Women in heavy-industry factories are common today. They do all the things men do on assembly lines, in machine shops, quality labs and stock rooms. But it hasn’t always been true. It started during WWII when the men were off fighting and workers were needed to produce airplanes, tanks, rifles, jeeps and so on. The women stepped up and were immortalized in a hit song, Rosie The Riveter:
All the day long, whether rain or shine,
She’s part of the assembly line.
She’s making history, working for victory,
Rosie the Riveter
It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Rosie, the war would have dragged on for years or have been lost. The women had no experience, but they were motivated to get the job done and they did.
I had my own Rosie The Riveter experience in the late 80’s. While serving as VP of Finance for a mid-size aerospace company, we were confronted with a crippling thirteen-week strike. At least it could have been crippling, but it wasn’t. Why? Because accountants, secretaries, engineers, buyers, vice-presidents and even the lawyers all went to the factory floor to keep production going. They even let me work out there. Since no one wanted me to have anything in my hands that moved or made noise, I was a wing wiper, meaning I took a rag, squirted Trike (trichloroethylene) on it, and cleaned excess adhesive, oil, sweat, dirt and grime off of aluminum surfaces before they went to the paint shop. For thirteen weeks, this motley crew—most with no experience—kept the production lines moving and our customers satisfied. It was an experience all of us remember proudly, made possible by four “…tions” that all leaders should burn into their leadership DNA.
#1 Motivation Our president, John Kleban, was our CMO (Chief Motivation Officer) prior to and during the strike. He made it clear that our future was at stake and that by working together, we could do it. We believed him.
#2 Preparation Prior to the strike, every employee who would work in the shop was trained for a specific assignment. On day one, we were ready to go.
#3 Execution Have a plan. Work the plan. Track the plan. Change the plan. The more inexperienced the team, the more important is the plan.
#4 Appreciation Kleban, along with most of the executive team, was in the shop every day, listening to, thanking and encouraging the team. We pushed water carts to all areas of the factory and served lunch.
Is your organization on a hard road that is beginning to look hopeless and impossible? Before you give up, ask your team which of the four “…tions” is lacking, then be a strong Kleban-type leader, do something about it!
© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
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"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner