Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Manufacturing effectiveness: Excellence is not a skill — it’s an attitude

January 5, 2010
By Karin Lindner

Depression, recession, meltdown and bailout were keywords in 2009. The focus of most companies has been on numbers instead of people, and the business strategy seemed to be on “how to survive” rather than the creation and implementation of a compelling vision.

It does not come as a big surprise that the morale in most organizations is at an all time low, which obviously has an immediate impact on productivity and the bottom line.

Now, more than ever, it is important to create a positive and dynamic outlook for the future.

The automotive industry and its workforce were hit the hardest and it was devastating to see that many organizations simply followed the trend to move companies from Canada to low cost countries. What impact will this have on the future? What price have Canadians had to pay for this impulsive decision? Did Canada lack assertiveness? Did Canada do everything possible keep business here by doing things in a better and more effective way?

The trend overall seemed to be more reactive than pro-active.


• What about 2010?
• Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
• How can you shift from crisis to opportunity?
• How can you create an environment of initiative, ownership, accountability and pride?
• How can you know, go and show the way as a leader?

If you think this is mission impossible, think again!

Management can no longer depend on old answers because the problems companies are facing in this fast paced global market are new. The playing field and rules have changed and we are doing business in a different world. Now, more than ever, it is important to create a positive and dynamic outlook for the future. We are surrounded by too much negativity and it is important to change the way we think, learn and grow. It is all about getting to the next level by being creative and innovative to out-perform the competition.

Most business people are reluctant to admit that business involves a lot of emotion, and they very rarely make room for it. If your company has had to deal with recent layoffs, this is a definite concern. Emotions need to be dealt with, processed and released — otherwise, it can and will hurt your business.

If your team is paralyzed by fear and anxiety, it is very difficult to move on. People are stuck in their emotions and prefer to drive the BMW (blaming, moaning and whining) rather than moving into possibility thinking to get the creative juices flowing. Negativity is overbearing and I think we are ready for an attitude change.

If you choose to ignore this serious issue, people’s productivity will suffer and so will your bottom line.

The biggest advantage Ontario has is its diverse workforce, but somehow very few companies seem to take advantage of this tremendous global competitive edge. Management has to do deal with seemingly endless challenges and the solutions seem to rest mainly on their shoulders.

Wouldn’t it be immensely powerful and advantageous to tap into the brainpower of the workforce?

With people from China, India, Eastern Europe and virtually every other country in the world, we have the global advantage right at our doorstep.

Viewing a problem from another perspective and letting your team play a key role in the problem solving process will not only lift the spirit and increase motivation, it will also increase the self-esteem and energy level of your workforce.

Letting your team play a key role in the problem solving process will not only lift the spirit and increase motivation, it will also increase the self-esteem and energy level of your workforce.

People learn best when they face new challenges, and it is important to teach them responsibility and ownership by not taking away their problems but by encouraging them to find solutions. If you not only accept but appreciate the creative process of possibility thinking, your people may surprise you with their innovative ideas and solutions.

Performance and quality improvement tools such as Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma are an excellent ways to implement culture change and boost the bottom line. It is unfortunate that the implementation is often very superficial as most companies focus more on “5S” and “just in time” without understanding Lean as an entire culture change, including an understanding of people and what motivates them in order to get their buy-in.

Without employee buy-in, no program will succeed.

Times of job security, complacency and resistance to change are over. It is time for every single employee — from the shop floor to the executive suite — to focus on themselves and his or her contribution to the business success. Going forward, it is not only about encouraging accountability, it is about having the courage to hold each other accountable for your behaviours, actions and reactions, and the maturity and humility of being held accountable.

Leading through crisis requires strength, vision, passion and the ability to create a culture of recognition and involvement. It is important for people to learn how to overcome failure and to see it as a roadblock on the way to success.

If you see 2010 as an opportunity to grow… if you see it as a way to create a learning culture… if you learn to listen to your people and act rather than react… if you see it as a new era to discover new possibilities, methods and ways of doing things… I am convinced that 2010 will be a great year, which will showcase many manufacturing organizations in a positively new and different light.

As the founder of Karico Performance Solutions, Karin Lindner has developed a reputation as a corporate coach, trainer, facilitator – and inspirational speaker. She moved from Austria to Canada six years ago and today she is a business owner and the president of Toastmasters in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Specializing in helping bolster workforce performance and satisfaction in manufacturing environments, she assists people in reaching their professional (and personal) potential. Contact her by phone at 647-401-5274 or by email at

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