Letters to the Editor For January 2009

Sustaining employees and companies

The Four-Day Week Works Well

In her letter to the editor, Sherry Gaidry expressed a concern about daycare for employees who work the four-day week. I have worked that schedule for over 20 years at Paragon Industries, and I have never heard an employee complain about daycare. That is because the four-day week allows parents to spend more time with their children on their day off.

People like the four-day week and stay with the company. We have employees who have been with us for over 20 years, and many for 10 years. A three-day weekend is like having a holiday every week. A 10-hour day soon feels like eight hours.

We cut down the cost of gas and travel time by one day a week. And we avoid the worst hours of traffic because we arrive at 7 a.m.

You can implement the four-day week without disrupting communications with customers. Have a small staff in the office on the fifth day to answer phone calls.

Arnold Howard
director of marketing
Paragon Industries, L.P.
Mesquite, Tex.

Hitting the Sustainability Wall

>Re: "Continuous Improvement: Engaging the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees," Dec. 2008

Ralph Keller has hit the nail on the head again! Company after company jumps onto the lean bandwagon and then hits the "sustain" wall after several months of early
successes. Many management teams decide that lean doesn't work in their industry, or in their unique organization. What they need to do is look in the mirror and figure out what's missing from their attempt at implementation. Most times, it's the employee engagement piece of the puzzle.

Instead of providing employees training in how to develop, refine and implement their ideas, and then promoting and encouraging employee ideas, weak managers find it much easier to say, "We've tried that before," or "That won't work here," or worse yet, "Write up that idea and put it in the suggestion box -- we'll review it and get back to you (next year)." Sure enough, the manager is right, and employee engagement is quickly squelched, and with it, the lean culture the manager seeks.

Why do we keep missing this piece of the puzzle? I think it's the manager's fear of losing control, or maybe it's just ego.

Sam Wagner
director, advanced manufacturing
Donnelly Custom Manufacturing
Alexandria, Minn.

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