to make each play successful, so it is also necessary that all members of the print business do their part so that each job meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations. With the changes that have taken place in our industry over the past few years, there have been some unusual pressures on companies, and those pressures have taken their toll on teamwork.
Shake Up the Team
Many companies that were struggling through this recession felt they had to reduce staff to keep expenses under control. In many cases, that reduction removed key members of the staff and created holes in the production processes. Other staff losses came about because nervous top performers felt that they needed to leave and find more reliable opportunities with companies that were not struggling. Whatever the reason, teamwork was disrupted and the remaining staff was unable to take the actions to fill in and cover for the lost personnel.
Now consider the companies that were thriving during this period. Many of them actually acquired other companies and absorbed the staff of the acquired companies into their teams. Or they may have taken the opportunity to upgrade their staff by accessing the availability of top performers from distressed companies. The introduction of new people created a disruption in the teamwork that had been the basis for their success.
The bottom line is that whether they were surviving or thriving, the one thing that they all needed was a real focus on restoring the teamwork that is essential for success. I have mentioned before that I am currently serving as the general manager of Peter Marcus’s Allegra franchise in Tucson, AZ. Our company has completed five acquisitions over the past two years, so we encountered some of the issues I cited above. We tackled those issues and I want to share how we did that.
We initiated a cross training program so that all of our employees would acquire multiple skills and could pitch in where needed. This gave us the flexibility to handle new activity from the acquired companies. But more importantly, it enabled us to keep all of the employees active full time and we avoided the need to send people home if it happened that we were a little slow in the area that was their specialty. It might seem strange, but we even went to the extreme of having higher paid employees do lesser paying jobs if that was what we needed. How many of you would consider sending your Heidelberg press operator out on deliveries? Just think of the wide receiver or running back who must become a blocker because that is what was needed to make the play work.
We also focused on improving communication through the daily production meeting, regular staff meetings, and lunch and learn sessions. We worked to be open and honest with our staff as we considered acquisitions so that there would be no surprises. We put the need for trust at the top of our agenda. We continued to work on motivating and energizing the staff.