All About Flex: Embracing the Mess

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Second, empower employees with decision-making responsibility. Obviously, all employees cannot be allowed to make all decisions, but a freedom scale does provide good guidance. This message and direction needs to be discussed as part of communicating the business plan. The various levels of decision-making freedom are:

  • Freedom Level 5: Act—routine reporting only
  • Freedom Level 4: Act, but advise at once
  • Freedom Level 3: Make recommendation and take resulting action
  • Freedom Level 2: Ask what to do
  • Freedom Level 1: Wait to be told

Different decisions will result in alternative levels of decision-making freedom, but good employees should be encouraged to operate at freedom level 3 at a minimum. With experience and demonstrated prowess, employees climb the ladder.

Third, support and celebrate. This is probably the most difficult. It is entirely possible that incorrect decisions will occur and culture can be crushed if reasonable decisions are second guessed with the benefit of hindsight. Empowerment cannot exist if aggressive decision making is negatively reinforced when early decisions prove inaccurate. For a culture of empowerment to be effective, management needs to support unexpected outcomes. The most important question is, “What was the available information when the decision was made?” Successes need to be sought out, communicated, and celebrated. This helps build a corporate culture that encourages rapid response. Trusting people to understand when they need additional time, or a supervisor’s concurrence, needs to be supported by both words and actions.

Fast-paced change is a fact of life and it’s not going to slow down. Empowerment helps decisions occur by those individuals closest to the problem. Decentralized decision-making helps ensure issues can be addressed promptly. It’s the blocking and tackling that usually wins the game, not the Hail Mary pass. In the printed circuit business world this means several things.  Turn quotes quickly. Have back-up staff in place when people are out of office. Don’t leave work with unanswered messages. Keep the ball in the customer’s court. Inform customers about the status of their project. Respond when there is a problem. Embrace the mess…it can be the key to survival. 

Dave Becker is vice president of sales and marketing at All Flex Flexible Circuits LLC.



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