The most modern plant in this company’s supply chain network had slipped to near the bottom on operating efficiency, quality and performance improvement for two years in a row. The Plant Manager went from rising star to “performance problem” and the relationship between corporate and plant leadership was strained and worsening.
My interviews and discussions with plant and corporate leaders revealed key patterns that contributed to the plant’s cycle of under-performance. The Plant Manager was not working at the appropriate level in his role – focusing too much on operational issues and not attending enough to more systemic and strategic issues. Turning around the plant’s performance required working on plant-wide issues, something the current siloed staff (not a team) was unlikely to tackle successfully. Key changes in positions on the team had to be made more quickly and the frustrated relationship with corporate prevented the assets of the enterprise from being leveraged effectively to help solve problems at the plant.
I coached the Plant Manager on how to elevate his role to the right level and to prioritize working on systemic and strategic business issues. I also supported him in transforming his staff into a team and developing the capabilities of the team. Two key people on the team were changed out successfully and a new operations leader role was created to take on more of the operational issues so the Plant Manager could focus his time and energy on the higher-level priorities of the plant. I worked closely with corporate and plant leadership to shift them from an unhealthy adversarial relationship to a more productive partnership model. Restoring trust between key corporate leaders including the Head of Manufacturing and the Plant Manager was a critical milestone.
Within 12 months, the plant went from second to last to best performing plant for the next three consecutive years. The Plant Manager was ultimately promoted and his successor from within the plant continued the winning record. The Operations Manager of the plant was promoted to Plant Manager of a different facility after 2 years. The corporate and plant partnership continued to improve, ultimately leading to some of the best practices to be shared with other corporate functions and other plants.