17 April 2012
Performance enhancing drug
Good old-fashioned people management could be the ultimate performance-enhancing drug, says WM editor Max Gosney
Sanofi has built a multi-billion pharma empire from a portfolio of miraculous medicines. And if the company could bottle the esprit de corps on show at its Dagenham plant (see p16), it would surely have one more blockbuster product to add to the list.
The Dagenham team has smashed site performance targets, despite impending closure. There's an insatiable appetite for continuous improvement and going the extra mile. Employees wear broad smiles and exchange warm banter – a reprise of the indomitable Blitz spirit which thrived in this area 70 years ago.
Cynics might trace the upturn to redundancy-linked pay incentives. Of course you will try harder with the lure of a potential payout, but there is something deeper at Dagenham driving employees onwards. The company's commitment to delivering new skills, for example. Workers are given the final say on how and where they would like to train. Each is empowered to develop skills as they choose, with a clear link between training and future employment prospects. It sounds like the perfect antidote to notepad doodles and glazed looks that hamper many a corporate training day.
Sanofi in Dagenham should be a parable for manufacturers everywhere. When a workforce is included, trusted and treated as a partner, you can witness exceptional performance. The key is how you face the bad times together, as well as the good. When Sanofi announced the site closure, people were told face to face, together, as a team.
The power of effective communication was reinforced at last month's Best Factory Awards Conference. To a man, winning sites explained how being open with employees had been fundamental to success. You hear it in sporting circles, too. Pundits hail the man manager who is able to fire up ordinary players to achieve extraordinary results.
So take it easy on the Deming books, takt times and SWOT analysis. Data and strategy have their place, but appreciation for good old-fashioned people management could be your ultimate performance-enhancing drug.
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