Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Christmas is quickly approaching, and like many people, my thoughts have turned to the coming festivities. There’s so much to plan and prepare – buying enough food to feed a small army, festooning the house with gaudy decorations, organising festive gatherings and procuring the perfect presents.

I’m usually rather blasé when it comes to buying gifts, generally waiting until the week before, and occasionally even leaving it as late as Christmas Eve. This year, however, I was ahead of the game; I managed to buy all my wife’s Christmas presents in early November. Not only did I buy them, but I also wrapped them. I was more prepared than ever before, and I was feeling rather smug about it. Until yesterday.

My wife and I were discussing Christmas preparations – Christmas dinner, the carol service on Christmas Eve, our Boxing Day party, and so on. The conversation eventually moved on to gifts and my eyes lit up. Feeling delighted with my accomplishment, I proudly announced that I had finished all my Christmas shopping.

“You’ve got me everything I asked for?” she exclaimed excitedly.

Panic set in. I wasn’t aware that she had asked for anything specific.

“I think I’ve got everything, but just remind me,” I said, trying to sound calm. As she listed the items she had requested via various emails, texts and WhatsApp messages, it became apparent that I hadn’t got anything she had asked for. Christmas wasn’t as organised as I’d thought, and it was going to cost me even more time and money.

So, who was at fault? Was it me for not remembering or paying attention to every message conveyed to me via the different communication channels? Or was it my wife’s fault for not communicating with me effectively by talking through the items on her wish list and making sure I had received her messages?

Effective communication at all levels is imperative, both in the workplace and at home. But how often do we just send an email or text message without following it up with a conversation? How often do we have a conversation and then fail to follow it up with an email confirming what was said? Do we all communicate as effectively as we should? I know I don’t.

Ineffective communication results in messages getting lost, tasks not being completed correctly or work not being delivered. As a result, conflicts arise, and neither party wants to be held accountable for the oversight.

Rather than worry about who is to blame, we need to understand what caused the problem. Where was the breakdown in communication? How could the information have been communicated more effectively? How can this problem be prevented going forward?

If you want to find out how to be more effective through communication, why don’t you join us at our Ambassadors Academy?

The Ambassadors Academy is an opportunity for manufacturing professionals to share best practice and learn how to improve communication and operations within their organisations. Take the Ambassador’s quiz to find out if it’s is right for you.

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

It’s a common misconception that continuous improvement and change management will be extremely complex processes with huge cost implications in terms of both time and money. However, this isn’t always the case.

Yes, for some projects, it is necessary to overhaul the entire operation and retrain teams, but this doesn’t have to be done all at once. In fact, trying to implement big changes too rapidly can actually be detrimental. Making incremental changes and improvements over time is far more likely to ensure sustainability.

The whole concept of continuous improvement is just that – it’s continuous. It doesn’t happen overnight. You need to plan, implement, embed and evaluate on an ongoing basis.

We recently worked with a light engineering firm who wanted to improve their production flow. One of the issues we found was a lack of workstation organisation which meant too much production time was being wasted looking for tools and equipment.

To eliminate this excessive waste of time, we used the 5S methodology (sort, set, shine, standardise, sustain) to create a more organised working environment. As a result, productivity sped up.

When you think about it, it seems pretty obvious that if you have a clean, tidy, organised workspace, you’ll find it easier to spot hazards and find the tools you need. It makes perfect sense. But, when you’re in the thick of it, tidying and cleaning always seems like a task that can wait – the focus is usually on productivity. Only when you take a step back to assess the situation does it become clear that the time spent organising will be repaid multiple times over through time saved.

5S is a relatively simple approach that can make a significant difference when it is the appropriate tool for the situation.  The key is finding the right tool for the job, and then applying the methodology correctly.  And there are many similar examples of tools and methodologies that are straightforward to implement and are proven to deliver results when the situation is right.

The key is in training teams to apply these tools and approaches with confidence and consistency. It’s no good implementing a fantastic new way of working and then gradually letting it fizzle out or only applying a systematic approach to some areas and not others. And everyone has to be on board. A new process will only be sustainable if all the relevant people are following it.

Continuous improvement should be approached as a long term measure, not a quick fix, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated. Give your teams the skills and tools to make practical, sustainable changes on a small scale, and you’ll see a significant impact on a larger scale as a result.

If you’d like to find out where to focus your efforts first, our FMCG Academy is a great place to start. Using our OPEN (observe, plan, engage, nurture) approach, it allows you and your teams to assess each area to provide greater insight into where the inefficiencies are in your FMCG organisation.

Sign up for our free version to find out how it works and whether it is right for you.