Employee engagement – Crash & Burners

According to the BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement, Crash & Burners rank among the top producers with medium to high contribution but get low satisfaction for themselves. They are described as disillusioned and potentially exhausted, critical regarding decision making (management) and colleagues having / taking it easy.

In consulting, junior consultants are good candidates for Crash & Burners. They usually get the chores like data crunching or all boring nitty-gritty tasks assigned while senior staff make the analysis and presentation. Juniors go through it well aware of their status but driven by ambition, experiencing their Crash & Burners phase. After some while, if they feel only squeezed out without proper compensation and promotion, they’ll quit. As the model says, “they can be bitterly vocal that senior leaders are making bad decisions or that colleagues are not pulling their weight”.

I cannot remember having met so many real Crash & Burners in industry. I believe true Crash & Burners are not that common compared to the many Hamsters in their wheels. The latter may complain about how much they work and how exhausted they are, but this is self-illusion at best and camouflaging reality most often.

One case among many similar I remember was a head of department harassed by his CEO for several reasons among which poor results of his department. This guy was desperate to improve the figures but couldn’t find the way. The more he tried, the burner he became as results didn’t correlate his efforts. The fact was he was not the best fit for the position. As so often, good engineers seldom make good managers.

The second case was a guy in charge of computing sales forecasting and material requirement. I first thought he was a Crash & Burners and at a point I really believed he could commit suicide. We focused on his problem and discovered he lacked the competencies for his job. He was multiplying trials to find a good way to forecast and schedule without the basic understanding of what it required. In reality he was not a Crash & Burners but a Hamster in a wheel, burning lot of energy for nothing and compared to genuine Hamster, didn’t get satisfaction.

Managing Crash & Burners

The real Crash & Burners and Hamsters that look alike are usually loyal and engaged until they reach their breaking point. It is therefore important for management and leaders to recognize the symptoms and help those people before losing them.

Helping Crash & Burners can come in many ways:

  • Check with them if they focus on the right things, as it is easy to burn energy on secondary targets or mismatching trivia with real priorities
  • Alleviating their difficulties with methods, tools and techniques they don’t know or do not master
  • Give them training and coaching, e.g. how to delegate, to prioritize, reflecting on their difficulties…
  • Consider adding a deputy or assistant
  • Consider business reengineering
  • Give Crash & Burners a “rest”, e.g. interesting project to lead, rotate chores, etc.
  • Praise what deserves praise and give credit, consider promotion
  • Check if another position would be better fit, without appearing as demotion

Crash & Burners are precious resources as they are contributors to company’s success and it would be a waste to lose them to competition or to the disengaged.

Not to forget, real good contributors may be popular and influent, if they slip into cynicism, aggressive passive behavior they may contaminate others in the organization and eventually leave with some of them.



The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.


Employee engagement – Honeymooners

This post is part of a series based upon the BlessingWhite’s ‘X’ model of employee engagement.

Honeymooners basically come in two models: the absolute beginners and the newcomers.

  • Absolute beginners either just graduated or embraced a new career. As they just got hired they achieved a personal objective thus have maximum satisfaction. In their integration phase they don’t contribute much to company’s performance but their enthusiasm is often a welcome little sunshine.
  • Newcomers have gathered some experience elsewhere and joined with the perspective to achieve a personal goal. Starting a new story on a blank page by joining the organization, they achieved a first objective on their journey toward their goal.

Regardless to their experience level, new joiners are usually full of enthusiasm and expectations, bring energy and good mood and all that fit to their engagement level’s name: Honeymooners. As for the newlywed, their love for their new organization make them blind about smaller details that have grown up to major causes of dissatisfaction to older employees.

Depending on many factors and circumstances, and of course management, honeymooners will fall in one of the other >categories<. Hopefully into the engaged.
The level change may occur after 100 days +/-, a symbolic milestone that stands for the period necessary to discover the good and bad sides of the job, the business, the organization and other employees.

Absolute beginners are usually very credulous about the job they’ll have to learn and the organization they joined, therefore the quality of mentorship they’ll get is key for the future; for their behavior, satisfaction and contribution. The newcomers with prior experience will be more critical about their mentoring and may escape the negative influence of bad minded mentors.

