Author Eduard Lecha Puig
Summary. On this article Mr. Eduard makes the case of how how systematic interactions frontline workers and the rest of individuals of the company are important to executing a strategy and represent an all-important feedback loop that allows the managers to improve the decision making of the business and empowers people in an organization.
The Backbone of Execution
Frontline workers form the backbone of any industrial enterprise and are the driving force that ensures the company’s operations run smoothly. They are the individuals who are directly involved in the day-to-day operations, carrying out essential tasks on the ground. Whether it’s assembling products, operating machinery, providing maintenance or preparing orders.
While businesses rely on complex strategies, plans, and procedures, it is the frontline workers who bring them to life. They translate the abstract concepts and instructions from the management into tangible actions and outcomes. By meticulously following protocols and applying their skills and expertise, they ensure that every step in the business process is executed with precision.
The fact, they are in touch of the most functional part of the business makes it a crucial part for its development. So, when it comes on the knowledge about the actual functioning, identification of bottlenecks and future improvements that could be taken usually they have very valuable insights.
Recognition and Empowerment
One of the great challenges nowadays is related with how to empower frontline workers and push forward to keep them motivated. The improvement of this interation day-to-day would mean directly an improvement on the efficiency of the company.
To carry out this massive change of dynamics the companies would need an improvement of the framework that connects between the different group of individuals and the different business elements. This ability to adapt to changing dynamics and embrace new ways of working is instrumental in ensuring the company’s long-term success.
Nearly every business confronts unanticipated shifts the markets, major disruptions in traditional business models, pressures from customers, suppliers, and competitors, and consolidation among ever larger global players. It’s no longer good enough for an organization and its people simply to keep executing past routines. Companies must create an organization that is adaptable and highly responsive. Increasingly, companies need to build a culture of what I call passionate drivers—people who question the traditional way of doing things, dig into complex problems and stick with them until they are solved, and have an appetite to innovate.
This new empowerment and change is nowadays already reflected on our society, but there is still a long way to run. On the following article titled The “Smart Society” of the Future Doesn’t Look Like Science Fiction (hbr.org), the authors exposes the discussion of the definition of this new Smart Society. The article, suggests the necessity to bring the idea of a “smart society” down to earth, defining it in ways that are practical, actionable, and focused on outcomes.
An important objective then, is to adapt companies to the changing world and that only can happen by reducing the gap between individuals on the company and creating a stronger vision. This stronger vision has to be driven by people that take the “Trivial” Seriously.
It’s obvious this transformation is the most difficult because it implies modifying processes and improvements on areas where it’s complex to automate. For instance, instead of focusing, as usual, on high-pressure tactics to maximize short-term results, the teams need to become more professional, more focused on building deep, long-lasting customer relationships.
One of the key tasks for any CEO is to be the architect of how decisions get made in the company. A CEO who leads through the front will incorporate voices from the frontline ranks into management’s decision-making process. The point is not necessarily to give frontline new decision rights. Rather, it’s to make sure that their point of view is heard by the managers making the decisions.
One response I get frequently from executives when I talk about leading through the front is “Doesn’t that risk undermining your middle managers?” It’s a legitimate question—and it applies to senior managers as well. You have to strike a delicate balance between empowering frontline managers and making sure your actions and responses don’t short-circuit the formal chain of command. Empower frontline, but make sure you don’t short-circuit the formal chain of command.
The New Scenario
On the last transformation, the introduction of the IT systems, electronics and automation allowed already a big transformation on the companies. But, nowadays with the cloud computing and the new intelligences there’s a new scope. On the new scenario, some elements such as the real-time systems, integration APIs, cloud computing, AI, IoT and others will take place.
In the current scenario, many companies rely on disparate systems that often operate independently of each other. This lack of integration hinders the flow of information and creates inefficiencies in operations. For instance, data is manually introduced into each system, which not only increases the chances of errors but also wastes valuable time and resources. The absence of real-time synchronization between systems further compounds the problem, preventing businesses from accessing accurate and up-to-date information at any given moment.
One of the problems of all of this, is the complexity of the industrial systems. That’s why there’s a path to be followed which goes to different steps; connectivity, visibility, diagnosis, automation and act.
