Heads In The Sands of Time

Heads in the Sands of Time………Fence-riders and bullet dodgers don’t make money

There are good reasons why some companies are able to implement profitable programs, whether they are related to customer service, sales and marketing, safety, operations, maintenance or any other facet affecting the profit margin. Likewise, there are reasons why some companies’ programs fail. A program could be designed incorrectly or it doesn’t quite fit the purpose. But, most often, the problem is that there is a lack of sufficient support, a program integrity problem or improper administration. Regardless of its purpose, carrying out the program to a successful result requires the same steps and support. If administered correctly, and supported by everyone, it can be a money-maker.

“ACTIVE” vs. “PASSIVE” support (and why you need to know this)

Non-support of a program can, and usually does cause failure, regardless of whether it’s inadvertent or purposeful. There are many subtle ways that programs have been sabotaged. Some people might think it’s harmless to make a seemingly subtle, yet negative statement or gesture about the program. Facial expressions and any number of other “subtle” references or indications that a program is frivolous or foolish, can sabotage a program. We’ve all seen it, heard it and we fully understand it; a wince, a sneer, a scoffing snicker at the most opportune time. Despite the attempt to be “subtle”, these reflections on a program can do much harm, particularly if directed at anyone who doesn’t understand the entire program and its merits and is unwilling to speak up in support, when this occurs.

Some people use these techniques if they are attempting to “dodge any bullets”- escape any blame, if the program goes awry. That’s because they know how and they practice it: they never say or do anything except just enough to get by. You know them. They will criticize an idea but seldom, if ever, offer an alternative. Ultimately, if allowed to continue, these people will negatively affect a company’s bottom line profit. And it doesn’t matter what their job is within the company.

Adopt an “Active Support” policy

If someone in the company appears to be “riding the fence”, this person is not yet “actively” supporting the program, is not effective in his/her job and is affecting everyone else. This “fence rider” must become effective in his or her job function, as soon as possible, and should be assisted through training. If this doesn’t happen immediately, your efforts will be sabotaged. Never mind whether it’s inadvertent- the result is exactly the same-sabotage.

How do you get support?

First, involve people from each department in the initial development of the program. Next, distribute the draft to those people who will be involved or affected by the program. Invite comments, so that everyone has the opportunity to offer suggestions for changes, additions, etc. This has a two-fold purpose: 1), you get the benefit of additional ideas for the program and; 2) those involved in this process will likely support it. Then, management must impart the following to everyone within the company;

ACTIVE support, and nothing else, is acceptable. This is not to say that everyone needs to be an active participant in the administration of the program but rather to actively show support anytime a topic concerning the program is discussed or surfaces in any conversation or other reference to the program. Passive support, “riding the fence”, active non-support or anything else is identifiable and will not be tolerated. In order to effectively and actively support the program, you must fully understand it. (Consider creating a short “training” program, expanding upon the information above)

Program Integrity

Whether its purpose is to show your appreciation, to assist your customer service efforts or an operational program for improvement, a solid program must be conducted with the utmost integrity and be fully supported. For example, regarding your safety award program, if you judge an accident as “non-preventable” when most drivers know it’s really probably “preventable”, your program integrity will be severely compromised. (Follow the rules!) The same holds true for a customer service program, customer relationships, maintenance or any other program.

Incidentally, remember the old adage “birds of a feather flock together”. People who like to “do things right” want to be associated with others who share that integrity. Managers get respect from these fantastic employees by making certain that they are the only ones welcome to join the group and share in the company’s successes. That’s because these people know they are making a significant contribution and that they are instrumental in the company’s success. Recognize these people, sincerely, and assist them at every opportunity. That is a vital part of the “integrity” of a program. Don’t wait until an employee or driver “appreciation day” arrives. This should be an everyday thing.

Proper Administration

First: Owners and GM’s: Implement only those programs that; you fully believe in and you will actively support (including involvement), and, those that contain no inequities.

Supervisors, dispatchers and everyone else in the company: you must support all company programs, or those programs are doomed to failure, which will affect your own jobs, in some way.

A failed program can cast doubt on other facets of the operation, which can be very expensive in ways that are difficult to track. On the other hand, failing to implement necessary programs can be far more expensive. Well structured programs are relatively inexpensive and typically pay off liberally.

If you are the Safety Director, Operations Manager or anyone else responsible for developing a program, you need full support from top management on down. Without it, your program probably doesn’t have a chance at success. If you are charged with the responsibility for carrying out any program, first make sure everyone will actively, not passively, support it. And remember, there can be NO “fence riders”-they’re either part of the cure or they are part of the problem.

Success today does NOT need to be viewed as overly difficult work. But your efforts must be directed toward those endeavors that are purposeful, fair, equitable and profitable. A company will be judged upon those attributes, by its customers and its employees, and will obviously reap the associated benefits.