Successful Supervisor 49 Getting to a Lean Culture

October 22, 2017

The Lean Thinking program is an outgrowth of the Toyota Production System that was developed in the early 1990s.

Many organizations combine the concepts of Lean Thinking and Six Sigma into a single thrust they call “Lean/Six Sigma.”

My preference is to think of these initiatives separately, since they were derived by different groups at different points in the evolution of improvement efforts and have vastly different tools and objectives.

It is true that you can combine staff groups to go after the gains of both programs in one thrust, but I prefer to keep them separate.

For supervisors, it is important to understand what Lean Thinking entails and how to manage a process to eliminate all waste. There are numerous techniques and tools for doing this, and I will discuss a few of the main ones later in this article.

Objectives

First, let’s contrast six sigma and lean in terms of their objectives. The primary objective of six sigma is continuous improvement toward process perfection. The objective of “Lean” is the relentless quest to eliminate all waste (or MUDA, which is the Japanese word for waste).

When we think of waste in our personal life, it is all about the stuff that gets thrown away. In the “Lean” lexicon, waste takes on a much different perspective.

In lean programs, we work on seven different types of waste simultaneously, and only one is the stuff that goes in the garbage can. Here are the seven types of waste.

Note the common way to remember the seven types of waste is by the acronym TIM WOOD.

1. Transport

Any time we move products or sub assemblies, we are incurring costs and waste that the customer is not interested in paying for. Think of it this way, if you purchase a car, you are not at all interested in the pathway it took to be manufactured.

You are interested that the car is perfect in every way, but do not want to pay extra to have it go to six different cities while it is being manufactured in pieces.

2. Inventory

Inventory is waste because it cannot be sold. It also takes up space, which is expensive to maintain. A good lean program can usually cut the space used to manufacture a product by at least 50% by cutting down on the level of inventory or in-process goods.

3. Motion

Similar to transport, the customer is not interested in paying for the motions necessary to produce a product. If you can combine operations to eliminate motion, you have reduced the MUDA for the entire process.

4. Waiting

Waiting is one of the largest forms of waste for most processes. If you tour through even the best factories, you will see pallets of product waiting to be serviced by the next step in the process.

I recall a Tom Peters program entitled “Speed is Life” where he noted that in an average manufacturing cycle for a product that takes two weeks to complete, there is a good solid 18 minutes of actual work being done on the product.

The remainder of the time is wasted because the product is sitting and waiting for the next operation.

5. Overproduction

If we have customers who want to buy five refrigerators from us today, and we make eight refrigerators, three of them represent wasted effort. There is no immediate demand for the product, so it goes into inventory and becomes a form of waste until there is a demand for it.

6. Overprocessing

This kind of waste is all about the number of process steps that are required to actually make a part.

If you have to pick up a carburetor 12 times in order to assemble all the parts onto it, that is a lot of picking up. Suppose you could reduce the number of times needed to pick up the part to just two. That would save 10 process steps to make the same part.

7. Defects

If a product is defective, it cannot be sold, so it is either reworked (which requires extra resources) or it is discarded (which wastes the materials and labor put in to that point).

This is where Six Sigma and Lean intersect. We want all of our processes to be so perfect that they never produce any defects.

Some of the More Popular Lean Tools

If I were to describe all the tools used in lean thinking, this would be a book rather than an article. Let me focus here on just five of the most useful tools.

1. Process Flow Map

A Process Flow Map is a diagram of the entire process on a large piece of paper.

There are specific symbols that depict the various parts of the process flow and the movement of materials as well as any inventory points. The idea is to allow a team of technical people to actually “see” the whole process and how it works at once.

It is imperative to have a fully trained person actually construct the Process Flow Map, or the whole analysis may be flawed.

There is an excellent book on how to construct Process Flow Maps. It is entitled “Learning to See,” by Mike Rother and John Shook. The book deals with many of the tools to eliminate MUDA and how to use them correctly.

2. Kaizen

A Kaizen is an event that takes place on the process site, where a team actually takes the process apart physically and puts it together in a more streamlined configuration.

There are many techniques used to accomplish a Kaizen, such as “spaghetti diagrams” that trace the actual movement of the process on a diagram.

