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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Happened Here??

Today I want to share with you a situation that occurred at a meeting I recently attended.

I want to do something a little different. Today I want to describe the situation, then ask you what you think caused it. Then tomorrow I'll share my opinion on what caused the situation and ask you what you would do to solve the problem.

Monday Morning Meeting

Photo courtesy of NCTRUCKINGITEMS

Ok, 6am, Monday morning, company meeting. The only thing on the agenda is to pass out new binders to all the truck drivers. The manager explains that these binders are to allow management to more accurately forecast equipment needs, as well as to determine which equipment is in need of replacing.

The drivers open the binders.  Inside they find a form to be filled out for each load hauled.

  • Time started
  • Time you arrive to load
  • Time you arrive at the field to unload
  • Number of miles to field

...and so forth

Now I can't read minds, and I didn't have to, to know what was coming next...

One driver pipes up,
"So is this to keep track of us and if I get one less load than John* am I fired?"

Another chimes in,
"Yeah, if we're gonna do this, and Sam has one more load than me, I'm going to do everything I can to pass him."

Then a third driver jumps in,
"I take time each load to make sure my trailer's cleaned out. If I do that and say, Larry, doesn't; and he gets one more load a day than me, why should I even worry about taking care of the equipment? I should just GO GO GO!"

At this point the manager jumps in and says,
"This has nothing to do with checking up on you. We already know which ones of you are hard workers and which ones lazy. We just want to analyze how we can improve efficiency. We aren't out to hang anyone."

To that one of the drivers that had spoken earlier piped up,
"You won't have to, with this form, we'll hang ourselves!"

These types of concerns and objections continued for probably 30 minutes. So here's my question to you,

When, according to the manager, this form is simply to allow management to review and analyze equipment needs and efficiency,

Why did the driver's respond in such a negative and defensive manner?

*All names have been changed to protect the innocent...and perhaps the guilty :)

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  1. What's shakin' Mark? It's good that you would post this. People need to learn from these situations. Did anybody ever bother to ask the drivers their thoughts on these issues before assigning them these new "accountability" binders? didn't think so. I'm a big proponent of transparency & accountability, but involve the checkee in the checking in a way that gives him dignity! Besides, dude called them lazy!!!! Oh My Gosh!

    1. Oh he went on for like 10 min calling "some" of them lazy. Even used some wonderful descriptive words :) you make a great point. All parties have GOT to be involved in developing accountability, otherwise dissection occurs! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Wow. There's just not a lot of trust between "us" and "them", is there? In fact, there's a pretty strong feeling us "us" and "them"....

    When communication is lacking and trust is nonexistent, any sort of information gathering effort like this has the potential to feel like an intel op. Like the workers are going to be gathering the rope that management will use to hang them with.

    If this really is necessary, then why doesn't management (or leadership, but it sounds like what you have there is more management than leadership) instead sit down with the drivers and discuss the need for efficiency and make them part of the process? Why not make them part of the discovery of what data needs to be gathered? Let them suggest how to gather it and in what fashion?

    Plus, that starts building the bridges that'll be helpful next time.

    Great post, Mark!

    1. Great comment and insight Bret! I love the description of an "intel op"...because that's EXACTLY how the driver's viewed this effort.
      Your suggestions are great! Involving all parties in how info would be gathered is key, they may even suggest exactly what management did, but it would be totally different b/c they would feel a part of the process. Well stated, thanks for stopping by!

  3. Why did the drivers respond this way? Same reason why babies cry coming out of the womb: the condition of comfort changed.

    1. Ouch. I think Jon's on to something there. Hmmm.

    2. I'm sure that did factor into their response Jon! Thanks for reading!

  4. This has already be stated in several ways, but I also feel it's the problem at hand: this measure was being done to someone, vs done with someone.
    Even If I'm a hard worker, I might feel a bit nervous that 'Big brother' was watching me for some reason.

    I also agree totally with Jeremy - total leadership breakdown going on. 1. You should never talk badly about your team in front of your team. (Or at all - gossip? ) 2. If the leader knows there are lazy guys and they haven't done anything about it = sanctioned incompetence.

    There are better, less invasive ways to watch efficiency and machine maintenance. What about a technology solution that just sits in the truck and measures miles driven, and tracks that against the last service job by a mechanic?

    If management is being honest, and I have my doubts, I wonder if drivers even need to know that their truck is being monitored. One thing is mechanical needs - that can be monitored mechanically and for purely mechanical motives as your management says.

    Efficiency of people - hmmm. It seems to me that's what is REALLY being monitored here. The manager seems to be applying the wrong tool to get the job done if that's really the job he's trying to get done.

    Just sayin.

    I really liked this post Mark - great thought provoker towards what leaders do, and how followers may interpret that. Nice.

  5. That is a fantastic analysis Aaron! Thanks for sharing your input!

  6. This story brings up some great discussion points: Why is there not trust between the manager and the truck drivers? (Viewing some of the drivers as "lazy" may have something to do with it.) What kind of company culture has been established? (In some companies, workers are pitted against each other or treated more like machines than people.) Is there some sort of expectation, standard, or goal set in place for efficiency? Is there a system in place that promotes, encourages, and rewards the desired outcome? I think metrics can be a good thing. They can help in making improvements. But is that really what they are going to be used for?

    Thanks for the post Mark. I look forward to your follow-up post.

    1. Thanks for reading, my friend. 5am PST the new post will be up :)