They only hire me from the neck down

October 5, 2012

On a construction site a worker was grumbling to himself as he worked. “How is it going?” I asked. “What?........oh…..ah fine…..well… you know on how many jobs they keep doing this the same stupid way? I keep fixing this damn thing every week. Have they any idea how much this costs them, hell I’m getting tired of doing the same thing over and over.”  “Have you told anyone about this?”   “Well sure for a few months, but that was years ago, no one did anything so here I am.”  “So no one listened?”   “Hi look, they only hire me from the neck down, I’m not hired to think, so no one listens to me.”

This guy has worked on residential, commercial and heavy civil engineering jobs all over the country for 30 years. He has ideas, experience and yet no one listens to him when he presents a good idea. So what does he do? After years of been told to shut up or simply being ignored he gets the message and says nothing, as he walks over and around costs that could easily be saved.

We can spend time and money on developing innovation programs, creating improvement teams and analyzing customer survey data, but by simply using our own team members and their rich knowledge we can have the most significant impact. This is the easiest and most important way to drive quality. The resource is right there, engage it by listening to them when they suggest an idea, reward it and encourage more. This means anyone in your organization.

We focus on a whole range of issues to motivate our teams, when at the same time we can be so counterproductive by simply ignoring the gift that walks right up to us. Turning them off spreads like wildfire and will make your job tougher. On the other hand, by listening and acting on the input, you will find that this will promote quality faster and with more authority than any program you could implement.

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.


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