Written by Nathanial Marshall, Engagement Manager at LI Europe.

Much has already been written on what the legacy of Covid-19 and lockdown will have on businesses. One of the big discussions has been around how leaders deal with their staff working remotely.

Is a business leader’s trust in their team a reflection of themselves, their team, company culture or all?

In “First, Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham, research is compiled which empirically finds that an employee’s level of engagement is primarily related to their relationship with their line manager, even above company culture.

How does Covid and remote working affect this relationship?

Traditionally, one of the ways productivity has been perceived is through how hours people have worked. In these cases, firms have suffered from a culture of presenteeism. The phrase “working from home” was spoken with an emphasis on “working” in inverted commas and those who did work remotely were seen as having an easy day or a day off.

More progressive businesses have adopted remote working for many years placing a focus on employee wellbeing and have trusted their teams to get the work done by the agreed deadline regardless of where/when it is done.

McGregor’s theory of management split people into X theory or Y theory. The traditional businesses/managers who scorn at the thought of working from home would likely be X theory type:

These believe

  • The average person dislikes work and will avoid it if possible.
  • Therefore, most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards objectives.
  • The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively un-ambitious, and most of all wants security.

Those adopting remote working, prior to it being normalised by Covid would likely have been Y theory types:

These believe

  • Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
  • People will generally try to achieve objectives, without the threat of punishment.
  • The commitment to an objective is a function of the reward associated with achieving it.
  • People usually accept responsibility, and will seek it too.
  • Most people actually have a good imagination, ingenuity and creativity, and will use them to solve organisational problems.

Theory Y managers generally have a higher level of engagement with their teams. Thus, they give discretionary effort to improve the business which results in a higher level of productivity.

Trust is always needed in the relationship between leaders and their teams. Clearly defined outcomes and accountabilities are still required regardless of location the work is being done.

Should the manager take a one size fits all approach to this new way of working? Is everyone able to achieve their best results at home?

Some people might prefer to be directed and guided which can come hand in hand with office working and regular contact with their manager. These people may struggle when at “arm’s length” through remote working. This links with the theory of Tannenbaum-Schmidt and their levels of delegated freedom.

Every member of a team will have their place on this red line where they feel most comfortable.  Those who prefer freedom could flourish with remote working. Those further to the left may struggle. It is vital that the leader knows where every member of their team is on the continuum and adapt accordingly. The ultimate goal is to shift everyone to the right, but only gradually. Sudden shifts can cause disengagement and people to be disenfranchised.

Similarly, does the leader know who in their team are extroverts and introverts?

Extroverts might want to retain office time and face to face contact with people in order to energise themselves through their working day.

Introverts could be in heaven working from home. They don’t have to make small talk with their teams or feel the social pressure of being part of the team.

Can the leader adapt their amount and style of contact with each member of their team to work not only to their position on the Tannenbaum-Schmidt continuum but also on their personality style?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to pivot and adapt their ways of working to deal with the situation. Remote working has become more of a norm which is, in my opinion, for the better. However, this doesn’t come without increased challenges and the onus on the manager in ensuring their teams can perform and thrive in these circumstances is significantly greater.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.

Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I’ve carved pumpkins before but, this year, we went one step further, we ventured to the pumpkin fields to select our specimens.

Armed with wheelbarrow, accompanied by two children decked out in wellies, off we went. I had in mind the perfect pumpkin, you know the one, not too large, swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. Clearly my children had different ideas, my youngest set out to find not only the largest pumpkin in the field but also the smallest. My eldest was more concerned about the pumpkin retaining a decent sized stalk and with no blemishes to the skin.

Some 30 minutes later we were armed with the 3 chosen delights and headed to the cleaning station. I am pleased to say, the child that then proceeded to face plant into the mud was not one of mine. A little t.l.c. and the promise of a hot chocolate seemed to refocus him to his efforts of pumpkin cleaning but alerted my two to the proximity of a café serving of hot chocolate!