Newcomers may also be an opportunity for their colleagues to learn from outside and get benchmarks. Newcomers can as well be a threat to the existing team’s harmony if they import bad mood or other poor habits, things like that.

Honeymooners should be tutored and mentored by well-spirited senior staff in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, in both ways. Putting them with trusted senior staff maximizes the chances to lead the honeymooners to the engagement.

A third kind of honeymooners are those newly promoted to a new role. They’re rookies despite they may know the organization well. In these cases their discovery is about their new role not organization. Newly promoted managers may feel like honeymooners a while before discovering the backstage and downsides of their new position. Nevertheless, those honeymooners should be mentored just the same as others to lead them to engagement.

Alas, I’ve often seen good workers promoted to team leaders or good techs and engineers promoted to managers without any mentoring. For number of them, the difficulties of people management without training and coaching lead them to any level but engagement. Very often they’re found after a while amongst crash and burners or hamsters.

About the author


The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.

Employee engagement – Hamsters

According to the BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement, hamsters come in two kinds: the ones wasting their energy in an “exercise wheel” and the ones enjoying the cozy comfort of a position with minimum contribution.
In both cases hamsters do not contribute enough to the organization success, which is a problem for the organization and often also for their coworkers.

Hamsters live in an illusion. They believe being hard workers, some even think they are crash and burners but in fact get more satisfaction for themselves than the organization gets significant contribution.

Most of hamsters I’ve seen are people with limited abilities or competencies, happy with what they achieved so far but oblivious of the (new) requirements. In most cases those people didn’t notice the changes in the world around them. They still believe what they do is enough or even great while the business changed and they should have adapted.

As an example I remember a quality manager that did not understand what I was talking about when I asked him if they use control charts, statistical process control or any six sigma tool. This was in an interview in late 2013, while the methods and tools I asked about are basic to his job since the 1970s!

Hamsters often need to be backed-up, either because they waste energy and time on non-essential tasks or because they lack competencies and abilities to take over the whole job.

Hamsters do not always appear as such to their colleagues and managers, because the adjustments that make them still look busy happened slowly over time.
Breeding hamster often happens soon in startups when the scarce available resources are given positions, jobs and tasks according to their abilities and motivation.
Most of the time hamsters keep going on because nobody really bothers about their poor contributions, sometimes because they’re some top executive’s protégé or because they do the least harm in this position. Let hamsters go on peacefully is sometimes a kind of reward for past contributions, as for example to dedicated pioneers when company was founded.

Hamsters do not appear immediately to consultants neither, they generally are found through job analysis, for example when the analysis reveals a wide spread of tasks over several people. In such case, the job is done by those who have the competency and spare capacity to take over, regardless to global consistency and efficiency.
The table below shows such a contributors-tasks analysis. People are in column while jobs and tasks are in rows.

Every time a job is scattered on a larger number of people (horizontal lines) it is a hint that competencies may not be on the right just-necessary resources. Every time a person has a large number of tasks without being a manager (vertical lines), it is a hint of a possible hamster wasting time and energy on too many things.

As competition becomes tenser, hamsters become a problem. The search for efficiency, performance and saving sheds light on the poor performers. The hamsters, long unaware of their “status” and of the gap to the required performance level, resent the revelation.

Hamsters I’ve seen often feel victimized and few of them are really able to change, spoiled for too long.

Useless to say, hamsters are preferred targets for layoffs in case of downsizing.

In France, as maybe in other employee-protective states, laying off is not that easy. Ironically, when a company in trouble asks for volunteers to quit with compensation, the first to seize the opportunity are high potentials taking the check and getting their next job soon. It leaves the company with faithful hamsters and even more trouble..!


The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.

How to get from Goal Tree to action plan – Part one

The Goal Tree is a simple looking tool, great for focusing on the purpose or Goal and aligning all contributions toward the organization’s goal. As often with simple looking tools, its principle is simple but its construction and use can be tricky.

How to get from Goal Tree to concrete action plan is one of these possible difficulties.

Many Goal Trees can grow wide and tall, especially when beginners go into many details of Necessary Conditions (NCs) without trimming out the trivialities. Once this kind of Tree depicted, what to do with all these NCs?

