It’s no secret that high-performing companies have high-performing teams. But how do you build such a team in your organization?

At Donnelly Custom Manufacturing, where we specialize in the exacting niche of short-run molding, our most crucial asset is an engaged workforce. Based on decades of cultivating the team we need to succeed, here are some insights on how to do the same for your organization.

1. Start with the core ideas.

Clearly defining and communicating your company’s vision, mission and values are essential. While this is typically recommended for employee alignment and buy-in, its ability to empower employees isn’t as widely recognized.

For example, Donnelly’s mission is “to deliver good products on time.” Therefore, if ever there is a question of what to do in a given situation, employees at any level can make the right decision based on answering the question, “does this solution help deliver good products, on time?”

2. Develop leadership skills.

Understand that leadership is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. This applies to all levels and functions of your organization.

Seek to offer practical sessions teaching leadership giving people tools they can immediately use on the job.

3. Train for continuous improvement.

Of the many improvement techniques out there, we believe the lean technique, Training Within Industry, to be among the most effective.

TWI provides supervisors with critical methodologies. The approach involves teacher-student relationships enabling rapid and consistent training of teams to recommend process improvements.

4. Address the human element of quality.

Even on the strongest teams, people make mistakes. That’s why it’s crucial to have a process for identifying, analyzing and reducing human errors.

At Donnelly, we’ve developed a lean-based methodology for mistake-proofing. This approach focuses not on design or process but on people – in particular, the mindset needed to continuously look for and prevent the errors that lead to defects. It’s key to recognize and respect how people think – and give people the tools to transcend these inherent limits.

5. Tackle complex issues collaboratively.

Some challenges go deeper or broader than the specific tasks typically addressed in mistake proofing.

Cross-functional teams can help break down systemic operational issues and take action to implement changes (at Donnelly, this happens in our “War Room”). One of the biggest advantages of this team-based approach is accountability. It’s not executives demanding improvements. It’s the team pursuing and enabling improvements from each other.

6. Empower employees' ideas.

Too often, the barriers to implement great ideas are too big.

You have to work to make sure employees are encouraged and taught not only how to come up with ideas but also how to bring them to life – refining them, selling them to leadership, getting them implemented. Then, when employees see a real opportunity, we can jump at the chance to improve our jobs.

7. Listen and respond to feedback.

It’s also important to monitor the mood and perspectives of the entire team. Solicit input on safety, values, quality, leadership, services, lean manufacturing, training – everything that has a direct impact on your success.

Then, of course, you must follow through by making improvements based on what you hear, measure and observe. Doing so improves employee satisfaction and loyalty and elevates productivity.

8. Be consistent.

Finally, for all of these team-building initiatives, you must be intentional and persistent.

People must see that changes aren’t temporary or one-offs but part of an enduring, ongoing process. The more changes for the better are implemented and stay implemented, the more people seek to participate in improvements and new methodologies.