Bill Strong, CEO of Strongfab Corp., left the house he and Joy had purchased in Elmhurst the year he took over the company from his father ten years ago. Now, both kids were in college, Christine at Coe out in Iowa and Bill Jr. at the University of Illinois in engineering. Bill was now focused like a laser on growing his business.
He turned north onto route 83 for the drive to Elk Grove Village. It was early, just after five AM. He was ahead of traffic and the trip would take only twenty minutes this morning. He tuned into WGN for the early news, but his mind quickly wandered to the dilemma he faced this morning.
Bill had closed a new order with a large agricultural equipment company in early December. The release on tooling came in yesterday with a first shipment requirement in early March. He had to get people cracking on the tooling now.
Now It Gets Interesting…
It was complicated by the assembly involved. The housing was to be injection molded in an engineered polymer that had a smooth finish to help seeds flow to the metering valve that dropped them through a tube into the soil.
Dimensional tolerances on the molded part were tight and it contained three stamped stainless parts that had to be molded in. This would be the first complex project involving both manufacturing techniques.
The stamping side of the business was an acquisition three years ago. It had come with an existing culture that did not match the teamwork intense collaborative culture Bill and his dad had carefully crafted in the plastic business.
The stamping plant was now located in an adjacent 25 thousand square foot bay of Bill’s leased building just west of Busse and south of Landmeier Rd. Bill had so far not succeeded in making a single team out of the stamping people and the plastic people.
Getting them to work together on this new project was going to be a problem.
His new GM Ron, understood the problem and was committed to fix it but there was little time for process. The primary attitude problem revolved around Ed, the Dir. of Engineering on the stamping side. He was brash and impatient in his communications with the rest of the staff.
He was also a genius at tweaking designs and processes to make things work. A team had to be formed quickly. It had to tackle the problem effectively and failure was certainly not an option. Bill swung into the parking lot still not sure what to do. Ron, the GM was already in the coffee room.
Bill joined him, checked in with him to see how his son’s hockey team had done over the weekend. At the first opportunity Ron surprised him with a question. Bill, I see the planter box assembly was approved Friday. Would you entertain the idea of asking Ed to head up the entire cross functional team on this project? It was the last proposal Bill would have thought of.
Ron, maybe you are seeing something I am not tell me what you are thinking. Look Bill, I think Ed is the only guy we have who can see around the corners to meet this first part approval challenge, Ron began.
He went on to describe Ed’s Predictive Index behavioral profile. As an engineer Ed’s strong suite is detail. He would stick to processes. He is also several ticks above norm on the assertive scale. He showed little respect for the status quo and was known to push projects forward.
And Bill, here is the kicker, while his behavior at work doesn’t show it he also shows a pretty high need to involve himself with people. I discovered that Ed plays cello in a symphonic band and is on the board.
It is a not for profit organization and all the work is done by volunteers. Ed clearly knows how to get along with people. We need to surface that side of him. Really, well what’s your plan Ron?
I already have a team selected for your approval Bill. It includes both engineers and manufacturing managers from both the stamping side and the plastic molding side. Frank from the accounting/finance team has agreed to join us. Ed will run the meetings and I will attend as a resource. We can get this done Bill.
And So, It Was.
Two halves of a business became one powerful team. This would be the first of many projects where the combined organization would win. What did Bill learn? Well, we discussed that during our recent coaching session.
Bill learned to look more deeply into the people around him. He more frequently finds reasons to catch a few minutes with people who work with him.
He asks them about their personal interests and what is important to them in life. He really listens. It’s become a part of the culture at Strongfab.
The management team really wants to know each other and the people they work with and depend upon. Interesting how behavior at the top of an organization shapes the culture.
Those Around You
They come to you for many reasons, those who help build your work and life. They come seeking a safe place to grow.
They come seeking to make a contribution and to be appreciated. You will only know who they really are if you ask and then only if you listen
You may find Cellists, Mountain Climbers, Artists, Care Givers and Philosophers all around you, but: Not always willing to risk, many will only reveal their true passions if asked and then only if they can trust you, and they will know
Don’t try this for the money or because of productivity or even to be liked
Do it because it is right and because it helps those around you feel valued
The real payoff will come to you in kindness returned
-Les Deck 2018