From Goal Tree to action plan

My proposal is to make all boxes’ statuses visible by using the Green/Amber/Red color code.

  • Green is ok, objective permanently achieved, condition under control
  • Amber is to be improved or stabilized, e.g. objective not permanently achieved
  • Red is not ok, missing or far below under objective

To learn how to color-code the boxes, check out >this post<


Once the statuses are made visible, the priorities become obvious:

  • Ignore the Greens, they’re already ok
  • Turn Ambers into Greens
  • Turn Reds into Greens, into Amber first if gap is too wide
  • Give priority to Ambers, as they may be easier to solve or straighten
  • Start with the lowest NCs in the branch

Watch me explain in this video:

For each item you choose to work on, fill the action plan. If the problem to solve has some complexity, use an >A3 report< to structure the problem solving, then fill the action plan.


A3 example

Once problem solved and solution sustainably proven, adjust the box’s status and color.
Iterate with next priorities.
When the tree is all green, you’re done!

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BlessingWhite’s ‘X’ model of employee engagement

BlessingWhite’s ‘X’ Model of Employee Engagement is about maximizing employees’ satisfaction and thus maximize their contribution to organization’s success.

The name ‘X’ comes from the intersection of the two axes and the model proposes five basic employee engagement levels, relatively to the intensity of satisfaction and contribution. Full Engagement occurs at the alignment of maximum job satisfaction and job contribution.

More about the ‘X’ Model: http://www.blessingwhite.com/employee-engagement. and in the video:


The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.

Defects carry double costs

It is old wisdom dating back to the heydays of Total Quality Management, but useful to remind: defects carry double costs.

Let’s imagine a customer order consisting of a batch of four units of the famous red square. Just before shipment, quality inspection notices one of the four units is defective. The batch cannot be shipped as is, the defective unit has to be repaired or replaced.

The defective unit can be either repaired or reworked or if the defective unit cannot be repaired, it has to be replaced. In both cases, the solution to this quality issue will carry additional costs for the maker.

It is not likely to invoice the customer for the additional costs and anyhow it would not be fair as customer has nothing to do with this problem.

In a Lean point of view, customer would not be willing to pay for rework or replacement as it carries no value to him/her, so additional cost will come at the expense of maker’s margin.

The double cost

When a defect is found on a product, this product cannot be shipped. The worst case to consider is the defective unit cannot be repaired nor reworked, it has to be replaced. To replace the defective unit means scrap it and redo another from the beginning:

  • Get raw material
  • Process raw material
  • Assemble and test the product
  • Etc.

The total cost of replacement is the cost of the scrapped defective one plus the production cost of the replacement, thus double cost.

Some may argue that units that can be repaired or reworked do cost only a fraction of the costs for replacing a unit.

Others may argue that the total cost may be far higher than double, e.g. the consequences of rescheduling production, late delivery penalties, express delivery costs to avoid late delivery penalties, and so on.

Nevertheless, the double cost example is used as a simple reminder of all extra costs of non-quality. It is allegoric rather than accurate and evocative enough.



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Goal Tree chronicles – Clarity in objective setting

The action takes place in a big meeting room of a major leader in food industry’s plant. The top ranking managers (about 20 people) are assembled to listen to the CEO’s strategic plan, built on a Goal Tree. I attend as a guest, head of the consultants’ team and support to the CEO.

Goal Tree

It has been a kind of struggle to prepare this meeting, first in restating the Goal to make it more appealing, second to define all Critical Success Factors (CSF), key elements for deployment which were simply ignored by the Chiefs.

The concept of CSF and Goal Tree was unknown to the top executives, which is no excuse for not having defined the necessary breakthroughs and improvements to achieve the Goal, nor thought further how to align all contributions toward the Goal, nor how to cascade top objectives and so on.

The CSF statement had been a story for itself, related >here<

Once the CSFs SMARTly set, it was time to communicate and start cascading.

The CEO made a good speech (thoroughfully prepared) and asked the audience if there was any question. There was none.

Not really knowing how to go on, the CEO announced “Well, Chris will tell you about the next steps” and took a seat.

Bandeau_CH6This part was not really prepared but was no problem though. Facing a majority of engineers asking for pragmatic and practical advice, I summarized the former speech while drawing the Goal Tree live on a board. I drew one box on top for the Goal and four boxes underneath for the CSFs. I wrote each CSF in its box and started explaining what was meant.