Payment made, hot chocolate consumed, we were ready for home and to start the challenge in earnest.

Taking into account the shape of each specimen we negotiated, and agreed, the pattern for each pumpkin. We prepared a template to follow, the children traced out the template which they then followed with their cutting tools. Two hours later their toils were rewarded with three half decent pumpkins carved and ready to display.

Why am I drivelling on about pumpkins? For me the pumpkin field resembled a business and its employees. Not that I am implying your employees are swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. More the fact that each one is different, with their own strengths, and so needs to be treated differently. For example, the larger pumpkin was tall but less round, making it a perfect shape for carving a rearing unicorn. Identifying the strengths in your team and optimising their use can deliver great results.

Motivational techniques need to be adapted for each individual. The offer of a hot chocolate worked for the mud coated child but not everyone is motivated by the same things. You need to differentiate.

To get success my children had a template, a plan to follow. Each employee needs an individual ‘template’ a development plan to achieve their potential. They need to contribute to that development plan, just as my children did when choosing their pattern, it mustn’t be imposed.

When recruiting, what we each look for in an employee is also different, just like my children wanted different things from their pumpkin. All too often I see managers recruit in their own image. Involving others in the recruitment process can provide different perspectives to help avoid this.

Using the right management tools, even the weakest member of your team can deliver great results.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire at LI Europe.

The latest annual labour turnover figures from the Engineering Employer’s Federation (EEF) show that British labour turnover dropped from 16% to 14% last year. When it comes to manual workers the drop was more significant, from 17% down to 12%. Some believe that the reduction is due to uncertainty around Brexit and people wanting to hold on to their jobs. Particularly in the food industry, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the fate of our non-British EU workers.

We should see a reduction in labour turnover as a benefit but it does also present a real challenge. How do you keep a stable team motivated, engaged and performing at their best?

The key to success lies with the leadership team. Having a vision and cascading relevant targets and objectives aligned with that vision is a great start. But to really motivate and challenge employees at all levels requires both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills of all managers within an organisation; skills that are often not identified in the job description.

Too frequently managers are put into position with little or no training in leadership yet many will have been promoted from positions where they had no responsibility for others.

  • How many managers do you have in your organisation that are too busy to take a break or simply don’t’ get round to important tasks, like spending time with their team? Is this due to poor time management or ineffective delegation skills? Possibly both?
  • What impact is this having on the motivation of their team?
  • How frequently do your managers recognise and reward good performance? We all need positive encouragement, some more than others, to keep us motivated to achieve our best.
  • How many great results are you missing out on because your people are not fully motivated?

Don’t let your low labour turnover develop into a stagnant labour pool – get in touch to find out how we can support you to deliver sustainable improvement through your people.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

Once the spotlight is taken away from an area of focused improvement, many Manufacturing Managers are concerned about the sustainability of these improvements. We would all like to live in an ideal world where individuals continue to own and drive improvement activity but the truth is, people often get bogged down in the daily grind of operations.

If this sounds familiar, it’s worth knowing the answers to these 3 questions before starting an improvement programme:

  1. Who will act as the conscience for the improvement initiatives to ensure they are on track?
  2. After the period of focused improvement, who will continue to engage the shop floor in the
    improvement, celebrate and share success, and help remove roadblocks along the way?
  3. Is anyone on your site trained in delivering and coaching key improvement and sustainability tools which will drive the right focus, engagement, behaviours and ultimately improvement?

As a key part of our sustainability improvement model (SIM), we advocate each site trains an Improvement Champion. Typically, we find candidates for the role already exist on site, either as part of the management team or the shop floor.

We execute a See-Try-Do approach when training client’s CI champions, the same as we do with our own practitioners.  With each iteration of the training, our support reduces until they are fully signed off to deliver training themselves.

