Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

Engagement.

It’s a word that gets used frequently, but what does it really mean?

If you have ever put your child through school exams you will probably be able to relate to my current situation. Like me, you probably experienced the step up in homework, the constant need to encourage your child to increase their vocabulary through reading, and then the inevitable requests for help. It can be time-consuming, draining and quite often, the source of tension, especially when asked questions you aren’t sure how to answer. I often find myself wondering how we survived before Google!

Yesterday, however, I was feeling quite smug when asked the question, ‘what exactly does engagement mean mum?’

I know something about this subject considering I’ve spent years working with leaders to increase the engagement of their teams. All I needed to do was put it in terms my nine-year-old son would understand.

My son announced that he’d found four definitions; a formal agreement to get married; an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time; a fight or battle between armed forces; and the process of encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organisation. With such a range of definitions, he was left flummoxed.

I quickly dealt with the first three definitions, giving examples that he might relate to, but I pondered on the last definition: ‘The process of encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organisation’.

This definition is most aligned to my thinking within business, yet it falls somewhat short of my interpretation. For me, engagement means much more than simply being interested – it means people really apply discretionary effort and actively work to deliver improvement. To achieve that takes much more than simply encouraging people. It requires leadership, delegated freedom and above all, making sure employees feel involved and listened to.

I gave some real-life examples and shared some of the techniques that I use when training and mentoring managers in engagement, including The Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum of leadership and delegated freedom. My son, for once, seemed genuinely engaged.

‘So, you’re trying to get me engaged in my work,’ he declared. ‘You want me to put in more effort because I want to make a difference, not because you tell me to?’

Eureka! Not only has he understood the definition, he now understands why me asking him to do his homework isn’t enough. He has to be engaged to get the benefit. Although, I guess discretionary might be the next definition I have to explain!

If you’re struggling with more than just the definition of engagement, by all means get in touch. It is an art rather than a science but it’s easier to travel the journey together.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe


Last week, when doing my weekly shop, I found my favourite packet of chocolate biscuits on special offer. Naturally, I bought two packets to enjoy over the coming days. Once I arrived home and unpacked all of my shopping, all I wanted to do was sit down in front of the telly with a cup of coffee and a packet of my favourite biscuits.  When I opened the packet, I found not 10 pieces as expected, but 11 instead. I was incredibly excited that I was getting an extra snack for free. However, being a manufacturing professional, my mind quickly turned to the extra cost this would be creating for the manufacturers.

I might just be the one lucky consumer to get his extra biscuit, but it is likely there were hundreds if not thousands of others with an extra portion.  The manufacturers are essentially giving away an extra 10% of product. For every 10 packets produced, there would be an equivalent full packet given away to consumers for free.  This would add a significant cost to the business. Imagine if someone took away 10% of your expected monthly income, how would you feel?

To manufacturers, this is a type of waste called “Giveaway”. Often manufacturers focus on the waste that is “thrown in the bin”, or “Throwaway”. It is visible on the factory floor, in bins around the areas and its impact is seen by all, as well as being felt on the bottom line. Giveaway can be a hidden waste. Average weight checks will no doubt be in place to ensure the product meets the legal requirements for minimum weight pack declaration. Unfortunately, this is often done without a process to control or even reduce the level of giveaway.

Even for those who do measure it, there is usually an opportunity to improve. One of the other reasons it is a “hidden” waste, is because an “expected” giveaway may be built into their standards. For example, 5% is built into the budget. If the actual giveaway then comes in at 5%, it would show no loss. This can hide the magnitude of the opportunity.  Improvements to giveaway, unlike efficiency improvements, will always deliver a benefit to the bottom line instantly.

Different methodologies can be employed to reduce giveaway, depending on the product, process and technology.  Over the years I have spent time in various factories improving their level of giveaway. From 20% to below 10% on Sushi pieces, from 7% to 3% on biscuits and 2% to 0.5% on sausages, all of which has saved businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you fancy sharing your experiences and challenges of improving giveaway, as well as any other improvement initiative, why not come along to our Ambassadors Academy.

The Ambassadors Academy is a monthly event for ambitious manufacturing professionals concerned with driving productivity, in all its form.  If this article interests you and you’d like to find out more about the Academy follow this link to the Ambassadors webpage

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting on the M42, watching the traffic slowly inch forward, when the gravelly-voiced crooner, Rod Stewart, came on the radio. As I listened to Rod singing ‘Ooh La La’, the lyrics, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger”, caught my imagination.

I started thinking back over my life and of all the learning opportunities (more commonly known as mistakes) that I have lived through. I won’t bore you with the details of every learning opportunity I’ve experienced; after all, I am only writing a blog and not a novel.

Looking back to the start of my CI journey, one of my first major projects was implementing 5S across a soft drinks’ factory. Every part of the factory, from offices to production lines, engineering and warehouse needed to be 5S’d. Two years later the factory was completed, external auditors visited, and after an intense and intimidating 2-day audit, we were finally signed off as a gold standard site.

Throughout that 2-year period, we re-visited our Setting techniques numerous times. Pallet spaces were initially solid yellow blocks, then yellow outlines of blocks and finally four yellow corners. Lettering on floors started as painted stencils until we discovered that ink from date-code printers lasted a lot longer.

If I were to implement 5S again, the knowledge I have now would make the process a lot faster, but where can you get that knowledge? We can read books, visit other sites and trial and test methods, but this can be a long and drawn out process.

Imagine if you could easily gather knowledge and insight, drawing on the experience of other like-minded people. People who have made the mistakes you are going to make. People who can talk you through the pitfalls of different processes. People just like you. Imagine how easy your life as a Continuous Improvement Manager would be.

What if I were to tell you that there is a select group of CI managers that meet on a regular basis. These managers come from a range of Blue-Chip companies and have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They are all members of the Ambassadors Academy which is run by LI Europe.

Every month they get together and have the opportunity to share their frustrations and explain their problems to each other. Through the shared knowledge of the group, these problems are put into perspective, and plans are formulated to deliver the desired results. This structure allows these elite members to map out where they want to go on their CI journey, and more importantly, how to get there.

Ambassador Academy membership isn’t open to everyone; only those prepared to share valuable learning experiences are eligible to join. To find out more about TAA membership visit the Academy web page.