For starters, it doesn’t help that the word ‘communication’ can mean so many different things; not surprising then when communication so often goes wrong. How many times have you believed you’ve agreed something with someone, but then whatever it was you thought you agreed was not the same as what they believed they agreed?
If you’re wasting money through a lack of understanding between different parts of your business then you need to get them talking!
image credit: kim @ bennett design
Now, not wanting to stir up a hornet’s nest, it has been known for Kim and I to have a bit of a fall out because what we believed we had agreed, in fact, was two very different things. I’m sure those of you who are married or with life partners will know what I mean!
Much of the time, simple misunderstandings don’t have particularly serious consequences, but no doubt in many scenarios, getting it wrong can be extremely severe, even fatal if you’re involved in the health or emergency services, working in hazardous environments, or the food industry; particularly around hygiene and contamination.
Fortunately, whilst not life threatening, in business, the result of misunderstandings can have financial implications and a huge impact on your bottom line!
The best example that comes to mind is when I first got involved in a print company in 2004. Only when I became directly involved in print, rather than as a buyer, did I really start to learn about the intricacies of this fascinating industry. I clearly remember my first day, and being shown around the factory The thing that stood out so much was how much paper was seemingly wasted.
I learnt that for every 4 colour make-ready, 500 sheets of material were allowed. Some jobs actually only needed 500 sheets for the production run, so in fact the paper and production costs were doubled. It was explained, even if the press minder could make-ready in less sheets, that the finishing department needed these extra sheets to set up their machines.
And this was further compounded by the number of times mistakes were made, when artwork was imposed incorrectly, wrong paper was used, an incorrect process was carried out, or whatever.
Everyone felt these mistakes, sincere apologies were always given along with assurances that it wouldn’t happen again. All the stops were pulled out to get it right the second time around including working overtime, buying new paper, making special trips in the cars and vans to get the now late work to where it was needed in time.
The passion by the workforce to get it right was definitely there, but there was something fundamentally wrong and with a little bit of measuring, I calculated this waste and reworking was costing the business to the tune of £7,500 per month, or £90,000 lost profit per year. Ouch!
The then Managing Director made it plain to me I shouldn’t interfere. “That’s how it’s done in print” he fumed, “you should focus on finding new customers and sales Bennett!” So I did; and in due course, I was invited to become Managing Director myself, which gave me the opportunity to take action.
It became obvious that poor communication was at the heart of our problems. When the Senior Pressminder was asked about the number of sheets he needed to make-ready he said with a relatively small investment of £20,000 he could reduce make-readies to a maximum of 350 sheets.
So we asked the finishing foreman how many sheets he needed, and he said 100 or so would do him as he was always throwing away a lot of unneeded paper! It transpired, no one had bothered getting these 2 parts of the business together to talk things through. The £20,000 was paid back within a few months.
By asking the team (the first time they had ever been consulted on management issues) to consider the numerous mistakes being made, they developed a real commitment to make improvements.
It became apparent that most mistakes were due to poor or non-existent communication. So, with a 10 minute production meeting every morning, suddenly everyone seemed to know what was going on and what was expected of them.
We also took to ‘checking our understanding’. Being asked whether you understood was simply not good enough, but asking the giver of the information, “is it ok for me to check my understanding” and explaining back what they believed had been told, led to a drop in cost of waste to less than £500 per month in just 2 months. By then, the awkward feeling of asking someone else, “can I check my understanding?” had evaporated and had become second nature.
In essence, it’s clear to me, whether you are the giver or receiver of information, it is your responsibility to not only ensure the instruction is heard, but also understood – two very different things, I believe.
So can I encourage you to rethink how you communicate? it’s right at the heart of successful business. And it might well save you the odd argument to boot!
Is your business wasting money through a lack of understanding between different parts of your business? Call me on 07583 047103 because I have years of experience identifying process bottlenecks and wastage points and I know I can help you whatever type of business you are!
Until next time …
P.S Don’t forget to connect with me on LinkedIn