11/21/2007 | 3 MINUTE READ

Listen To Your Assets—Pass It On

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Many years ago when I started working in the shop, it was understood that my world consisted of leaders and followers. The leaders knew stuff and doled out just enough information for followers like me to do the job assigned. Neither my input nor that of my co-workers was solicited or welcomed.

I remember one job I was assigned that I did in a most inefficient way, learning as I went. After having wasted much time and effort, I asked my supervisor why he hadn’t shared with me his knowledge of the process to save the company my wasted time. He told me, “If I tell you what I know, you may take my job.” Those words and that attitude still haunt me.

In those days, leaders ran things. They made all the decisions and thought about important things. Information ran down hill from top to bottom. An ordinary employee, like me, was often considered overhead. Occasionally, the accountants would try to find ways to cut costs, and reducing “overhead” would often fill the bill. In those days, leaders figured they could always find new followers.

Hopefully, that view and my experience with the supervisor sound very archaic to most of you today. Successful companies have long ago abandoned this linear, monolithic perception of leadership in favor of a more egalitarian approach. Leaders found that followers actually had talents beyond simply doing as they were told. Some even had creative, useful minds. To use an accountant’s jargon, this change meant moving an employee from the overhead/cost column to the asset column of the ledger.

The effect of a mind change is interesting when people are considered assets. Companies instinctively protect assets. They also are much more likely to invest in assets so the assets can become even more valuable. Nobody is going to spend more money than necessary on a cost. Moreover, I think a significant and positive fallout from this enlightened approach is that once their contribution potential is recognized within an organization, most people can and will contribute to the success of the organization as assets rather than costs.

This change in attitude is not unilateral. While leaders were learning that followers could be more than that, followers began to understand that their value, and job security, is based on more than following the leader. As good manufacturing jobs have become increasingly scarce, an employee’s success is closely tied to the company’s success. It’s more difficult today to go down the street and find a new job.

What has happened over the span of my career has been this confluence of attitudes. Leaders have come to realize that they function more successfully as facilitators rather than dictators. The job is now less about knowing everything and more about cultivating the talents, experience and creativity of the employees in order to help them do their jobs better. If the company creates an environment of involvement on all levels, everybody is more secure in their respective job because the company has a much better chance of progressing and succeeding.

Not just leaders have changed, however. The former followers, once empowered to make decisions about their jobs and influence how processes can be improved with better tools or methods, have stepped up to the plate by making themselves better informed to exercise their empowerment. Today, it’s about proactive exercise of enfranchisement versus passively waiting to be told what to do. Having personally experienced both systems, I much prefer the latter.

That brings me to this first-time issue of the Production Machining Buyer’s Guide. Obviously, we don’t send a copy to everyone in your shop. You get the magazine because you meet our qualification requirements. However, it is more than likely that there are others in the shop who could benefit from the information in this and all the issues throughout the year. If you don’t already do so, consider passing PM around so everyone who is interested can take a look. People are assets. Disseminating the information in Production Machining is an easy way to invest in those assets so they can give you ROI.