Focus On The Right Stuff: Part 1 – Clarity Above All Else

June 27, 2023

Written by: Paul Van Metre and David Vuyk

When’s the last time you saw a successful manufacturing leader who was always stressed out, overwhelmed, and confused about what to do next? You probably haven’t. Successful people don’t allow themselves to be confused. They choose clarity above all else. 

Manufacturing team members often balance a multitude of competing priorities. So much so that it feels nearly impossible to make meaningful progress on any one project. Feeling defeated by a lack of headway despite best efforts can certainly wear people down. Being pulled in several directions at one time has its limitations. One major limitation is a loss of focus and clarity.

Maximizing productivity in a manufacturing environment relies on the ability to focus on the right stuff. Focus can’t be achieved when you are being bombarded with new information or pulled in too many directions. This can be a tough cycle to break unless you have the right systems in place to manage it.

Unfortunately, while most of us can usually visualize the right path forward, it’s all too easy to become lost in a sea of distractions. Sometimes we might even choose to be distracted. But why? 

Human beings default toward self-preservation and the avoidance of conflict. Sometimes the next right step might involve something difficult or risky. Perhaps in taking the next step, we risk offending a colleague or creating conflict. Maybe we’re worried about what people might think about us if we do the right thing. Despite what wisdom we have, we either make a bad decision or no decision at all. Though, per the 1980 hit song by the band Rush: 

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!” 

Sometimes the increased demand for our time and attention keeps us permanently distracted from moving forward on the important stuff.  Other times, we might choose distraction due to personal pride, avoidance of conflict, or fear of the physical and financial consequences.

Are you allowing yourself to operate in a fog? Allowing yourself to be distracted by the small stuff won’t move the business forward. Whether it’s a hiring decision, a firing decision, a bold new initiative, or a new revenue goal, it all starts with taking the right first step. Have a disposition to take action. Doing so is a game changer. Progress is always met with resistance, and while I have no supporting evidence to prove it, I’m convinced that this is magnified in a machine shop environment more so than anywhere else. Here are some tips to keep you focused:

  1. Define your critical goals
    What are the top 3-5 critical objectives that will move the business forward? You might have 100 objectives. Distill them down to the top few. It’s really difficult and somewhat unlikely that you’ll stay focused on more than a few main goals. These goals should be realistic, time-bound, measurable, and specific.
  2. Break those goals down into milestones
    Make these goals easier for your team to digest by breaking them down into components or milestones. Share these goals with the team and show how each team member’s daily work correlates with achieving these goals. Talk about the goals and milestones in company meetings to keep the team engaged in what you are collectively achieving as an organization. 
  3. Regularly take a step back
    Leonardo da Vinci was quoted as saying: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work, your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”

    Despite how hard it might be to make the time, set a recurring calendar meeting with yourself. Remove yourself from the manufacturing environment to get above the situation. Ask yourself tough questions like: 

    • Are we on track to achieve our main goals and objectives?
    • Am I playing to my strengths and delegating repetitive tasks?
    • What decisions or changes need to be made that I’ve been avoiding?
    • Do I need to make a critical hiring or firing decision?
    • What seems overly complicated right now? 
    • Could I be communicating more clearly with my team?
    • Do I have the right team members in the right seats?

    The answers to these questions aren’t always obvious until you take a step back.
  4. Consistently execute
    Execution is arguably what matters most. The value of setting goals is in achieving them, even partially. This requires effective leadership to keep the team aligned and focused. It also requires a unified team that shows up every day feeling motivated to make incremental progress in achieving those goals. It’s all too easy to allow short-term problems to derail your long-term plan. Staying aligned and on track requires discipline and professional will. Write your main objectives down. Post them on the wall to be reminded every day. Talk about them during your all-staff meetings. Gamify daily progress by celebrating the wins.  
  5. Implement a system for information transfer
    This fifth point will be the focus of the second installment of this 3-part series. The foundation of any system for business growth is an effective means of information transfer. Team members need to be equipped with the critical information needed to succeed in their roles. This applies to specific job training, access to documented SOP’s, customer requirements, and detailed work instructions. When information transfer is handled in a digital environment that is accessible by everyone, less time is wasted, and productivity is increased.   

How Does ProShop Help?
What could you accomplish in the next 3 months if you had less distractions and more focus? ProShop ERP allows you to define detailed processes, plan and execute on complex workflows, handle specific job training, and provides visibility on which tasks to work on next, eliminating confusion and distractions. Specific information placed at each step of the manufacturing process keeps jobs moving towards completion. Defining specific customer requirements such shipping and QC preferences and having that information flow automatically to each work order means that specific customer requirements are being met with each job. If you’d like to understand how ProShop can provide clarity on your most important goals, get in touch today! We’d love to hear from you.

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