The Far-Reaching Effects of Your Work

By: Dominic Bria, Shingo Institute

Most, if not all, of you who read this are concerned with improving processes at your organization. In the day-to-day grind of making that happen, it’s easy to forget that the work you do can have profound effects far beyond where you can see them.

There were some good examples of this at the 2017 Shingo Conference this past April and I want to share one. If you were able to join us at the Shingo Conference this year you might remember hearing about Land Apparel S.A., one of the recipients of the Shingo Bronze Medallion. If you weren’t able to come to the Shingo Conference, here is some background.

Land Apparel, a subsidiary of Landau Uniforms, is a manufacturing facility in Puerto Cortes, Honduras. Most of the associates in the plant drop out of school between 6th and 10th grades. These associates had no prospect of improving their lives through education. When Land Apparel undertook their drive toward excellence, its leaders realized that in order to raise the performance level of the plant, they first needed to raise the educational level of the associates. To achieve this educational objective, the managers and engineers earned qualifications as high school teachers. The leaders of Land Apparel went through the accreditation process to make their facility an officially recognized high school. The company extended the lunch break to an hour and twenty minutes so workers could take classes during lunch.

At the time of the 2017 Shingo Conference in April, over 1,000 workers had attended classes and over 100 of those had graduated high school. More than 70 associates had gone on to attend college. This is an inspiring example of how a company can lift its entire community.

The success of Land Apparel is an unusual example, but it’s not hard to see how improving a person’s situation at work can have far-reaching effects in many ways. A person who feels respected is more likely to treat others with respect. A person who feels safe at work will likely feel less work stress, which can have positive effects on both physical and mental health.

These aren’t just nice ideas; they are backed up by scientific research. Shingo Insight™, the facility assessment tool offered by the Shingo Institute shows correlation between Shingo-based practices and employee engagement. Koyuncu et al. (2006) conducted a study that shows engaged employees have a lower number of mental health incidents. And in the study conducted by Rodrigues-Muñoz et al. (2014), engaged employees reported higher levels of happiness and better relationships with their significant others.

Oscar Xitamul, a former analyst for Rexam’s joint venture (now Ball) in Guatemala – a 2015 Shingo Prize recipient, said this of their improvement journey:
“It really changed our way of thinking. We also act like better people outside the company. We are better fathers. Better sons. We are better brothers.”

You, as a process improvement specialist, can approach your work with the knowledge that the good you do can go beyond the facility in which you work. It can extend to the private lives of your work associates and the communities in which they live.

Koyuncu, M., Burke, R. J. & Fiksenbaum, L. (2006). Work experiences and satisfaction of male and female professors in Turkey? Signs of progress? Equal Opportunities International, 25, 38-47.

Rodriguez-Muñoz, A., Sanz-Vergel, A.I., Demerouti, E., Bakker, A.B. (2014). Engaged at Work and Happy at Home: A Spillover–Crossover Model. Journal of Happiness Studies. 15:2, 271-283.

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