The caveat here is to not try to perform a Kaizen unless you have a qualified facilitator and really know what you are doing.

A poorly done Kaizen can do a lot of damage. You may be able to take the process apart but fail at putting it back together.

3. 5 S

The process of 5 S is built around five Japanese words that all begin with S.

Seri – Sort
Seiton – Set in order
Seiso – Shine
Seiketsu – Standardize
Shitsuke – Sustain

The idea is to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.

When you walk into a 5 S operation, it is neat and tidy with everything available but absolutely no clutter to be seen.

4. Poka-Yoke

Poka-Yoke means to make the operation fool proof. If you simply cannot put something together incorrectly it has some good poka-yoke thinking associated with it.

The best example in our personal world is the three pronged electrical plug. There is no way to put it together incorrectly.

When you think of it, we have many examples of good poka- yoke thinking that we use every day from symmetrical ignition keys to USB connectors on computers.

Something that is not poka-yoke is your shoes. It is possible, albeit not comfortable, to put them on the wrong feet.

5. Kanban

Kanban is a philosophy that allows a continuous process while maintaining a minimum of inventory of parts. You work off a two bin system.

You have an active bin where you are drawing parts until it is empty. You then move the spare full bin into place to continue the process, and the empty space (called a Kanban square) is the signal to go get another bin of parts.

Administering Lean

The lean philosophy is a very powerful mindset for any operation. As a supervisor, you must be careful to administer the effort with care and professionalism.

Make sure the effort is well staffed with qualified people. Trying to do lean manufacturing on a flimsy base can produce great confusion and lead to expensive rework and disillusionment among the workers.

Another consideration is that lean efforts are usually being performed while production is still running through parts of the operation. One cell might be down while the work is being done, but the rest of the plant is working.

It takes a lot of coordination and planning to accomplish a lean program, but the result is well worth the effort.

In addition to keeping parts of the process running, the supervisor needs to ensure the safety of all personnel, even though parts of the operation are not in a normal steady state of operation. In general, you should spend as much time planning a lean activity as it takes to actually accomplish it.

Eliminating all forms of waste and using the tools of Lean Thinking allows the supervisor to produce the maximum saleable products in the least amount of time and at the lowest possible cost.

Think of lean as an ideal or state of perfection that you never actually fully achieve. With a philosophy of “continuous improvement” you refine and make the process more perfect every day. The techniques must become a way of life to be able to sustain the gains, but they are well worth the effort.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Triple Crown Leadership

November 6, 2013

Triple Crown Leadership036Bob Vanourek is a friend and author in the area of leadership and trust. He and his son Gregg have written an outstanding book on leadership that I had the pleasure of reading recently.

As a leadership and trust author myself, I have the opportunity to review scores of books each year as part of my research and to give testimonials for the true gems. Bob and Gregg have produced a classic!

If you are interested in a pragmatic “how to” book for becoming an elite leader, you owe it to yourself to invest in a copy of Triple Crown Leadership. Bob and Gregg draw on decades of experience in the leadership trenches and the boardrooms of business.

They have seen and done it all, and have enumerated the triple crown concepts of how to build an organization that is Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring.

The book uses the analogy of Triple Crown Horseracing to signify the top of the racing profession and equate the relevant principles to the business world. It is a fascinating and captivating metaphor.

Reading this book will give you a jockey’s view of five key practices that describe how to excel in leadership at the highest levels. The five practices are:

1. Head and Heart – How to combine brilliant strategy with the human touch.

2. The Colors – How to always race on a track with a firm foundation of values, vision, and purpose.

3. Steel and Velvet – Gaining that rare combination of firmness when needed coupled with deep care for people.

4. Stewards – How to empower others to lead.

5. Alignment – Creating a culture where all individuals are going in the same direction on the track.

The book is rich with dozens of real examples unearthed by years of research where Bob and Gregg interviewed leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries.

This book has it all, and the writing is easy to digest and absorb.

If you are a leader and aspire to the pinnacle of the profession, I highly recommend this book. It belongs in the stable of every serious leader’s books.

In my five-star review on Amazon, I share my opinion that this is “The best leadership book since Good to Great.”


