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Be the Happy Medium – Working with External Teams, Part 1

Lean Process

Tandreia Dixon is a first year supply chain consultant with enVista. In the blog below, she discusses her experiences during her first project.

  1. Be down to earth. I’ve found that being down to earth was a main factor to whether the process owner would help make my job easy or absolutely difficult. Most of the time, process owners had a fear or some type or misconception of me being a labor industrial engineer that would make changes that would negatively impact them. To break that barrier, my first action was to find a way to relate to them through sports, music, t.v. shows, fashion etc.
  2. Be willing to be taught. I opened myself up to being taught by the process owner, even though I studied their process before and read their standard operating procedures many times. Instead I listened, took notes, and became a student. In times like that, I learned something new, and it opened the door to a solution for a problem I’d been trying to solve. I was transparent with the process owners about the work that I was doing. That showed the process owners that I had nothing to hide, and it also laid the foundation to begin establishing trust with them.
  3. Acknowledge contributions. If I noticed the process owners doing their jobs well; while I was on or off the floor with them, I would acknowledge their work. There is no greater feeling than being appreciated for what you do; for those that were doing a great job, I told them. For process owners that needed to improve, I provided suggestions in a rhetorical manner without being too demanding. The delivery method made the process owners think about the suggestion, and it opened the door to converse about their perspectives.
  4. Extend acts of kindness. I extended genuinely kind gestures such as “please” and “thank you”. As a result, process owners treated me as a team member because my gestures showed them I cared and expressed solidarity.

It can be a lot to juggle working with a client’s management that has project expectations and “process owners” – those who are on the distribution floor making all the action happen. At my first client project, I learned to be the Happy Medium. I define this as maintaining the right balance of interpersonal and functional skills that create the uniformity needed with a client’s management and its process owners. Here are some best practices I learned during this project.

Before I knew it, after using the actions mentioned above, the process owners were like an open book. The process owners gave me more than enough information than I needed about their job, they were happy to allow me observe them for studies, and in most cases helped to change the initial impression the rest of the process owners in the distribution center had about me and the rest of my team.

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