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After writing my article titled, “Don’t Rely on Super Heroes to Achieve Your Business Objectives”, I received numerous comments about not wanting to have too strict of a process that it stifles operator input.  I completely agree as we need employees who are engaged in their work to drive improvements.  And in order to do that, they need to have the freedom to come up with new, innovative ways to improve the processes they work in every day.

As a manager, I would tell my employees, if you make a wrong decision but your thought process is right, then we will do some coaching about how you arrived at your decision.  But, if you make a wrong decision and your thought process is wrong, we will have a completely different discussion.

My team knew my priorities were: safety, quality and communication.  So, as they made changes, they needed to think through how the changes would impact these priorities.

The area where they struggled the most was communication.  Having honest, direct communication is difficult and in order to that well, employees need to see this demonstrated on a consistent basis and be given the necessary training on how to communicate effectively, especially in emotional situations.

As they made process improvements, we would talk through their decision making process and as necessary, make suggestions on how things could be improved upon in the future.  Of course, there were times when decision making wasn’t done with safety, quality or communication in mind.  During those difficult circumstances, I would discuss how the outcome could have been improved by keeping them in mind.

Over time, my team was better equipped to make improvements to the process while keeping the business priorities at the forefront of their minds.  This provided an opportunity to make process improvements without relying on their favorite super hero.