Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The right thing easy

We have a management meeting every Wednesday morning.  They have become pretty darned lively although sometimes they sound a little bit out of control because there are several people talking at once.  The interesting thing is, this tends to accomplish a whole lot pretty quickly.  Even though polite schools of meeting management believe that everyone should get a turn, that we should raise our hands and that order and calm are the rule, I think that a good lively discussion helps to relieve a whole lot of tension.  Eventually everyone winds up in agreement. 

One of our recent meetings revolved around employee damages.  We understand that mistakes and errors are inevitable in our business and we take full responsibility for the quality of the decoration and ultimately, the apparel.  Replacement costs for damaged apparel are built into our budget.  Of course, if we can control those little attention errors that make up the majority of our problems, we can add to our bottom line which really helps when calculating year-end bonuses.

There are times, though, when it seems that we have a plague of wrong colors, poor quality, crooked logos and even holes cut by a finisher.  Those times test the patience and politeness of those of us in the office.  There really is no excuse for that sort of problem

The trouble is, when these plagues begin, they spread through the outstretched fingers of many of our staff who add their little twists and slices to the list of ways that apparel can be ruined.  Within a matter of days, repurchase of goods seems to be higher than the good production that we turn out. 

During past episodes, we have talked to the crew, yelled at the crew and tried bonuses and time-off incentives to get them to stop making mistakes.  Eventually, the error rate got back to normal and we breathed a sigh of relief.

The trouble is, these episodes act just like the common cold.  No matter what positive or negative response you throw at the gang, they always seem to last for the same length of time.  The cost varies although in recent years it seems to have risen.  One interesting sidebar, by the way, is that the smallest employee has a penchant for ruining anything size XX-Large or bigger.  I can’t quite get my mind around the reason for that one. 


Ray Hunt, a great horse trainer is credited with saying that when you train a horse, it’s all about making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.  If your horse backs up and tends to move his rear end to the left every time, put him next to a fence and he won’t be able to go anywhere but straight. 

During our meeting, I stumbled on that concept.  I won’t compare people to horses because that would be unfair to the horses.  I did, however, find Mr. Hunt’s concept to be appealing.  Instead of going out to the shop and stomping our feet as we did in the past and instead of coming up with some reward system for doing exactly the work that our staff is being paid to do, we looked for another solution.  In truth, it was pretty simple. 

If you do it right, you get paid.  If you do it wrong and it has to be done again, you do it on your own time. 

I wish it were this easy to cure a cold.