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Making Time

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by John Austin in Behavior change, Leadership, Safety

This post was written by a guest writer and friend, Dom Perfetti. I met Dom years ago when he worked for one of my client organizations.

We were teaching behavioral science to their leaders across plants in North America and Dom was a stand-out in many respects – but most of all (to me at least) – he was a site leader and engineer who really understood people… and what drives their behavior.

And although he worked in manufacturing, I would suggest that we all have a lot to learn from his post, even if you work in another industry.

Time is the most valuable resource for all of us – and some people seem to do more than others with their time. I think some of the secrets to why are in Dom’s post.

I hope you enjoy it!
Dr. John Austin


The article on Finding Time to Make a Difference really “rang some bells” with me.

I retired from the manufacturing industry in May of 2021, I’ve taken on a part time role to support a local community college in Career and Technical Education (CTE) awareness. Most of the work is remote, and some is in visiting the college and local high schools.

What I realized right away was, unlike most of the manufacturing jobs I’ve had throughout my career, I rarely get interrupted!! The distractions are minimal as I mine data and prepare presentations. I’m amazed at what can be accomplished when I can truly focus on my work and have little to no distractions.

The manufacturing industry today is so fast paced that most managers, speaking from personal experience, cannot complete a single task without an interruption. We’ve also seen that “distractions” have become a leading cause of safety incidents.

How do we combat this when the overwhelming culture is to thrive on the urgent issues at hand?

I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the years, and I’ve concluded that most, if not all, activities in plant manufacturing fall into four categories: The first is what I call the “License to Operate” which consists of all our compliance standards, policies and procedures and legal requirements. The second category is “Run the Base,” which is where most of us spend the majority of our time. Categories 3 and 4 I refer to as “Continuous Improvement” and “Game-Changers.”

I’ll bet we can all agree that most of us and our teams spend the highest percentage of our time in the “Run the Base” category. We can easily become overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations, leaving little time to review and strengthen our compliance practices, and even less time for continuous improvement and game-changers!

Our environment constantly “shoves” us into the urgency of Running the Base, which leaves us open to deteriorating standards, and no time to work on continuous improvement or the long-term projects that will lead to step changes in plant performance. Too many plants live this way, and don’t understand why the business can find itself in a difficult position when we all seem so “busy.”

What happened and how can this be?

From my perspective, I’m a firm believer that ALL plants are busy, but whether they are successful is another story. Plants that are busy focusing on the right things become safe and profitable; while plants that are simply busy, repeating similar tasks over and over each day have difficulty seeing the slow but steady erosion of compliance standards, and fail to improve their competitive position because there is very little time spent on improvement, and perhaps none on the long term game-changers.

Successful operations rely on their engaged front-line leaders to run the base operation, allowing the leadership team to spend more time “to the left and to the right” of the Run the Base category, constantly improving safety, health and environmental standards, and making productivity improvements to the operation.

Here are a couple questions we can all ask ourselves as an early gauge on how we manage our time:

      1. Are we proactively scheduling time in our calendars to work on our important projects, or is our calendar primarily filled with accepted invitations from others?
      2. Do we find ourselves turning meetings into working sessions instead of informed decision-making meetings because we did not prepare our information in advance?

And, in my opinion, we can link all this back to a strong safety culture in the sense that if we start with safety and use our “pro-time” to assess risk and tasks at hand, build strong processes and a solid positive culture, we then have the foundation already built to apply that kind of thinking, attitude and behavior to all we do.

A strong and positive safety culture creates the habits that can then translate to all other aspects of our operations.

About Dom Perfetti:

  • 35+ years of manufacturing, primarily in leadership positions ranging from 1st Line Supervision to Director of Operations
  • Became a “student of the game” for safety culture change ~ 15 years ago when I began to understand the importance and impact leadership has on culture, and how the mindset and daily actions (hourly actions!!) of the front-line leadership team can make all the difference in the world with creating the right environment for work teams to thrive and prevent incidents and injuries
  • Have placed a strong emphasis on “leadership vs management” and how although management systems certainly support the sustainability of good safety programs, it’s safety leadership that creates the cultural change and drives the right mindset and behaviors.I learned safety the “hard way” and it took me years into my career to realize just how much we as leaders can influence positive change and desired behaviors, and I still consider myself just at the beginning of the journey! I’m motivated by helping others and adding value in any way I can.

Dom has retired as an operations leader, but still looks for ways to do work that matches up with his values. He can be reached here: DPerfetti@aol.com or connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominick-perfetti-923b8817/


Thanks for reading! If you’re thinking about how to get your team up to speed on these or other techniques I cover, email me for info on my courses.

Or if you would like me to speak to your organization on topics like this, reach out and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

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