Continuous Improvement in HR Part 3 – The Value-Creator Ownership Model

Manuficient - Business Owner

Have you ever heard of an economic model where everyone makes about the same amount of money regardless of what actual value they contribute to society? Of coarse you have…just pick an American factory at random and that’s pretty much what you’ll find. The norm for US factories is to have minimal or marginal income diversity, especially among blue collar workers. Let’s look at this model in a slightly different context. Take entrepreneurship for example. Entrepreneurship usually takes a substantial degree of risk but can be tremendously rewarding if it works. Just about every entrepreneur would tell you flat out that the potential for rewards out-weighs the risk, and that’s why so many people go for it. This is one of the most powerful engines in business and for any economy. In fact, some brave soul(s) made this calculation prior to the birth of every company in existence. If you told an aspiring entrepreneur that no matter how much risk they take on with their dream venture, they would never make much more than $18/hr, do you think they would still go for it? Do you think they would bother with all the brainstorm sessions, raising capital, breakthroughs in innovation and all the exciting and sometimes dreadful aspects of entrepreneurship? Probably not so much.

This model of marginal income diversity contradicts some of the values that America is founded on. Some of those being freedom, prosperity, equality, competition, individualism, progress and change, etc. The compensation system currently used by most American companies is designed to make life easy and predictable for the accounting function. It was designed and deployed before we had computers to do the vast majority of our bean counting. The downside of the current low-income diversity model is that it gradually disengages employees and is counter-productive to the most predominant American values. In other words, it shuts the growth engine off at the shop floor level. This leaves managers scrambling to find the next motivation and performance management tactic to deploy in efforts to maintain or increase productivity levels.

So the question becomes – How can we leverage the values that have made America the most powerful economy in the world to make your company more successful? The answer lies in providing those who create value for your customer with the freedom to create wealth for themselves. Not by working slower and racking up overtime hours; but by working smarter with the time they have available. Not by asking them to claw their way up the corporate ladder in hopes for a higher salary; but by tying their value contribution to their income on a daily basis. The answer lies in converting employees into business owners that operate within the framework of the larger company.

The Value Creator Ownership Model

This is an example of a model where employees are given a tremendous degree of ownership of their work. Every employee has internal suppliers and customers, just like every business has. In this model (in the manufacturing environment), there are those who make stuff and those who provide services. Anyone not a part of the immediate value chain is a Service Provider. The compensation of those on the value chain is linked to the value they contribute on a daily basis. Those on the value chain (aka Value Creators) would be allocated a production budget. Internally (or externally) contracted services would be paid for out of that Value Creator’s budget. The Value Creator is allowed to take home whatever portion of their budget that they don’t use. Value Creators who want to increase their take-home pay might invest more in training and continuous improvement to reduce their operating costs. See my post on Value-Based Compensation for more details on how this works.

Service Providers are compensated based on being “hired” by Value Creators internally to provide a service at rates that they control. In this model, a service provider, such as a maintenance technician or trainer, could potentially price themselves out of the internal market. This provides an incentive for service providers to strive for quality and perfect their craft to keep steady business. Since Value Creators have a choice in who provides their services, Service Providers who are poor performers will struggle to find work in the factory. A Service Provider who wants to increase their pay might invest more in training so they can charge higher rates or they can foster strong relationships with Value Creators to maximize billable time.

The major benefit to this model is that the production floor becomes virtually self-managed. Poor performance anywhere results in lower pay everywhere on the value chain. If a supplier struggles to get parts made, it reduces the value that can be created downstream – resulting in reduced pay for all those affected. This makes the pain of poor performance hit home across the board and puts tremendous pressure on everyone to work together to achieve more.

