What Was that New Year's Resolution?

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How many New Year's business resolutions did you make? How many did you really tackle? How many did you accomplish?

With half the year gone, it might be a good time to take another look at the goals that seemed so important six months ago and reprioritize.

Whether working from a formal business plan, performance review or semi-permanent to-do list, most everyone starts the new year with plans for improvement. And by July, those plans and projects are either in full swing, forgotten or moved to the bottom of the to-do list. You all have been there.

Charlie Gillard, a consultant and principal with C.F. Gillard & Associates, recently told the story of one plant with 187 things on its improvement list for 2002. "How can you make progress on 187 things?" he asks. "How can you afford ," budget wise ," to fix 187 things?"

Gillard spent 30 years with Shell trying to make good on plans for improvement. As a consultant, he now preaches and teaches operational excellence using his experiences at Shell to help others. Gillard spoke at a recent PlantSuccess seminar and offered words of wisdom to those who want to make good on quality resolutions.

Achieving operational excellence is a project he has been working on since 1985. "I was tired of facing the same problem over and over again," Gillard says. How many of you sing this song on a regular basis?

Managers can break this cycle. "If you continue to do what you've done, you'll get what you've got," Gillard says, quoting some unknown sage.

Operational effectiveness is the name of the game. The quest for effectiveness and excellence "is a journey, not a project," Gillard warns. He says continuous improvement should be the norm, not just a slogan.

"Speeches don't cut it," Gillard stresses. "Culture follows behavior." He says managers need to change the daily behavior of workers, and the culture necessary to achieve operational excellence will come.

That's not all.

"Assuring there is not a punitive environment is the only way to ensure the openness needed to find and fix problems," Gillard emphasizes. He says he knows plant folks are under a great deal of pressure today. And it is difficult for companies with multiple plant sites to share best practices. The tools simply are not available. "So all they can do is talk, and they have to do it every day," he says.

Sadly, they do not always do this. Perhaps regular communication should be a mid-year resolution.

Take another look. If you have 187 items on your New Year's to-do list, reprioritize. Based on Gillard's advice, the top two resolutions should be "walk the talk" and "share."

For more information about Gillard's PlantSuccess presentation, go to www.plantsuccess.com.

Diane Pirocanac

Associate Group Publisher/Editorial Director

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