Load Rage

May 1, 2011

As organizations wrestle with global competition and economic cycles, the pressure on productivity is more acute each year. I do not see an end to the pressure to accomplish more work with less. There comes a point when leaders ask people to stretch beyond their elastic limit, and they burn out. As the constant requests for more work with fewer resources starts to take a physical toll on the health of workers at all levels, people become justifiably angry. I see evidence of what I call “load rage” in nearly every organization in which I work.

An interesting flip side of this problem is the observation made by many researchers that working human beings generally operate at only a fraction of their true capability. I have read estimates of organizations extracting on average something like 30-50% of the inherent capability in the workforce; some estimates are even lower. It would be impossible for anyone to continually operate at 100% of capacity because that would require the adrenal glands to secrete a constant stream or adrenaline that would kill the person. However, if the estimates of typical capacity used are accurate, there is still a lot of upside in people, so why the “load rage”?

The reason is that we base our perception of how hard we are working at any moment on a sliding scale. We base our feelings of load on how busy we are, not on what percentage of our capacity is being consumed. Many of our activities are simply traps that we invent because of habitual patterns in our daily work. We tolerate a multitude of inhibiting actions that steal seconds from our minutes and minutes from our hours. We excuse these diversions as not being very important, but in reality they are exceedingly relevant to our output and to our stress level. Let me cite a few examples.

Look at the inbox of your e-mail account. If you are like most people there are more than a few notes waiting for your attention. We have all kinds of reasons (really rationalizations) for not keeping our inbox totally cleaned out each day. I will share that at this moment I have 5 “read” notes and no “unread” notes in my inbox, and it is driving me crazy. I need to get that down to zero within the hour, but right now I am consumed writing this article. If we are honest, it is inescapable that having more than 2-3 notes waiting attention will cause a few milliseconds of search time when we want to do anything on e-mail. That time is lost forever, and it cannot be replaced. We all know people who have maxed out the inbox capability and have literally thousands of e-mails to chew through. These people are drowning in a sea of time wasters just like a young adult with 20 credit cards is drowning in a sea of debt. It is inevitable.

You know at least a few people in your circle of friends or working comrades who spend a hefty chunk of their day going around lamenting how there is not enough time to do the work. Admit it – we all do this to some extent. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Looks like I have plenty of time and not much to do.” OK, old geezers in the home have this problem and so do young children who are dependent on mommy to think up things to keep them occupied. For most of us in the adult or working world, our time is the most scarce and precious commodity we have, yet we habitually squander it in tiny ways that add up to major stress for us. I suspect that even the most proficient time-management guru finds it possible to waste over 30% of his or her time on things that do not matter.

One healthy antidote, especially at work, is to have a “stop doing” list. Most people have a “to do” list, but you rarely see someone crossing things off a “don’t do” list. Think how liberating and refreshing it would be if each of us found an extra hour or two each day by just consciously deciding to stop doing things that do not matter. Whole groups can do this exercise and gain incredible productivity. The technique is called “work out,” where groups consciously redesign processes to take work out of the system. If you examine how you use your time today, I guarantee that if you are brutally honest you can find at least 2 hours of time you are wasting on busy work with no real purpose. Wow, two hours would be a gift for anyone.

Another technique is to really load up your schedule. You think that you are overworked now, but just imagine if you added 5 major new activities that had to be done on top of your present activities. That would feel insane, but you would find ways to cope. Then if you cut back to your current load next week, what seemed like an untenable burden a few weeks ago would feel like a cake walk. I can recall a time in the Fall of 2004 when I was teaching 11 different courses at the same time. That was in addition to writing a book and developing a leadership consulting practice. I will admit that was a little over the top, but did I ever enjoy the load when I cut it back to only three courses at a time.

Another huge time burner is conflict. We spend more time than we realize trying to manage others so our world is as close to what we want as possible. When things are out of kilter, we can spend hours of time on the phone or e-mail negotiating with others in a political struggle to get them to think more like us. The typical thought pattern going through the mind during these times is “why can’t you be more like me.” The energy and time to have these discussions can really eat up the clock time during the day.

