A Suggestion That Made a Difference

A Suggestion That Made a Difference

I came across the following story about Monrovia Nursery in a management newsletter we get at the office. I thought it was so outstanding and insightful, I wanted to share it with you. Please take a moment and read it.

The folks at Monrovia understand nurturing. As one of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries, the California-based company nurtures 22 million plants a year. But fortunately for the family-owned enterprise–and its employees–management is also quick to nurture ideas.

Among the most common tasks at Monrovia is “canning”–the process of transplanting growing plants into increasingly larger pots. Different types of plants are potted in different types of specially formulated soil, which is piled outside the canning shed. Of course, all the specially formulated soils include ample amounts of nature’s favorite fertilizer–manure. So when it rains, the soil becomes acidic. The stench is overpowering, and the wet, sticky, manure-laden mud coats workers’ hands and gathers under their fingernails. Soon their skin becomes irritated and their hands begin to hurt.

Or that’s the way it was before one of the workers offered a simple suggestion: Cover the piled-up soil with tarps so it will stay dry in the rain. Monrovia’s management quickly approved the suggestion–and got an unexpected lesson in how doing good can be good for business.

Once canners began working exclusively with dry soil, Monrovia’s plant yield increased dramatically. It turns out that anytime the workers had to pot plants using wet soil, the soil would clump and then dry in cakes. Plant roots couldn’t penetrate the hard cakes, so the plants died. With Monrovia’s canning operation transplanting as many as 2,700 plants per hour, a rainfall that thoroughly soaked the soil might doom thousands of plants. But because there was no fixed pattern to the losses, management never identified the problem until the tarps inadvertently eliminated it.

In heeding a simple suggestion, Monrovia’s leaders hoped to make work safer and more pleasant for employees. They wound up making it more lucrative for the company.

Adapted from “Small ideas, big payoffs: How to turn workers’ small ideas into big results,” by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder, on SeekingSuccess.com.

Some things to think about this week are as follows:

1. Do you have a suggestion box in your office that your team can use? Your team most likely has many great ideas of their own; let them know you want to hear them.

2. When was the last time you asked your people the following questions?

What’s stupid around here? What tool do you need to make doing your job easier? What is your biggest problem at our company?

3. Why do you do certain things the way you do? Are those still the best ways to do those tasks? What about asking, or rather challenging, your people to find a better, quicker, and cheaper way to do things?

Kudos to Monrovia and kudos to you if you take on the same mindset they did to their work.

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