|Home » Forums » Business » Message||Login|
You are not logged in. Consider these WOODWEB Member advantages:
Myth of the E-Myth8/3
The "E-Myth" is something of a bible around here, though having read it I'm not sure I'm ready to drink the kool-aid. I spent lots of time writing "manuals" that none of my employees ever read.
I posted detailed instructions on my edgebander, showing exactly how to get a perfect product every time. I can run the machine all day without a single hiccup, yet my employees are continually cursing the thing.
In a custom shop, there is a certain amount of activity that can be standardized, but if you get to the point where it runs like a franchise, it's not a custom shop anymore. Joe might be able to read a manual and make a perfect pie filling by mixing the right ingredients, but a custom range hood with compound angles needs a skilled craftsman who can think it through.
Am I missing something?
Not at all. In fact, I think it important that the distinction be made between a shop that can benefit a lot from thinking like the E-Myth and those that will only see minimal benefits.
Our shop goes from one project to another - ceiling beams 20' long, to a couple for interior doors, to paired 10' exterior doors, to a small veneered cabinet, to an arched cornice assembly over paired Sub-Zeroes, to an end grain top and turned base, etc.
Beyond an organized and clean shop, with a place for everything and everything in place (and that is saying a lot, and is very important!), there is no use writing up a whole 3 ring binder for each of these projects. The doors we make are pretty well set, but as soon as you count on it, here comes a batch that break the standard. Other things are so one of a kind, that we have to invent the whole process.
What is important, is that the employees be capable of evaluating more than one approach to each element of the upcoming job, and determine which is the best way to address the build. this is often done as a group, weighing out methods, tossing ideas in and out, and making a plan. This implies a higher level of skill and commitment than the average kitchen cabinet employee, but comes with the territory.
One other thing: after 40 years in the shop, I sometimes do things not because it is the fastest or most evolved method. I may grab a handplane and hone it up and enjoy making shavings, or play around with some jigs, or something else a bit less than productive, but that I find enjoyable. I earned it, dammit, and rigidly adhering to all sorts of self-imposed rules is fine, but only up to a point. One must enjoy work.
We recently hired two new workers who had absolutely no experience in a woodshop. They've been here about a month so far and are progressing very quickly. This is because we made the decision that this time the training would be formalized.
I've never read the E-Myth but I am a very big fan of written lists. If you don't write it down you can't cross it off. You can't formally establish a priority or a sequence.
We have a work cell that is dedicated to making drawer boxes. We've been building this particular drawer box for about fifteen years. If you would have asked me a month ago if we had drawer boxes figured out I would have said yes we do.
The funny thing is that in codifying this for the new people we were able to find five significant process improvements. These were improvements that eluded intuition and experience. When the processes were committed to pencil & paper (iPad & database) it became glaringly obvious what needed to be fixed.
I'll have to read that E-Myth book now. Pat Gilbert has been advocate of the book for some time now so it must be worth reading.
Very nice top and turned base.
I almost think the e-myth was written as an introduction to sell consulting.
But the point is extremely apt to business.
You have to tailor it to suit you but it is useful. I would go so far as to say that the difference between a big business and a small business is nothing more than organization. The definition of organization that applies here is training and placing people into the various hats/jobs that have to be done.
A shop with a lot of repetition will benefit more from the E-Myth. Which might be something to think about? Custom is fine but production is where you make money.
Training can be in depth with apprenticeships or as simple as saying this is how we do it now you try it. But the reality is that we mostly are going to do the latter.
But the fact is that there is no substitute for a mentor/apprenticing on the job.
Woodworkers are mostly functionally illiterate. IMO this is the very reason why they are woodworkers, I know this was partly true in my case.
So any training that require much literacy is likely going to have problems.
BTW the key to literacy is simply vocabulary. E.G. one definition of literacy is the ability to read and write but that is not the definition that I'm using here. The definition that I'm using is:
A person's knowledge of a particular subject or field.
facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
Mainly the practical. My point is do not use words that are not commonly understood.