The promise of digital transformation efforts is being met by a harsh reality: Many front-line and deskless workers can become overwhelmed by new technologies, resulting in “change whiplash” that undermines adoption. In fact, 80% of human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) leaders report that they struggle with worker adoption of new technology. Poor adoption is perhaps the most significant threat to the success of digital initiatives and any promised return on investment.
What are organizations doing to help front-line workers cross the digital divide? Seemingly not enough: According to a Microsoft survey of frontline workers, 55% say that they receive no formal training on how to use their technology. It’s shocking: three-quarters of front-line workers need to use technology to get their job done, yet less than half receive even a minimal amount of formal systems training.
To make matters worse, the same Microsoft survey reported that 45% of frontline workers fear losing their jobs if they don’t adapt to their technology. With employee turnover rates at historical highs — 37% of deskless workers are considering leaving their job in the next six months —organizations who ignore the need to support their front-line employee’s tech learning needs run the risk of making a bad situation even worse.
The Power of Real-Time Integration
The next frontier lies in leveraging real-time system integration and automation to overcome these challenges. By integrating different tools and enabling seamless communication between them, organizations can streamline their processes, enhance decision-making capabilities, and improve overall operational efficiency.
Real-time integration enables data to flow seamlessly across systems, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors. For example, when an order is placed in the ERP system, real-time integration can automatically update the inventory levels in the WMS, trigger order fulfillment processes, and provide real-time visibility into the entire supply chain. This level of automation not only saves time but also minimizes human intervention, ensuring greater accuracy and reliability in data handling.
Benefits of Integration
The benefits of real-time system integration and automation are manifold. Firstly, it enables organizations to make data-driven decisions by providing accurate and up-to-date information across all systems. This enhanced visibility allows for better inventory management, improved demand forecasting, and optimized resource allocation.
Secondly, real-time integration improves operational efficiency by reducing redundant tasks and streamlining workflows. For example, with integrated systems, businesses can automate order processing, inventory replenishment, and shipment tracking, leading to faster order fulfillment and improved customer satisfaction.
Furthermore, integration fosters collaboration and communication within the organization. When different departments can access and share real-time data, it promotes cross-functional alignment, enhances decision-making processes, and enables teams to work together towards common goals.
The Path Forward
To embark on this journey towards real-time system integration, organizations need to adopt a strategic approach. It involves identifying the existing systems and tools within the organization, assessing their integration capabilities, and exploring solutions that enable seamless data exchange and communication.
Implementing robust integration platforms, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), or middleware can bridge the gap between different systems and facilitate real-time data synchronization. These technologies allow organizations to connect disparate tools, automate data flows, and enable seamless integration across the entire business ecosystem.
The Importance of AI
AI Can Help You Ask Better Questions — and Solve Bigger Problems (hbr.org)
How to Make Frontline Tech Adoption Happen
To prevent digital transformation from becoming digital disruption, corporate leaders, including IT, operations, learning and development (L&D) and change management, need a new approach for managing technology change and driving adoption. Follow these best practices to get started.
· Build empathy for the front-line. This is listed first for a reason; it is the most important of all. Organizations must have a culture that truly understands the needs, motivations and struggles of their front-line workforce.
· Get out into the field. Don’t design solutions from the “boardroom.” Organizations too often underestimate the unique challenges associated with designing, deploying, and learning technology for frontline workforces. Putting boots on the ground and compiling reliable feedback before creating change is crucial for long-term adoption.
· Start the process early. Training is too often an afterthought when it comes to digital transformation projects. Systems and technology training should be prioritized as part of a holistic change management approach.
· Meet frontline workers where they are. Organizations must create experiences that are optimized for the unique learning needs and environment of the front-line. This will likely require a different approach to curriculum development, content creation, and learning delivery: think microlearning, mobile-centric and in the flow of work.
· Take a lifecycle approach to learning and support. Organizations can no longer take a “one-and-done” approach to systems and tech training. New hire onboarding, software updates, support in the moment of need, and reinforcement to fix common mistakes all require an ongoing cycle of systems training.