This model self-corrects many of the issues that plague American manufacturers today such as resistance to change or improvement, managing individual performance, eliminating waste in activities both on and off of the value stream, and others. One of the potential drawbacks to this model is that some people may end up making less than minimum wage. Minimum wages can be instituted as well since manufacturing typically pays well over the legal minimum wage. This works out because those who don’t perform well and end up making just the minimum wage can (and probably will) easily find manufacturing work elsewhere for substantially more money. This automatically free’s up opportunities to on-board higher performers. In the end, your factory becomes a sub-economy that is driven by people’s own desires for freedom and prosperity instead of top-down command and controlling.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Intro to Continuous Improvement in Human Resources – Organizing for Wealth Creation

Butterfly metamorphosis

Is your Human Resources function geared up to tackle the challenges of a Continuous Improvement implementation such as Lean Six Sigma or other? Is your company leveraging it’s training, recruiting, compensation, and performance review processes to instill a culture of CI or one of stagnation and status quo? The ultimate function of the Human Resources system in acquiring, developing, and retaining the optimal mix of people needed to deliver the goals of the business. If your business is serious about driving out waste and optimizing the customer experience, shouldn’t your HR function be able to demonstrate how it systematically delivers to these expectations? In many businesses, Lean concepts have begun to infiltrate administrative and non-value stream functions. However, the approach has been to streamline administrative processes to reduce lead time for given tasks. This series of posts looks at re-designing the critical functions of HR such as recruiting, training, performance evaluation, and compensation to embed the incentives that help generate the momentum needed for a CI implementation, especially in American manufacturing. The four areas of focus are as follows:

1) Training Future CI Leaders at All Levels – When the business sets the ambitious goal of implementing Lean, Six Sigma, or other improvement initiative, the company has committed to a full throttle operational transformation. The biggest change happens with the behaviors and attitudes of the people doing the work. It is no long enough to just go to work and do your job. Just hiring one or two CI Leaders is a recipe for failure if everyone else is given the option to buy-in or opt-out. This type of transformation requires all hands on deck. The training function needs to re-tool itself in a way that employs every set of eyes in the organization on eliminating waste.

2) Data vs Non-Data Based Performance Reviews – One of the most dreaded processes in business is the Performance Review process. If you get to the root of why this process is so painful and damn near impossible to do right, its because the feedback is coming from the wrong direction. The people most closely connected with the actual customer are the ones doing the work that the customer is paying for. Yet, often detached managers are providing feedback to those who are closer to the customer. This opens the door for managers to carry out their personal agenda for or against lower level employees and erodes the credibility of the process. It also erodes the capability of the organization. Ideally, the “noise” of the performance review process needs to be removed and made real-time and data-driven so those doing the work can readily see when there is a problem and can simply take corrective/preventative action on the fly. Then systematize the process of escalating production system issues as needed in effort to create a perfect system.

3) Merit-based Compensation – As any Lean practitioner can tell you, the most efficient way to organize a supply chain is to link the elements together so that production can be pulled from downstream (as opposed to pushing from upstream). This concept also applies to compensation where pay can be linked to value created for the customer, which from the factory’s view is income created for the company. In other words, its possible to tie individual employee income directly to company income. In this model, the employee makes money based on the amount of value they contribute. This gives the operator more freedom to create greater wealth for themselves by making a stronger contribution to the company’s bottom line. It also creates a dynamic where those who make wasteful decisions struggle to make a competitive wage.

4) Hiring, Firing, and Promoting for Growth – During a CI implementation, every job description should come with a disclaimer. WARNING: Transformation in Progress – Yield to Change Agents. There are two types of people in manufacturing and in business. One seeks to make themselves comfortable and the other to make things better. In a non-CI culture, comfort seekers rule. When the company decides to undergo a transformation, the scales need to be tipped toward the change agents by hiring and promoting based on people’s track records for successfully driving change. Even better, driving change without leaving a trail of bloody victims in the wake. Comfort seekers in critical leadership roles need to be moved to positions of lesser consequence, then have their talents re-deployed when stabilization (or conformance to standards) is needed as the next phase in improvement.

The HR function plays a critical roll in implementation of any CI initiative. Gaining alignment between HR practices and the goals of the organization are critical for growth and wealth creation in a manufacturing environment. A poorly structured HR system can stagnate growth and add to the stresses inherent in driving change. A well structured system can accelerate growth by embedding the incentives needed to turn the corner.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.