Dither is another issue for many of us. I already shared that while I am writing this paper, I am really procrastinating from opening up and dealing with the 5 notes in my inbox (oops – now 6) (now 7). I typically get between 100-150 e-mails a day. There are other things I must do today, but I am having fun writing this paper, so the “work” is getting pushed back. I will pay for this indulgence later, but at least I do recognize what I am doing here. The point is that most of the time that we lose is unconscious. We have all figured out how to justify the time wasters in our lives, and we still complain that there are not enough hours in the day.

There is no cure for this malaise. It is part of the human condition. I think it helps to remind ourselves that when we feel overloaded, particularly with work, it is really just a priority issue, and we honestly do have plenty of time to do everything with still some slack time to take a breath. If you do not agree, then I suspect you are in denial.

Now, I need to be excused to go clean out my inbox!


The Leadership Management Scale

March 6, 2011

I often get into conversations in my Leadership courses about the difference between leaders and managers. This article suggests a visual scale that can help you understand your natural tendencies and how you like to operate.

Most of us have heard the old adage (first uttered by Peter Drucker, I believe) that “Managers do things right, and Leaders do the right things.” In leadership classes, I work with groups to develop a list of characteristics that typify managers and leaders. Generalizing the lists, I find that pure managers and pure leaders have completely different mindsets as follows:

The Pure Manager

The manager wants everything to go smoothly. He or she wants every process to run the way it should to get the maximum productivity. There must be no waste. The manager wants everyone to follow all the rules and be there every day motivated to do good work. In essence, the manager wants to stabilize things and clone everything to be exactly right. The manager is all about doing things right, and is most closely associated with the mission of the organization (what they are trying to accomplish today). The manager works with the process, the equipment, the schedule, and the people in terms of what they should be doing. Managers are now oriented.

The Pure Leader

The leader is often a destabilizing force. He or she is most interested in where the organization is going rather than optimizing today’s processes. That may mean making people unhappy for some time in order for the greater good. It often means balancing the needs of different constituencies with opposing needs. For example, satisfying social responsibility needs may mean a short term hit for shareholders, or working to optimize shareholder needs may require unpopular actions for the workforce.

If people are too complacent and do not see the dangers, the leader is there to create a burning platform. Leaders understand the need to sometimes be unpopular, or as Colin Powell likes to say, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” The idea is to do the right things, which may mean some pretty difficult decisions. The leader is all about the vision of the organization (where they are trying to go). The leader works with the balance sheet, the strategic plan, the product line, and the people in terms of what they can become. Leaders are future oriented.

The Leader/Manager

This person is able to combine the best of both worlds and act in both roles. All of us act as leaders and managers at times, but each of us favors one mode or the other. A good balance between the two extremes is often the best place to be. In general, the world has far more competent managers than competent leaders, so if you have leadership tendencies, that is a good thing to have. Really great leaders do not mind being average managers. They recognize their limitation and surround themselves with outstanding managers to handle the details.

I think of the leadership – manager issue as a kind of sliding scale. On one extreme is pure leadership, and on the other extreme is pure management. We all operate somewhere on the sliding scale every day. Based on our personal style, we move from one point on the scale to another depending on current needs. Let’s be more specific with the metaphor. Suppose pure leadership is a 10, and pure management is a 1.

I may be writing an e-mail encouraging people to pay attention to our future vision in the actions we take today. While I am writing that note, my mind is operating at about 8 on the scale. I am having a bit of management thought because I am referring to current actions, but the thrust of my note is about following our vision, which is pure leadership.

I finish the note and look up to see a supervisor at my door with an issue. There is an employee with a significant attendance problem that is out of control. I discuss what the supervisor wants to do. He asks for my opinion, and I offer my advice. Here I am operating at about 1 or 2 on the scale because maintaining control and following the rules is pure management.

All day I do things that are partially leadership and partially management. I will share that my personal comfort zone is about 7-8 on the scale. That is where I would naturally spend most of my time if given the chance by circumstances. This metaphor has two important things that can help you:

1. Pay attention to where you are on the scale in any conversation or action. That will help you clarify your role.

2. Learn where your “Sweet spot” is on the scale. If you are a natural 2, then you need someone who is a 7-8 to balance you. If you are a natural 8, then get a 2 to help manage the place.

