Monday, July 26, 2010

Complaint Equals Goal

In one of my many “former career” lives I was asked to spend time with the “company communications consultant.” It was a unique, small business in the Los Angeles basin that exported 100% of their product to Japan. The owner was an intelligent, caring man who really valued psychology and the “company communications consultant” had a PhD in psychology. It was my turn in the barrel, or should I say on the couch?

It is a gross understatement to say that my time in the Marine Corps had “somewhat desensitized my appreciation for soft side psycho-babble.” Nonetheless it was apparent that this friendly request was also an ultimatum and off I went to “spend time with Beth.” Was I ever surprised at the wisdom of this lady and her ability to significantly improve who I was and what I did!

One of her concepts that has stuck with me ever since is “Complaint = Goal.” As we discussed our way through, in greater depth than I thought possible, this principle made life changing sense. I was used to one or the other of two complaint approaches:
  •  The tough union manufacturing environment where “complaint = grievance”
  • The office bureaucracy environment where “complaint = gripe, moan, bitch and complain”
My very next “former career” was director of operations for a military ammunition manufacturing facility that combined both of the above union and bureaucracy complaint techniques. The organization had not made a profit in 14 years, fired the previous 6 directors in less than 6 years, been sued successfully for fraud by the government on multiple occasions, a safety severity rate of 142. What better environment to test out Beth’s paradigm?

And so we did, as I began recruiting a less than excited workforce to participate in continuous Improvement teams whose members purpose was defined as “complaint = goal.” In a mere 12 months these teams delivered the first profit in 15 years, a severity rate of 9, and a culture revolution based on solving the problems that had been millstones around their collective necks with the old complaint paradigms. They became excited about taking action to solve the problems that had been their miserable side kicks for so long. They became leaders of a new culture that put an end to complacency with focused actions performed by the people who had skin in the game.

This new approach to complaints can work in your safety department, organization, family life, and personal life. Why not give it a try?

The Doc

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