Six DisciplinesT: A New Focus on Performance


It must have been a slow mail day when the postcard for a Six Disciplines seminar landed on my desk. I’ve never been a big fan of consultants. I had been involved with TruFast since 1986 and became the firm’s CEO in 2002. As the leader of a company that manufactures roof fasteners, I knew we had guiding principles for the business and felt they would sustain us.

Yet the postcard for Six Disciplines hit when we were struggling to develop a new employee compensation program—one that would emphasize results and focus employees on working more efficiently. We had been putting 10 percent of TruFast’s pretax revenue into a pool to share with staff. At first, the plan seemed to work effectively, but then it turned into little more than a profit-sharing program. All employees were rewarded equally, which was not our original goal.

Motivating and Rewarding for Efficiency

We struggled to develop measurements that would motivate and reward employees based on certain key indicators, which were founded on goals of efficiency and performance. We discovered it was easy to develop performance measurements for some jobs. For others, like engineering positions, establishing measurements was much more difficult.

The seminar promised to help companies to create efficiencies in the workplace, so I sent a couple of key staff members to the training. What they came back with would transform how we do business at TruFast.

We had always had a strategic plan, and we thought that was enough. But we learned quickly that knowing where you need to go and getting there are two very different things. After a discussion of the Six Disciplines philosophy with my nine-member management team, we invited the Six Disciplines business excellence coaches to help us move forward.

Working with Six Disciplines, It Was Still Our Plan

What I admire most about the Six Disciplines consultants is they have done it all before. They are humble about their mistakes and what they learned. With Six Disciplines, we still built our own strategic plan—what consultants provided was thecoachingand the infrastructure for executing the plan.

They offered us a comprehensive outline to involve in the strategic planning process those employees handling the nuts and bolts of our business—something new for TruFast. Not only did these employees bring a new level of depth to the process, but their participation also resulted in their buy-in into the final plan.

With the help of Six Disciplines, we rewrote job descriptions, refine key performance indicators, and changed performance appraisal tools. We also redefine how we go to market. We stopped worrying so much about growth and focused instead on creating value for our customers.

Assessing and Adapting with a Software Tool

What we find most helpful for managing our plan is the Six Disciplines software. My management team uses the software daily to guide our progress toward quarterly goals. We meet weekly, and the software really helps us stick to our plan. It has been amazing how liberating the Six Disciplines process has been—it allows us to say no to those things that make us lose focus. We realize we do not have to be all things to all people.

We are now able to provide weekly progress reports to employees based on their specific performance plans. Quarterly, we meet with all team members in town hall meetings. Unlike the past, where staff members didn’t want to attend, they are eager for the meetings because we now are sharing a new level of information. We have better employees who are more engaged in the process and the company.

Bridging the Gap with a Process

Before we engaged Six Disciplines, there was a huge gap between employees and leadership. We had always conducted the employees'' new level of surveys. Today we not only survey, but we implement employee suggestions, which are often terrific because of employees’ engagement in TruFast’s success. Team members who succeed significantly in the job get a bigger piece of the revenue pie. The system also assists us with those employees who need help to improve their performance.

Without hesitation, I can say there is not a middle market company that would not benefit from Six Disciplines. Now that we know what to do, it’s all about getting it done, and it’s a continuous process. I realize today it is much more important to define and execute values than recite principles. You have to assess daily whether customers will recognize what you are doing as valuable and will pay for it.

The Six Disciplines team still works with us. They monitor our progress and make comments on our process. I find it very helpful knowing I can review what we’re doing on an ongoing basis with outside professionals who are accountable to our business and have a stake in its success.

© 2007 Brian D. Roth. All rights reserved.

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  • Brian D. Roth President and CEO TruFast, LLC