“Mike Miller knows the value of an engaged team. Read this book and use Mike’s “People Connection” process to transform your organization.” -- Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and The One Minute Entrepreneur™
“This book is invaluable to anyone in any occupation who participates in teams. Whether you are the team leader or a team member, this book leads you through a process that will make both you and your team more focused, more productive, and more cohesive. It will give you renewed excitement about what your team can and will accomplish if you follow his step by step process.” – Scott Foster, business owner
This story actually includes a cast of thousands including such notables as Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey and others. This is a true story of learning from others ranging from janitors to famous authors, taking risks, and enduring some of the most difficult business situations of our times.
I was one of the Directors of Operations for one of the largest lighting companies on the planet. I also played key roles for a major oil company. I worked on a lot of different teams in my career, so I got to see and experiment with the universal patterns and principles of teamwork. My leadership style was criticized by many, but it was very successful, and it wasn’t until Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” that I felt vindicated and energized. Though Collins didn’t live through making good companies great, I did.
One of my stories is taking over an electronics plant in Georgia that was on the ropes. Everyone, top management, sales, and our customers were hounding us constantly about our poor service. They wanted results and they wanted them now. I was totally new to the business, so I knew taking direct control would be too risky. I instead called all parties involved in the business together (marketing and sales included) in the same room and emphasized we were all in this together, like it or not. Failure was not an option. I made clear, and constantly reiterated, that our goal was not to solve our service problems, but rather to become the best in the business. After a stunned silence, they slowly started falling into the mode of taking a collective ownership of the vision. I did not allow them to focus on solving problems because we were simply overwhelmed by the number of them, and their complexity and controversial nature. I instead, constantly kept them focused on the improvement activities that would allow us to become the best in the business.
The improvements came rapidly, and the team fed off the successes, and thanks to good people, we were soon back to the “good old days” when this plant was the premier plant in the company. One particular product line, however, was never that good and had for 22 years frustrated every attempt to improve it to company standards. A short time after we turned the plant around, we turned this product line around as well. Even the company president noted it when he recognized us for performance that was significantly better than virtually all other plants in the company. For example, customer complaints for that product were averaging about 50 per week. After our efforts, complaints dropped to one per week – and we never discussed a single complaint!
Unfortunately, the company was lured by the siren song of 60 cent per hour Chinese labor and our plant was outsourced to China since top management didn’t believe our $12 per hour labor could compete. They brushed aside my white paper that said we could compete because of our very high efficiencies and short supply chain and decided they could save $12 million by outsourcing. They were ultimately proved wrong, but it was unfortunately too late for the 275 of us that showed that we truly were the best place in the world to produce our product.
After this plant shutdown, I was determined to make a difference for people in all roles, leaders and team members alike. Having seen for myself, and having read the studies that show the rampant unhappiness among employees, it was clear that a solution was needed. How can any organization be successful if 80% of their employees would change jobs today if they could? That’s a grim assessment of the team member engagement that’s critical for any organization’s success.