20 Oct The New Work Flow

Last week I participated in a group meeting with Gerry Ramsay, Vice President of Fer-Pal Infrastructure, a water main rehabilitation company. His company fixes, re-builds and installs water mains in towns and cities across North America. Gerry has spent the past two years transforming key parts of his large company. He joined a CEO peer group, attended the meetings, read the required books, and worked closely with his coach. The book that he found the most inspiring was The Toyota Way, by Jeffrey Liker. By immersing himself within the CEO group and picking himself as the change agent, he was able to make the transformation in two years.

One small part of the change that Gerry implemented at Fer-Pal is a room dedicated to information sharing. Crews and managers can review schedules, identify which workers are on which site, and receive and communicate change orders. It’s all there. This saves time, management resources and makes everyone happier because it eliminates guessing and surprises.

In just the same way that crew assignment is key to Fer-pal operations, at Qualifirst, our own critical component is order dispatching. We use a semi-automated order dispatching dashboard that is accessible to both the office and warehouse. This has increased communication and streamlined workflow for our teams.

Our workplace is becoming more and more a place where each team member has a job to do and knows what it is without having to ask a supervisor. This new way of organising information flow also means constant supervision is no longer needed. This means fewer bosses, fewer interruptions and more work getting done.

The challenge we have at Qualifirst is one of defining hierarchy. This is due in part to the fact that we are a small company growing into a medium company. But this is a challenge that larger companies also face, because the “new work flow” means there are fewer bosses and fewer empowered team members.

It is not simply technology that is changing how the workplace works; it is also the increased communication that this technology allows. Each team member at Qualifirst will have more and more tools to make decisions and to influence the day-to-day environment, and each team member has the power to become a change agent for the company.