When coaching other leaders or managers, try to help them see where they are operating at the moment, because it can aid in the dialog. If someone is too near the edges of this scale for too long, that person may be operating with blinders on. Consider mental exercises to bring the person closer to the center of the scale for at least part of the time. Try to align the work you are doing most of the time to play to your strengths, and you will end up doing a better job.


The 30-second e-mail

December 1, 2010

You know how it feels. You are grazing your bloated inbox, and you see the name, Sam Jones. You cringe. Having waded through his prior tomes, you know that opening this e-mail will tie you up for at least 15 minutes trying to get the message. Sam writes really l-o-n-g notes and rarely uses paragraph breaks. He does not capitalize the start of sentences, so his writing is hard to decode. You pause, and pass the note because there is just not enough time to deal with the hassle.

Don’t be a Sam Jones! Follow these seven simple rules, and people will appreciate your e-mail communications.

1. Make it easy on the reader. Have a well formatted and short note that deals with a single topic in compressed format. Don’t ramble!

2. Don’t go “over the horizon.” Try to have the majority of your notes fit into the first window of a note. Reason: when the reader can see the start of your signature block on the bottom of the opening window, he knows that is all there is to the note. That is a psychological lift that puts the reader in a better frame of mind to absorb your meaning. When the text goes beyond the first page (over the horizon), the reader has no way to know how long your note is. This is a psychological burden that frustrates the reader subconsciously.

3. Aim for 15 to 30 seconds. Try to have the e-mail compressed enough that it can be internalized in a half minute at the maximum. It will be remembered much more than one that takes 5 minutes to read.

4. Use bullet points. Short, punchy bullets are easier to read than long complex sentences.

5. Highlight expected actions. Delineate action items in a way that is not offensive. Do not use all caps. Sometimes bold text works, but I find it best to have a separate line like this:

       Action: Please get me your draft report by Friday.

6. Be polite. Start with a friendly greeting and end with respect but not long or trite quotations.

7. Sometimes the Subject can be the whole note. In this case use EOM (End Of Message) to designate there is no note to open at all. It looks like this:

       Subject: The Binford celebration is Wednesday 3 pm. EOM

If you follow these simple seven rules, people will pay more attention to your e-mails, and you will improve the hit rate of your communications. Not all notes can follow all of these rules, but if the majority of yours do, you will be greatly appreciated.


Improve Your E-Mail Openings

August 1, 2010

Humans have the ability to synthesize data with incredible precision. In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes how human beings can form accurate impressions of situations and people based on just a tiny amount of data. Gladwell calls this “thin slicing,” which is the ability to sort out germane factors from a large array of data with lightning speed. Let’s look at the first few words of some example e-mail notes and see how people are likely to react to them.

• “Hi Alan” This is a friendly and neutral salutation that puts the reader in a happy place. Why? You have used the most important word in your reader’s vocabulary. You used his name along with the happy word, “Hi.” After those two words, your reader is subconsciously saying to himself, “This is going to be a nice note.”

• “Alan” Here you use his favorite word again, but without the word “Hi” or “Greetings,” your note starts out on a sober, stern, or businesslike note. Your reader is wondering whether he is going to get chewed out or get a raise.

• “So Alan” This is an alarming opening to an e-mail. The reader will instinctively cringe before even reading the third word. This is going to be rough. Either Alan has previously written something to upset you, or you have a serious question about something he has done.

• No name or greeting. Here you have lost an excellent opportunity to start your note with a polite greeting. Alan will usually not miss it on a conscious level, but he will be wary about the contents of your note until he reads further. Without the name as a courteous salutation, the first couple words will set the tone for better or worse. If you start with “Once again…” you are signaling that Alan is in trouble unless he knows you are thrilled with his most recent performance. At worst this is a trust withdrawal, and at best you have missed the opportunity for a trust deposit.

• “You dummy” There is no mistaking the tone of this greeting. Alan is going to put on his flack jacket before reading this note.

• “Bless you, Alan” This is the kind of note Alan will print out and put on his wall or take home to show his wife.

