Closing gap in M4.0 leadership skills
Manufacturing 4.0 introduces “smart factory,” in which cyber-physical systems monitor the physical processes of the factory and make decentralised decisions. Today’s manufacturing organisations are running hard to keep pace with digitisation, automation, expansion, and shifts in customer demand and employee demographics—the megatrends collectively known as “Manufacturing 4.0” (M4.0).
In a recent survey concluded by the Manufacturing Leadership
Council, the following leadership skills and abilities ranked at the top for the M4.0 era:-
Understanding a wide range of processes and functions and how they can be integrated;
Ability to manage accelerating market and technology change;
Collaborative skills to manage flatter organisations, expand partner networks;
Using computer-based analytics to help make datadriven decisions;
Ability to accept and manage more open, virtual working cultures across multiple locations; and
Global market experience to help drive geographic expansion However, the top challenges that the manufacturing leadership will soon need to overcome will be in the changing culture and the attitudes of employees; understanding and anticipating the pace of change; defining the business case and ROI with M4.0; determining how to migrate to a pervasively digital future; and finding replacements at both line worker and managerial levels as the industry experiences a historic demographic shift as baby boomers retire
As companies embark on the journey to Manufacturing 4.0, they need to put in place systems for identifying and developing a new set of leadership attributes based on lean thinking. Translating M4.0 megatrends into leaders of the future will therefore require us to understand the changing role of frontline supervisors and managers in M4.0.
Their new roles will require: having an expanded, enterprise view of operations; supporting alignment of interdependent entities; understanding predictive analytics, which will become an integral part of the production monitoring process; frequent interactions with both customers and suppliers by applying topnotch critical thinking and interpersonal skills; managing teams that will be increasingly technical savvy and eager to participate in decisions concerning production processes; and fostering collaboration with high-level interpersonal skills The organisations can move the needle on leadership and close the leadership gap by improving leader quality and reducing variance, and by applying a lean manufacturing principle to leadership.
The best practices for accelerating leaders to M4.0 can be implemented in 3 steps.
1. Use of future-focused, business-based success profiles
Perhaps the most important first step in the plan is to define future success for key roles rather than relying on old definitions of what “good” is. Most leaders miss tying the business strategy to the leader challenges (at all levels) and what they will need to do differently to be successful. Knowledge is time-sensitive: What is relevant today will be obsolete tomorrow. The only solution is to employ people who are adaptable and accepting of new ways of doing things, leaders with a passion for learning, improving, and flexing with the times.
Experience: Don’t rely solely on past accomplishments or you’ll succumb to the technical trap—hiring for immediate skill needs, which will quickly become obsolete. Competencies: While many can be developed with time and
training, others can’t be learned. To maximise the return on your development investment, be sure to distinguish between the two.
dispositions is a key to job fit and therefore, impact retention and performance. They’re also very difficult, if not impossible, to develop. Both require innovative tools to assess meaningfully.
2. Find the M4.0 Star… not just any star
You wouldn’t go to a soccer match if you were looking to recruit a basketball phenom, right? Your current processes may be able to pick a winner, but it won’t be the kind of winner who’ll succeed in the new manufacturing economy. After you have defined “what good looks like” (i.e., the success profile), identify high-potential M4.0 leaders by keeping the following in mind:
Commit 100%: Investing in your bench requires more than senior leader sanction. You need to take aggressive ownership of your pipeline readiness, and have a set of objectives and an execution plan that is on-par with your supply chain or R&D processes.
Identify with the data: Current performance is entirely different than a leader’s future capacity to be successful in a new and/ or higher-level role. You’ll need additional performance, potential, and readiness data to find leaders who can produce in the high-speed, ambiguous, and competitive manufacturing environment.
Assess to find fit: Companies that use assessment methods to gather accurate disposition and behavior data accelerate the readiness of up-coming leaders and achieve the highest payoff. All potential leaders are not wired to drive growth; you need future leaders who can scale solutions and are entrepreneurial.
Measure and sustain:
Whatever form your acceleration efforts take, they should be built to outlast you and everyone else in your organization. Best in-class organisations install predictive people analytics as a means of not only monitoring the investment in the bench, but also redirecting actions and predicting what skills and processes will be needed in the future.
3. Accelerate readiness, avoid scrap learning
Design learning initiatives as a journey for participants— not a series of isolated interventions. When learning doesn’t stick or get applied, a form of waste called scrap learning is created. To avoid scrap creation, target learning to sustain improvement of certain key behaviors. Here are some important design considerations when you switch to a just-in-time, need-related learning journey approach: Avoid information overload: Nobody can take on too much information in a single sitting.
Use a combination of learning
segments: Link virtual and face-to-face learning to specific job-related projects for greatly enhanced effectiveness. Devise a realistic timeframe: Learning journeys take place over a period to allow for practice and absorption. Allow learners the skill-honing time appropriate for both the complexity of the subject matter and the volume of new information.
components: Employ formal and informal development for each participant or cohort group. Create a unique pattern of alternating learning forms—skills practice, project or problem-solving applications, discussions (inperson or virtual), networking, presentations, etc.—which will increase over time the likelihood that the training and the associated behavioral changes will stick. A well-designed learning journey provides a clear alignment between development solutions and business strategy, and shared new perspectives, insights, and leadership language among the cohort of leaders learning together
The problem with future manufacturing competitiveness and growth will not be a market problem, a customer problem, or even a technology problem. It will be a leadership problem. Smart manufacturers will act proactively and apply their own lean systems to improve leadership quality - a critically important, but often overlooked, source of cost variance.
Dipali Naidu, Head of Consulting, DDI India Pvt Ltd