Help Me, Help You!



business-leaders-idea.jpgWhen I meet with manufacturers to discuss business improvement strategies, the overwhelming message I hear is that they are all too busy working in the business that they do not have any time to work on the business. They currently have more work than they can handle, which is good news. However, this prosperity sometimes clouds their ability to see the benefits of making long-term improvements, like removing a constraint in a production process or allowing time for an employee to attend a training class to enhance their skillset. Instead, all efforts are invested in day-to-day firefighting.

While this approach may work in the short term to keep the business afloat and functioning, in the long run this lack of planning and strategizing can be detrimental to the company’s culture, competitiveness and bottom line. Strategic planning involves more than simply managing current projects and processes – it requires you to look beyond daily operations to establish a larger company vision and long-term plans for improvement and diversification. Essentially, you must answer the question: What will your business look like in the next three to five years?

Setting aside time to consider the challenges of the rapidly transforming marketplace and revisit your company’s vision and strategic plan can immensely impact many aspects within your organization, including:

  • Company culture. Workplace culture weighs heavily in determining performance among workers. Constructive communication is a key component to this. By clearly outlining the company’s vision and strategy for the future, it will help to unify and align all workers toward a common cause. Once this becomes adopted and engrained in the workplace, workers will have something to continually work towards and embody in their daily tasks.
  • Employee engagement and job satisfaction. When workers have a clear goal and vision to work towards, they feel more motivated and engaged at work. I often hear about leaders struggling to get the most out of their people because workers are simply showing up and going through the motions. Gallup has reported that as many as 67% of employees are not engaged, not looking for self-improvement, or not thinking about how they can make the company better. Having regular communication with leadership on the shop floor and involving them in operational improvement decisions will contribute to employees feeling like they matter to the organization. This will support job satisfaction and ultimately help companies retain talent down the line.
  • Recruiting and hiring efforts. Similarly, establishing a company vision will aid in recruitment. Hiring managers can have a difficult time bringing in new workers if there is no company vision to share. Unless candidates understand the company’s goals and their role in achieving them, it can be challenging for them to envision themselves at the company.
  • Productivity and operational improvements. As mentioned previously, most companies are too caught up in daily firefighting to focus on making larger operational improvements. Additionally, as companies grow, they often fail to revisit their processes to ensure they still adequately meet the challenges and requirements of this new and higher level of business. By investing more time on strategic planning and implementing improvements, this firefighting can be minimized. Efforts to improve employee engagement will translate to improved productivity and efficiency in production. Costs associated with poor performance, from defects to missed deliveries to machine breakdowns, will be reduced as well.
  • Competitiveness and business longevity. Prioritizing strategic planning not only improves present operations at the company, but also can shape the future of the business. This is especially critical now, as the market is rapidly transforming and requiring manufacturers to rethink their company strategies. Regularly revisiting and adapting the company vision to reflect the changing market will ensure the business survives into the future. Disruption in the automotive industry is a relevant example of this, as suppliers must prepare to enter a new era of automotive manufacturing. A forecasted labor shortage, plant closures, changing demand and regulations are evolving the automotive landscape as we know it, and manufacturers now risk losing clients, and even their business, if they fail to change along with the industry. Taking a step back to look down the road and reorient the company strategy accordingly – through product diversification, for example – can enhance business competitiveness and ensure the success of the company for years to come.

In the movie Jerry Maguire, there is an iconic line where Jerry is trying to help his client Rod Tidwell reach his potential and finally get the coveted contract he seeks. During the scene, in desperation, Jerry begs Rod by saying, “Help me, help you.” The same inspiration can be applied to manufacturing. Most employees want to succeed personally, want their company to thrive, and want to know their job will survive the next industry disruption. Essentially, they need your leadership! Investing just a small amount of your workday into strategic planning is now necessary to retain workers, inspire organizational improvements and keep your business operating into the future.


Marley_G.jpgGary Marley, Senior Business Solutions Manager
Gary Marley is a Senior Business Solutions Manager with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. Joining The Center in 2013, Gary works directly with manufacturers in Oakland and Livingston counties.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Leadership/Culture