The words used to begin a note are the first “thin slice” of the tone for the entire e-mail. Make sure you get started on the right track. There is momentum when reading notes. If the reader starts out in a good frame of mind, things go more smoothly. If the opening is abrupt, curt, or is a blatant trust withdrawal, it will take a lot of honey in the rest of the note to make up for it.

It is like the difference between a conventional photograph and a hologram. If you take a photograph and cut out just a tiny piece of it, you will have only the data represented by that piece. If you cut out a tiny piece of a hologram and hold that piece up to the light, you will be able to see the entire image, only with less resolution than the larger hologram. Humans work the same way. If you have an entire note, you can study it and reveal great detail, but people can sense the body language in just a few words. The first few words of an e-mail are especially important.

Let me share an extreme example for clarity.

It is the first day of an online class. None of the students know each other yet. Allison is responding to a question about whether leaders are made or born. Here is a short section of her note:

• Allison writes: “I really do not believe there is any such thing as a natural-born leader. I believe that leadership is an acquired skill and can be improved constantly. When I was seventeen, I was promoted to shift manager. I was not a good leader to say the least.”

Another student (Roger, who has not yet exchanged notes with Allison) replied to her note as follows:

• Roger writes: “Allison wake up!!! How many seventeen-year-old kids are asked to be a manager??”

The note goes on, but for purposes of this illustration, these few words are all that is required. I believe Allison had Roger pegged after the first three words, and probably did not even read the rest of his note. If she did read it, she heavily discounted the information. To her credit, she did not take the bait and fire back a strong rebuttal. She just pretended the note never happened, which is a good strategy in a case like this.

Roger’s note was a blatant example of starting out in a way that completely alienates the other person. Usually the damage is more subtle, but the impact is similar. Here is another example of a note that begins poorly:

• “I really think you should be careful when you write, ‘people like you’ in a note. It tends to peg you as a bigot or someone who likes to put people in boxes.”

The first five words, “I really think you should,” give away the body language before the real content of the message is reached. After the opening phrase, the reader is prepared to get a lecture and reacts accordingly. Here is another version of the same message with a more constructive opening:

• “That was an insightful note. One possible upgrade is to avoid the phrase ‘people like you,’ because some people might find that offensive.”

The reader is more likely to absorb and heed the advice in the second note based on how it starts.


Keeping People In the Loop

March 4, 2010

If you go into any organization and do a survey about what leaders are doing well and poorly, the vast majority of groups will put “communication” at the top of the list of things to improve. This is true even though most leaders are nearly consumed trying to keep people in the loop on a daily basis. Why is there such a disconnect between needs and performance?

There are numerous reasons for the gap. First, the magnitude of information that needs to be shared is growing exponentially. With the global markets and worldwide scope of most operations, the complexity is dozens of times more daunting than it was just a decade ago. The ubiquitous access to all kinds of information and misinformation on the internet means that leaders need to unscramble a plate of informational spaghetti on a daily basis. What used to be cells of gossip and rumors quickly becomes a rats nest of damage control when a horde of titillated bloggers or twitterers swings into action.

Corporate communications can no longer be a matter of having a quarterly Town Hall Meeting. Information needs to be disseminated on a continuous basis, and misinformation needs to be beaten down almost hourly. Is it any wonder key executives get bogged down and withdraw to let the “communications officer” handle the mess. Yet when a CEO unplugs from the communication process, this is how people get the idea he is hiding something or he just does not care about telling them the truth. That creates a significant trust problem.

Whew, is there an antidote to this malaise? I think there is. It is a simple remedy that has been known for centuries. It is called “walking the deck,” or if you are a politician, “pressing the flesh.” The trick is for top executives not only to practice the art of interfacing with people, they need to insist that all middle and lower managers do the same thing. This is particularly true when times are tough.

If there is a crisis or emergency, most managers and leaders like to retreat to the safety of their office and communicate electronically. Unfortunately, spewing out long explanations of current realities may seem like progress, but consider how many of the people are reading or understanding these tomes. My advice to leaders is to at least double their shop floor time when times are tough.

If top leaders insist on a culture of talking with workers directly often and insist that all managers in the chain do this routinely then the crushing load of communication can become more manageable. The side benefit is that the workers will not be besieged with a flood of electronic drivel to digest daily.