I recently went back to visit a factory where I had previously trained several Improvement Champions in our improvement and sustainability tools. By using the See-Try-Do approach across a series of improvement workshops, each targeting >£100k of annualised savings, the CI Champions had become self-sufficient to deliver their site improvement targets without any external support.

The site has since delivered year on year savings in efficiency and waste and has continued to make progress in the SIM which now incorporates improvement workshops in their annual strategic plan.

For more on the See-Try-Do approach and the benefits it can deliver, download the full case study.

And if you are disappointed with your current improvement programme or worried about its sustainability, get in touch.


Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Ever had the misfortune of cracking your mobile phone screen? If you have, perhaps you have also suffered the same frustration as myself!

Not wanting to be without the phone for more than the 45 minutes it should take to change the screen – I opted for an on-site repair appointment. I was slightly disappointed to find the next available slot was a week away but it was an early appointment, so I could get the job done and get on with the day and at least I could continue to use the phone in the meantime. I filled out all the details including the make / model of the phone, the damage and the likely resolution: a new screen required.

On the day of the appointment I dutifully backed up my phone, removed all the key pad locks and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. I was immediately greeted with ‘Can I help you?’ quickly followed by ‘I’m afraid there will be a short wait’ but if you see the lady over there she will book you in. About 15 minutes later a gentleman came to see the damage, filled in more details then explained another person would be along soon to deal with me. I’ve now seen 3 different people, awaiting my 4th, why couldn’t the first person relieve me of my phone? The 4th person did arrive a little later to complete paperwork for me to sign and to again check the damage I was reporting. He then announced that it would take at least 2 ½ hours to fix due to the queue of work ahead of my repair!

So let’s recap:

  • I’ve pre-booked the phone in describing the fault and the probable resolution
  • The job should take no more than 45 minutes to complete
  • You can only get a repair appointment by pre-booking
  • I met with 4 different people before I was relieved of my phone
  • The wait time is nearly 4 times the time it would take to complete the repair

As all appointments have been pre-booked, their likely workload would have been known a week in advance.

A little process mapping here would highlight the potential improvement opportunities. Add some scheduling tools and any likely constraint issues could be highlighted a week in advance allowing time to put in place corrective actions.

Apart from the frustration, how much cost has this inefficiency added to the price of the job, not to mention the cost to me, the customer, due to waiting time?

If your factory is struggling with delays due to peaks in demand, and the resulting poor customer satisfaction, why not give us a call to discuss how you could improve the efficiency of your process.







Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

As I was reading Erica’s latest blog on Cycle Time Reduction, it got me thinking about bottlenecks and the importance of correctly identifying them in your production process.

Why is this important?

I have worked with many organisations that have been disillusioned by previous improvement initiatives. There are a variety of reasons for this but one of the most common is a lack of results despite investing time, effort and money to improve a specific asset in order to increase its throughput.  It takes me to an example I saw within a business recently…

A lot of focus had gone into improving casepacker reliability and whilst successful in improving its availability, the work yielded no overall improvement to the line’s output.

The casepacker had the lowest maximum output of all processes on the line. It was the capacity bottleneck.   Having a process of this nature at the end of the line is not a good example of a balanced line and investing in this is certainly something that should be done. However, should it have been the priority focus?

Not when, on closer inspection, the casepacker was being starved by upstream processes. Namely, bagging machines which incurred a large amount of short stops. These 5 to 10 second stops happened so many times that they were going unnoticed by both operators and managers and were seen as the norm. Yet the baggers were the process with the lowest average output – the throughput bottleneck – causing starvation at the case packer and the lack of output. No attempt to improve the reliability and cycle time of the casepacker would improve line output if it wasn’t being fed with product consistently.

Focusing on the baggers to eliminate the most frequent short stops and ensure the casepacker was consistently fed with product and the line’s output improved by 10%.

A simple observational study of a line to capture process speeds, accumulation points and downtime can point you towards the throughput bottleneck.

Want to know more about the Debottlenecking Method? Get in touch directly to request a Tip Card >