Articles: Engaged People Mitigate Risk

A Strategic Approach to Risk Mitigation Through Employee Engagement ~ No matter how massive or miniscule your products 

It is amazing what you can learn at a “Share Showcase”!  My first Share Showcase was internal-to-the-company at Rockwell Automation/Allen Bradley circa 1995. It was their first.  The idea was to recognize employees who were often not recognized for the creative thinking they bring into the workplace.  It was a chance for them to share their innovations with other employees they had worked with over the past year. Folks were given $100 for materials, a table top – and the rest is history.

Right now, across Canada, many companies – especially in Manitoba and Ontario – are organizing Share Showcases to enable their employees to talk with each other and with rubber-hits-the road innovators.  It’s a great win-win.

The CME Lean Team in Manitoba will be holding Share Showcases in each of their 5 consortiums this December.  Last year, the top one or two practices from each consortium went on to share their stories at a Kaizen exchange event held early in the year.  The same if planned for this coming year.  At these exchanges practitioners not only hear from many top best practices (and each other) – but also hear selected keynotes who share their different topics and perspectives. The learning opportunities are only limited only by their eagerness to learn.  What follows is a condensed version taken from one of the 21 presentations presented at the Milton Share Showcase in 2015 – entitled:  SPEAK UP! ~ Risk Mitigation Through Employee Engagement.

Voith supplies global power and transmission technology to the largest and most powerful hydroelectric power stations on the planet. As a partner to the industry, and a full-line supplier, the company develops and produces components used throughout the world. Its Mississauga facility houses both its Canadian Service Centre as well as Voith’s globally recognized Centre of Excellence for Coil Manufacturing. It’s no surprise that such a company must have deep quality in its DNA considering the huge systems and equipment led by highly skilled people who must integrate all processes and run huge system investments flawlessly.

Milton Benn is Voith Hydro’s Quality Assurance Manager at the Mississauga facility – and Risk Mitigation is high on his mind every day. On behalf of his team delivered one of the 21 Best Practices to the 150 Consortium practitioners attending the eighth annual Southwestern Ontario LEAN Share Showcase in Milton, Ontario. Milton shared Voith Hydro Mississauga’s SPEAK UP! – an employee engagement initiative dedicated to surfacing ideas, problems, or concerns to mitigate problems, potential problems, as well as opportunities.

This approach can be equally applied in any innovation-seeking environment no matter their size – or – in any mitigation-seeking environment needing to spot problems in advance. Their strategy fits perfectly with the thinking spelled out in Steven Covey’s book, The 8th Habit.  This book is a 5-Star ATJ-rated resource that considers the 8th Habit as one of “Finding your voice – and inspiring others to find theirs.”  This is incredibly valuable in today’s world.

Very appropriately, Voith has defined their Risk Mitigation initiative as SPEAK UP when dealing with risk of all kinds including those associated with equipment of this size and complexity.  This is very serious for Voith.  They want, and need, to hear every contribution from everyone involved that could lead to the mitigation of a risk or potentially serious problem.  And, that might reveal an opportunity for improvement in their competitive world.

What does the SPEAK UP process do?

Milton began by defining three key targets. To: Speak Up! Be heard! And, Be the Difference! And he added, with a smile, “After all… If you don’t Speak Up, how will we know you’re there?” He explained that SPEAK UP supports three very important areas of the business:  1) The reduction in the incidence of accidents,  2) The growth of a sustainable cultural improvement environment and,  3)  An increase in direct Employee Engagement. For Voith, this can lead to an immediate benefit of concern for team members leading to more rapid action when unrecognized risks are detected.

In addition, it builds and provides the growth of a long-term team culture improvement. As for all employees,  it supports the development of self-confidence in Voith employees with a standardized process connected to the identification and mitigation of risks to people, equipment and systems. These of course, lead to continuing opportunities to resolve such risks to the business before they occur.

What does it Cost?

Milton and Voith have seen high value in the program because of its simplicity and logic. And it doesn’t cost a lot. It begins with each employee completing a 2 to 3-hour departmental workshop. The results that follow are captured in the ongoing departmental Continuous Improvement process. From this, the department will decide – what to work on; when the work is to be done; and by whom it will be done.

How does the SPEAK UP Process Work?  The steps:

1. Define the standard SPEAK UP employee procedures
2. Define a theme, from which to conduct the workshops
3. Conduct the workshops by department
4. Output becomes input to the CI process
5. Fix easy things right away
6. Give regular feedback to employees

Some Critical Factors

Like any initiative designed to drive a cultural change, it is important to reinforce SPEAK UP at every opportunity. This means including it in daily conversations, department meetings, town hall meetings, and formal engagement. It is manager-driven at all times. This continuing approach makes it become part of the culture and almost KATA-like over time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Why Part of Standard Work?

• Cultural & personal environment diversity within most workforces means people Speak Up in different ways. In Voith, there are 35 nationalities represented within the 150 employees at their Mississauga site.
• Using a standard process assures message consistency from centre to centre. When the message is important, the use of personal ‘Reminder Cards’ such as those from the Error Prevention Institute help make it personal.

How has Voith Benefited?

The SPEAK UP process at Voith is a small part of an overall excellence & risk management focus that has led to:

• Many issues circumvented through proactive measures.
• Targets for Manufacturing Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ) being met
• Targets for supply chain CoPQ being met
An overall reduction of 16.8% in Cost of Poor Quality
• Voith’s culture has now shifting slightly in the intended direction
This was part of the HPS Share Showcase in 2015 .    ATJ’s thanks go to HPS and to Milton Benn, Quality Assurance Manager at Voith Hydro Mississauga.      

Reference: The 8th Habit, by Stephen Covey, is a 5-Star ATJ resource recommendation