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"Do different"

A guest blog by Modestino Graziano - a seasoned Operations Director and a self proclaimed 'Chief Troublemaker' in the world of Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices - on the importance of honesty and transparency in the workplace. 


I feel very strongly that relationships at work need to be more honest and not constrained by the workplace hierarchy. Of course, from time to time we all have to accept direction but in the 21st century a vibrant organisation that wants to get things done needs to keep lines of communication short, simple and to the point. Honesty is right at the core of getting things done right.

You have to be, however, careful with how you structure honest feedback. You don’t always get thanks for honesty. Even in my personal life the same is true; my grown-up children affectionately refer to me as ‘Baron Blackheart’, not because they don’t love me but because I don’t sugar-coat my opinions. These exchanges usually develop at the end of a family dinner and continue well into the night as we try to win money from each other playing poker (I almost always win, which I think is the real reason for the ‘Baron Blackheart’ jibe).

Of course, my children misjudge me, my drive for complete honesty in the workplace is to make sure everyone gets heard and for that you need a strong culture and total respect for the individual, irrespective of their position. You need to engage the ideas and decision-making process at every level.

Whenever I hear the words ‘world class’ followed by an absolute number I totally switch off, not only because it’s a gross oversimplification of something important but because the statement is devoid of any intellectual context. One such measure that gets a lot of attention particularly in highly automated manufacturing organisations is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

What I mean by intellectual context is how the OEE number is composed, i.e. the calculation of the result based on the component elements and crucially what’s included and excluded – any suggestion that a single number can be used as a standard for a ‘world class’ target across all industry lacks any credibility. 

The notion of an absolute number to represent ‘world class’ also obscures the crucial issue of complexity which is very significant in determining true relative performance. For example, compare an auto assembly machine assembling four individual components with two machine operators working full time optimising component supply and minimising machine stoppages with the same scenario but the components undergo a range of pre-assembly and inline processes, e.g., lubrication, sealing, camera systems, etc.

Comparing these two very different assembly operations and asserting that the result from one operation is “world class” (because the result matched some world class prescription) and the other did not (and is therefore not world class), is naïve in the extreme. 

Successful improvement in asset performance is exclusively people centric and strongly correlated to pride and curiosity, supported by great leadership. 

And most importantly, it doesn’t matter how you measure your improvement, so long as you measure it consistently from period to period. It should be set in the context of a disciplined long-term journey comparing every hour, shift, day, month and year against the corresponding historical period and not to satisfy some external meaningless platitude. 

I would avoid importing some made up ‘stretch’ target designed solely to energise the internal team with an implausible industry norm (e.g., world class). 

My university motto was ‘do different’, so I would advocate this philosophy and give the team the responsibility for setting the target and make sure the leadership of the team is serious and above all supportive. 


If you would like to discuss engaging Modestino, please speak with Joel Kirkland.

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