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Blue Collar Dashboards
A True Story of the Power of Sharing Information

by Steve BogdonMonday, October 6, 2008

By Steve Bogdon, Partner Relations, Dashboard Insight

Bogdon & Gross Furniture Company was established in 1927 as a maker of wooden chair frames for upholstery companies. Today, my family's company produces a wide variety of heirloom-quality home furnishings for sale coast to coast.

At 15 years of age I started working summers at Bogdon & Gross and this continued until I moved away for college. During the six summers I was there, I worked in every department - operated almost every machine - and learned the ins and outs of making furniture. Fresh out of College I took on a few different positions at other manufacturing facilities before returning to the family business.

Soon after my return, our new Acting General Manager Adam Hofmann started planning for some drastic changes. This made me nervous; Adam had some pretty wild ideas for our old-time factory.

As an “old school” type of company, not much changed over the years in the way of production techniques, we were still making furniture by hand. All factory documentation (such as work orders) were still printed on paper, some even hand-written. We all understood times were changing and in order to stay competitive we quickly had to make drastic changes, both with manufacturing equipment/processes and electronic technology. We had computers in the office for many years but never on the factory floor. We found the employees resistant to change and they were frustrated with a few recent attempts that had failed. They basically liked it the way it was and had always been. Having said that, Adam was very creatively coming up with new ideas, and was quite successful at getting employees to try these new concepts. Still, I didn't think all of his ideas were the right ones. Knowing a good number of our staff personally for more than 25 years, I understood their frustration - but knew change was unavoidable.

One of the more interesting changes Adam implemented was the simple act of providing employees with information never shared with them before. To distribute this data, Adam started by mounting bulletin boards in every department - and on these boards he posted simple Excel printouts displaying graphs of department production stats. I didn’t understand the benefit of this at the time; all I saw was my highly paid General Manager was wasting valuable time and money on this project.

Once these graphs were posted, my feelings quickly turned from confusion to frustration. While making my rounds I would catch my employees standing at the bulletin boards looking at the charts and not working. I thought, why am I paying someone to just stand there wasting time? I even considered that they were just using this as another means of getting out of work, much like the smoking in the washrooms I wasn’t suppose to know about. I fought Adam every step of the way on this project, but he just kept pushing.

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