Our approach is definitely human-centered and thus based on communication, because behind all great factories there are men and women creating value.
1/ Understand the culture
Come with no prejudice! All factories are different, as they are often the reflect of their founder.
It is essential to acknowledge the human beings behind the factory, in order establish a trustful relationship.
This is why, when entering a factory, we always take the time to communicate with the management and the workers to understand where they come from and what their culture is.
Doing so not only does it give a hint on the mindset and thus solidity of the supplier, but also to ensure that your values are aligned.
This will also influence the angle we choose for operational discussions later on.
In short, get to know:
- The founder background and experience and acknowledge the experience
- The challenges they foresee to take them into account during your recommendations
- The opportunities they see to foster a culture of innovation
- The values from both management and employees to adjust the communication
2/ Praise the good points
Either during audits or regular communications with clients, the turn of the conversations is often negative: Quality issues, delivery delays, not conform to standards…
Being a factory manager is not an easy thing, but we trust that most owners do their best. This is why it is very important to point out and praise the good practices when they exist.
This appeal to the pride of the factory management and shows respect for the efforts that have been done already, laying good discussion basis for improvements.
In short, praise:
- The overall culture and vision when it exists
- The efforts made to improve the organization that have positive outcomes for you
- The reactivity facing issues rather than the problem itself
- The good quality of the products and/or good relationships
3/ Allow a two-way communication
Asking your partners to make efforts is a normal thing, but it can be perceived as a real hassle when the partner is not allowed to give his comments or inputs.
It is important that your partners are able to honestly express their challenges, so that both of you can move on in a practical way, without frustrations.
That is why when we come audit factories, we also ask their feedback about the relationship with the client who mandated us. We then report this feedback to the client to improve the collaboration.
In short, always try to:
- Discuss with suppliers about their daily challenges on regular basis (several time per year)
- Ask their feedback whenever you want to operate changes (and be open to make compromises)
- Let suppliers explain themselves in case of issue, and work solutions out together
- Make changes in your organization in regards with the feedback given by suppliers!
4/ Focus on willingness to progress
Audits represent a picture of the factory at a T time. Most managers understood it and chose to reduce the risk by presenting flawless factories and tempered documentation on the audit day.
Allowing factories not to be perfect from the start, removes a lot of pressure from their shoulders and they will thus be more inclined to show their real daily practices.
When discussing with the factory before and during the audit, we emphasize our objective to see continuous progress rather than perfection.
In short, you should:
- Be open to detect flaws at your suppliers facilities
- Set up follow-ups to confirm the willingness to progress
- Praise the progress if any
- Be open to switch suppliers if no improvements, to send a strong signal in line with your values
5/ Bring value
Factories are, above all, businesses. When asked to modify the way they work, they need to understand their interest in doing so. Going against that, will only turn into factories setting up things to please you without real operational use.
When formulating recommendations we always link it to business consequences for the factory. How this new approach will help them maintaining and developing their business.
In short, you should:
- Introduce pragmatic recommendations, actionable for suppliers
- Clearly explain the recommendations in a business context
- Inspire but not impose in order for the factory to gain ownership on the change
Implementing those basics reinforces the trust and enables a constructive dialogue with the partners. It strengthens the relationship to move on faster and more efficiently on the long-run.