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"I wasn't sure that the Mobile plant was the right place to pilot The Game of Work. We were the top-performing plant in the organization by any measure: productivity, shipping, quality, safety," said Jack Mitchell, vice president of operations for the Mobile, Ala., Coca-Cola Consolidated Bottling plant. "It was something of an 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' situation."
"Ron Hammond came on as the new vice president for operations in the company's Charlotte (N.C.) corporate offices. He and Chuck Coonradt go back a long way - they worked together on a Game of Work program a long time ago," Mitchell related, "so Ron invited me to a presentation Chuck did on The Game of Work. He asked me to think what a win it would be for the company if the best plant was able to improve."
Even after the presentation, Mitchell remained skeptical, but he agreed to give Coonradt and The Game of Work a shot. So Chuck began a series of presentations at the Mobile Bottling Plant.
"I had been thinking for a few days about what I would say to our managers - from myself down through supervisors and working foremen - when I introduced Chuck," Mitchell recalled. "I said that we needed something that would give us the next step because we were already performing well, and that Game of Work would give us that step." Mitchell admitted that the introduction came more from diplomacy than belief. His managers, supervisors and foremen were skeptical too, at first.
"The initial reaction was 'It ain't broke.' We were already big on measurements, big on empowered work teams. Our foremen were already keeping and turning in measurements on daily basis. We already worked that way. We were the best plant in the company," Mitchell related. The reaction was the same for the second session with Coonradt.
"Then in the third meeting, you could see the light bulbs popping on," Mitchell said.
"We were trying to make the scorecards different - the things that told us whether or not we were winning. When Chuck got us to look at a simple, basic scorecard, things started happening," Mitchell said. "We got down to the basics of what drives the behavior you want more of. We were caught up with complex measures of efficiency, capacity, and safety, which took days to calculate, and the average guy on the floor couldn't figure them out. We needed something simpler. We needed scorecards."
"People starting to identify the difference between measurements and scorecards. They started doing small implementations of scorekeeping with the teams. They began to see what 'win' was," he continued. "From that point on you couldn't slow them down."
"It's just grown weekly since then. There's a lot of belief in The Game of Work here," he added. Mitchell had seen top-down management programs before. "I sort of expected a consultant to come in, tell us how to implement a program, then leave when the program was over. The people here would call them 'flavors of the month.' The Game of Work is different. It's not just a program; there is no end date. It goes to a more basic level, the level of people communicating with each other."
"The most valuable things that The Game of Work brought to the bottling plant was more involvement by people at every level, showing them that they can do something - that they have an influence on winning", Mitchell continued. During Coonradt's fifth visit to Mobile, Mitchell had something to say. "I told Chuck that I had been trying to use a little diplomacy when he first came in, that I had said we were looking for the next step to be nice. Along the way, The Game of Work made the words come true. I believe it was our next step, the one we needed."
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