In the first part of this series, we established that good supervisors can see through walls and silos between departments in large companies, thinking through the processes—from beginning to end—to achieve management results and maximize the contribution and value generated. Additionally, effective supervisors think horizontally (the way work actually gets done) not just vertically. And they understand that people working in a complex organization is a chaotic phenomenon.

Case in point: consider how a U.S-based airplane manufacturer remarkably improved productivity, engagement, and quality—and reduced costs—in 10 short months.

In the airplane industry, frontline management is the leverage point in the manufacturing process. They are managing the work crews within their cell to accomplish specific operations and move the plane down the line. It is all too easy for frontline supervisors and crewmembers to get bore-sighted on the part of the process that they own and forget how their work fits into delivering a perfect airplane to a customer.

In the case of this particular airplane manufacturer, the CEO and EVP of global operations had two priorities that needed direct action by the people working in the plants:

  1. Improve customer trust through consistent quality;
  2. Deliver profitable airplanes on time and to budget.

By employing Insigniam’s Super-Vision program for supervisors, team leaders, and union shop stewards, people learned how their work group contributed to the success of the business. They also learned communication tools that effective managers use to build authentic commitments and manage breakdowns (thinking like the CEO) and how to manage and handoff work to produce the intended results at the end of the line AND each step along the way (thinking horizontally).

By having supervisors focus on the intended outcome and not solely their part of a linear manufacturing process, and by opening up communication with supervisors up and down the line, the cost of quality errors decreased by 92 percent. Build-time was reduced from 8,000 labor hours to 5,000.

Proof positive, the company’s EVP of global operations reflected, “The technical things that we did were relatively easy, some different tooling, some different ways of measuring. But the mindset and behavior change that Insigniam brought in—I’ve never seen a change like this.”

In the end, the company saw a savings of $22 million from projects during the program and brought $700 million to the bottom line in just two years. And by gaining an authentic commitment from their people, supervisors were able to empower their teams to implement innovations and increase productivity, while moving from the bottom quartile in employee engagement to the top third.

An industrial miracle. Superhuman results…no red capes required.


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