I would also point out that when a person get confused by whatever you were teaching most of the time you will find that there is some word that he did not understand or misunderstood. E.G. if you thought I was talking about the the ability to read and write you misunderstood the definition of the word literacy that I was using.
The point is that this has a lot to do with training.
Now if you think that I'm being a supercilious twit, maybe but that is not my intention.
Another factor is that if you do not do this exercise you are in effect are saying that you want people to make up their own policy. Which is basically an organization of cats, i.e. there is no alignment of purpose and policy and effort, just every one going in every direction.
IMO the problem with the E-Myth is that it is all top down type thinking, Henry Ford thinking, but as Paul Akers would say that creates the 8th waste of not utilizing your workers to improve things. That is not to say that you do not need top down organizing/thinking.
But I do not think it is as fun or natural to force regimented methods on someone without considering improvements/ideas that they may have. As with the case Tim describes. Of course you have to have some sort of policy to start with.
BTW I think video beats the written word I use to do it back in the day of VHS type video cameras and in some cases it was worth it. OTOH I had the bookkeeper write up her hat on how we did the books which was 300 pages long. Because of a higher literacy rate with bookkeepers this was quite useful. (BTW this was before Quick Books existed)
IMO you are already paying for the expense of the E-Myth through mistakes and diversion from policy and slower process times by not doing it. Not to mention that you will plateau at a certain level because you cannot do any more in a day because you are doing it all yourself. A common complaint is the business owners don't want to expand anymore because it is too painful, which is a symptom that they have not applied the E-Myth type thinking.
This not to say that every business is scale-able as it is not. The more custom it is the less scale-able it is for the very reason that is takes too much training. I laughed that Gary Johnson (the Libertarian candidate for president a while back) built a handyman business into a multi-million dollar business. I thought this does compute so I looked into it further and found out that he had gone to high tech commercial construction, which required a bigger organization. This does make a case for specialization?
The methods and sequences we use for production are developed with the input of everyone in our company. The input of the new people comes in the form of explaining to us what we didn't explain well to them. A lot of times things make perfect sense to experienced people but not so much for the neophyte.
This is not to say, however, that we give the neophyte any latitude at all to create their own method. Toyota doesn't do this either and there are many reasons for this.
If you read Jeffrey Liker's book 'The Toyota Way' you will learn that at Toyota things are constantly changing but that they have a specific way to make the change. If you read Henry Ford's 'Today & Tomorrow' you will see that he had a tremendous respect for the people who worked for him. Henry Ford was the man who made it possible for a workman to have a life away from work.
One of the first observations in the Harvard Business Review article, 'Decoding the DNA of Toyota', was how the paradox of the Toyota method was how significant specificity was the key to freedom in the workplace. This is not necessarily obvious. A great example would be driving through any neighborhood in any city. Where there are stoplights and stop signs you can drive as fast as the speed limit will allow. It is when you cross through the residential streets that you have to stop at every corner and look both ways to keep from being T-boned.
Even Fastcap has rules. Like the university that has "Publish or Perish" has "improve something every day or move along". For all the bottom up management there it is useful to note that you never seen any one other than Paul Akers in the videos. Is that just another form of top down management?
Running these cabinet shops is like running a football game. Every scrimmage is a different strategy and each strategy is a response to current status. You can have your shop managers spending their time ascertaining field position, score, time on the clock etc or you can have them managing things that really matter. Electronic lists take the mule work out of management much the same way as Henry Ford's motor vehicles made it so we didn't have to push everything uphill in a wheelbarrow.
"they have a specific way to make the change."
What is it?
"significant specificity was the key to freedom in the workplace."
Good point. Complete freedom without any barriers would be insanity. Begs the question, freedom to do what?
"improve something every day or move along"
Is that true?
"Is that just another form of top down management?"
I don't see that as the ideas are implemented.
Who is the audience of your SOP?
I was thinking about this. I've written SOP for IT, for superiors, and for myself. A couple weeks ago I made an attempt at SOP for employees--phenomenal flop.
Led me to notice that my SOP was certainly not written with the intended audience in mind. I think Tim is on to something with his checklists...