Demoralized Workforce Blues

It is truly amazing how fast a crisis can snowball. I feel a great deal of empathy for our friends in Automotive. Poor forecast accuracy and externally impacted political demand schedules; require this industry to employ only the very best in their field. Trouble is, nobody “wants” to lead an automotive production organization. You’ll work harder than you every have in a thankless environment where the light at the end of the seems more like a black hole. This is the industry that really separates good leaders from great leaders. On the positive side, if you are learning to lead – there is no better environment. If you are a leader in the Automotive industry, dealing with a demoralized workforce keep these four key points in mind.



DO NOT SET YOUR TEAM UP TO FAIL.  Aggressively quoting business without thinking about the future could not only destroy your organization but will certainly obliterate workforce moral. Imagine coming in too tight on a quote, suppliers raise prices and the customer refuses to offset. What now? Run the product at a loss? Think about how demoralized the workforce becomes when they KNOW they are working overtime on a MONEY LOSER. Lastly, NEVER assume you will somehow “make it up” in future productivity gains. With technology, costs are going down and the low hanging fruit is not nearly as obvious as it used to be. Can’t compete otherwise? Try selling VALUE. Selling on price alone is a long slow bleed out and your teams will see it too.



MAKE A DECISION AND STICK TO IT. Leaders who lag on key decisions CAUSE a demoralized workforce. Sorry, you are expected to LEAD. That means making decisions to cut or move product lines that cost more to operate than they generate. That also means balancing work across the team at ALL levels and cutting excess overhead. Unions included. I have yet to meet a Union official who would prefer a plant closure over absorbing additional responsibilities in the contract. Your team sees waste every day. Objective #1 is Safety. Objective #2 is Machine efficiency. Immediately move all NON VALUE ADDED processes away from the shop floor. In a crisis, every second that machine is not running is another inch dug in the grave. To stay engaged, employees MUST see action everyday and the RESULTS from their leadership team – and Leaders MUST COMMUNICATE IT – especially in a distressed environment.



CUTTING LEAN MANUFACTURING RESOURCES IS NOT A COST SAVINGS What is does do is illustrate that organizational leadership is focused on short term gains, thus further demoralizing the workforce. Furthermore, handing over your business over to consultants is not a solution either. Your workforce must stay engaged in the solutions working with (not for) consultants as needed.  Several years ago an executive asked me why an organization I was running was 45% more efficient than the next comparable plant. I answered very frankly with – I look for stupid EVERY SINGLE DAY. Great leaders know exactly what process waste looks like and frequently asks the team what it looks from their vantage point. Put a GO-PRO type of camera on one of your team members. Review the day. Then really think about whether your really need to hire more people.



Leaders know that every level of the organization has a different perception of what is important which is precisely why transparency and communication are CRUCIAL to success. Your teams need to SEE you fight for them and you should! A leader is NOT a “YES” person. If you cannot keep a job in your role without being a “YES” person – I would suggest another career. Leaders must question Sr. Management regarding waste with plenty of well presented data to back it up.