by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Photo: New Year 2022What will the New Year serve up? Every year, this rhetorical question enters our minds. We know we can’t answer it because of unknowns, uncertainties, and so many things out of our direct control. Arguably, the level of uncertainty going into 2022 may have topped what it was this time last year. No one knows for sure how much longer before the labor shortage reverses itself, or if it ever well. We can’t really estimate when the damaged supply chains will get repaired and material shortages end, when costs of goods and inflation will normalize, or what impact Omicron will have, or if there will be another COVID variant to follow. We often hope for the best and count on our faith, inner strength, and optimism to propel us forward and to condition us for whatever might come our way. Additionally, we can act on those things that we can control or influence. For instance, we can take action to further our organizational resiliency and be better prepared for the unexpected, be nimbler to pivot effectively, and seize opportunities even during severe unexpected circumstances.

When I think of organizational resiliency, spirit and structure come to mind. The spirt is the people part, the emotional resiliency, the ‘we’ll get it done no matter what’ attitude. The structure part relates to the operational processes and management systems in the major functional areas of the business.

There is an innate level of emotional resilience in every manufacturing company. Afterall, manufacturers are makers and doers. For most, the big opportunity rests in raising this spirit of resiliency and spreading it throughout the entire organization. I have met with several manufacturers in recent months that are making this happen. In each case, leaderships’ focus is on their people with the aim to improve the company’s culture. Some of the specific actions taken by these makers include an increased emphasis on employee emotional health and well-being, greater empathy on family time, more workplace flexibility and diversity, empowering everyone in continuous improvement, and re-focusing on employee learning and development. What does the people part look like within your organization? Where is the needle landing on the resiliency spirit meter for your company?

Let’s shift our attention from spirit to structure, the part of resiliency many would argue is most important. The operational processes and supporting management systems in manufacturing are numerous. Planning, scheduling, production, quality, supply chain, financial, information technology, new business development, human resources, continuous improvement, customer service, and risk management are critical to building a high performing and resilient organization. NWIRC observed the direct correlation first-hand through the more than 250 business assessments conducted with each company’s management team over the past year and half. In short, the stronger the processes and more advanced management systems prior to the pandemic, the less business impact incurred and quicker the recovery. We also saw how quickly companies realized significant impact from improvements to their operational structure acted on during this period.

At the risk of pitting spirit against structure, I won’t ask you where the needle is landing on the resiliency structure meter for your company. I consider both elements equally important. For me, the expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, originally attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, sums it up perfectly (no pun intended). It’s the synergy of the spirit and structure elements that will produce incredible results. So, as you take on 2022 – be optimistic. Focus on your people and your processes. Take action to enhance your company’s culture and expand the spirit that already exists. Take action to enhance your most critical management systems and strengthen your operational structure. The synergy will positively move the needle on your resiliency meter and, no matter what, your organization will emerge even stronger.