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feedback loop

Using a Feedback Loop for Better Productivity 

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I work primarily in the manufacturing industry, helping them with lean methodology to improve efficiency and decrease waste. Inevitably when I am called in to help, management thinks the main problems stem from the production floor – if only they could increase production, all the problems will resolve. 

I listen and then go right to the front office, because what they do impacts the rest. We have to start at the beginning of the process. If order taking isn’t done correctly, it doesn’t matter how efficient the production team is. 

If we use the analogy of building a house, the front office is the foundation. You could hire the best contractors in each of their respective trades and skill levels, yet if the foundation isn’t good, the home will have issues. All the repairs made to the house would simply be temporary fixes, and they’d add up over time. Fixing the foundation is the only solution, and fixing it after the house is built, is the most expensive repair to make. 

In business, in order to make sure the foundation and structure is correct, a feedback loop or loops should be put in place. A feedback loop is simply a process that purposefully gathers information to be used for improvements. 

“A feedback loop can be customer or employee focused but the goal is the same: continuous improvement.”

Productivity and feedback loops go hand in hand because in order to solve issues with decreased production, we have to look at the system as a whole. We need to gather information, and continue to gather information, in order to discover the underlying issue. 

Let’s use a client example: 

I had a client in the service industry who was struggling with low production. They hired more staff to solve the problem, but were facing the same issue, just with more people. Management felt that if technicians could complete more jobs in a day, revenue would increase, but they couldn’t figure out how to motivate them to do so. 

When I talked to the field technicians, they felt if they had more streamlined routes, they could produce more. As usual, frontline staff and management were blaming each other, creating a cycle of under-productivity. This was our first feedback loop – gathering information from staff.

We used an internal feedback loop to hear from employees what problems they were seeing. We also used a customer feedback loop to find out what was and wasn’t working regarding their service. Most customers were happy, but the ones that weren’t had a theme: the field technicians weren’t showing up when the office said they would. 

When I sat with the order takers, I discovered they weren’t notating the arrival window the customer needed in their notes. This meant technicians were arriving too early, or too late, resulting in a “no job” or reschedule. This important part of the process fell through the cracks when a software change happened, changing the order takers’ input process. 

Ultimately, the issue wasn’t with the production team, but those taking the orders. This created a domino effect that resulted in lower productivity. Without a feedback loop, the company was working to fix the problem they thought they hadrather than the real problem. 

Resolving the real problem increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and reduced employee frustration. That’s the power of a feedback loop! 

If you are ready to be proactive, or have found some process holes that need to be filled, that’s my expertise. PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more. 

Having Trouble with High Employee Turnover?

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It May Be Time to Look at Your Processes

Some industries are known for high employee turnover. They tend to be jobs in retail or food service, where jobs pay low and are plentiful, but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, according to LinkedIn Learning, Software and Media jobs also rank among the highest.

There are some reasons for this high employee turnover that have a lot to do with changes in the industry, creating a wave of trends that those in employment sectors are watching. But, if you have discovered that your business is suffering from unusually high employee loss, and it doesn’t seem to fit the industry trend (or it does but you’d like to reverse that), you may want to take a look at your processes.

The Management Hole

One of the biggest complaints by employees is that they feel management makes decisions from behind a desk, without really understanding the front line. There tends to be a gap between what managers want from staff and what staff is able to provide. This becomes the forever battle between the front line and management teams.

Hands-on management encourages and equips leaders to spend time getting to understand their direct subordinates. Learning employee motivations and interests helps to close the communication gap, but is it enough?

Lack of Awareness

Sometimes, high employee turnover comes from a lack of awareness about why it is happening to begin with. Are there exit interviews in place? Is the management team open to feedback and continuous improvement?

Simply reviewing the motivations for employee terminations and resignations can create a huge insight from which management can begin to make positive, money saving changes. Just like changing a manufacturing error that creates a physical defect in the end product, making a change to a hiring, on-boarding, or management practices can correct problematic employee results.

High employee turnover and repeated disciplinary actions may be a sign of a broken system

An Example from the Trenches

Recently I discovered that someone close to me left his job in frustration over something that could have been fixed for under $20. The employee had been given warnings with increasing penalties for consistently not taking his lunch break on time. He was often focused on work, and with no clock in the work space, often lost track of time. Due to the type of work he was doing, wearing a wrist watch was dangerous, and he wasn’t allowed to have his cellphone on the floor.

Overall, he felt he was ‘magically’ supposed to know when it was lunchtime, and clock out at the appropriate time. Most of the time, a certain person returning from their break would be a visible trigger for him, but other times he missed it, and therefore, missed his break start, setting in motion a domino effect of missed lunch breaks for others. This was obviously a frustration for management.

When the employee asked for a clock to be installed, or the one on the wall to be repaired, he was told it would happen, but that day didn’t come before he received his third verbal warning for a late lunch clock out. Frustrated, he offered his resignation. No surprise, this wasn’t the only management fail he had experienced, but it was the straw that broke his back.

So, given the cost of replacing the employee, or purchasing a $20 clock, what would you choose? What systems need to be in place in order for this type of mistake to be avoided? A feedback loop? A change in procurement practices? What simple steps can be implemented to reduce the emotional and actual cost of high employee turnover?

Simple, Effective Solutions

Often, when I visit companies looking to improve results that aren’t meeting their expectations, I find a very simple fix. Sometimes this means throwing out cold inventory, changing how a process is done to improve efficiency, or simply purchasing the one thing employees need to be successful.

As an objective outsider, equipped with Lean Management tools, I walk through facilities and processes with a keen eye focused on the areas that can be made more efficient. Some of these changes are immediate, and others take time to get into place.


PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.