One of the four CSFs was to improve customers satisfaction through an OTIF>96%

OTIF stands for On Time In Full, a common KPI to monitor demand management and supply chain performance. 96% means that considering all orders, at least 96% off all order lines should be delivered timely, completely in one shipment. Implicitly at the right location, complying with the specifications, QC passed ok, and all other basic requirements fulfilled.
OTIF> 96% is not very ambitious in this industry, yet from the actual state, achieving this objective can be called a quantum leap.
This company only operates in B2B

When I came upon OTIF, I asked the audience if everybody knew what OTIF is?
I know how powerful silence can be and kept staring and waited long enough for the first people uncomfortable with silence to speak up or shake heads.
In the whole audience, only roughly one fourth had an idea about what OTIF is.

I asked the Supply Chain Manager to briefly lecture his colleagues on this matter and we went on with other CSFs.

What this story tell us

What this story tell us is that clarity in objective setting is not only a matter of good wording or complying with SMART objective stating. Clarity is also about making sure people understand what is behind the SMART objectives.

The OTIF CSF was carefully stated, but had we assumed this correct statement to be sufficient for the management to understand and start aligning their department’s contributions on it, we would have experienced some disillusionment latter on.

Furthermore, I was disappointed by the managers’ not knowing what OTIF is and not asking for explanations. But this is another story unrelated to Goal Trees!

This post is part of the Goal Tree chronicles series

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Recover wasted capacity with SMED

SMED is a systematic approach to quick changeovers in order to minimize machine downtime. It is welcome to recover wasted capacity on a bottleneck resource.

  • A bottleneck is a resource with a capacity, in average, lower or equal to customer’s demand. A true bottleneck runs 24 hours 7 days a week and still cannot supply what is required.
  • A bottleneck is usually very expensive and/or difficult to get. If this is not the case, the solution is obvious: buy additional capacity!

More about bottlenecks.

As a bottleneck is the limiting factor hindering getting more out of the process, hence making money in case of for-profit organizations, and as the bottleneck resource is not easy to duplicate, the best option is to get more through it.

Analyzing the capacity

Almost every resource has a maximum capacity that can seldom be utilized, because of some reasons that waste some of it. The resource’s capacity can be can be depicted by a lab beaker as shown below, with a maximum capacity of 100 (%).

Several events during production will hinder the utilization of the full capacity:

  • Machine downtime
  • Lack of supplies
  • Human rest time
  • Etc.

These events are wasting the precious capacity, just as if our beaker was leaking. Changeovers usually are an important cause of capacity loss.

Reducing drastically the changeover duration with SMED is like fixing the leak and recovering a part of the wasted capacity.

In case of a bottleneck this is very important because the recovered capacity is converted in additional sales without (or delaying) investment in scarce or highly expensive additional resource.


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Would you trade Maria for a robot?

I am fascinated about the promises of robotics and other advanced technologies and prospectively analyzing what consequences – good or bad – the coming disruptions will bring.


During my vacation on Canarian island Fuerteventura and regular visitor of my hotel’s wellness center, I had plenty of time for thinking about things like “would I trade Maria (name modified) for a robot?”

Maria is the charming lady welcoming guests at the wellness center. She is a soft speaking kind and gentle person, doing her best to welcome and introduce guests from multiple countries to the relaxing experience of her realm, despite her limited foreign language skills.

I assume she makes her living in the hotel industry as many Canarians and is better off in this good smelling chill out atmosphere than her colleagues making rooms or serving in restaurants.

While relaxing in a hot spa, I was thinking about the future and the possible ever growing automation.

Trading Maria?

In such a perspective and “inspired” by the place, I wondered if I would trade Maria’s warm welcome for a technological solution, like a card lock as we have on our room door?

After all what Maria was doing was a bit of small talk, handing out a towel and a pair of slippers. She was probably doing more than that but the “value” I perceived was limited to this.

I could take a towel from a pile and a pair of slippers by myself and a card lock would be enough to screen out people having no right to access to the wellness center.

Everything else being equal, if I had to chose between Maria and a help-yourself solution, I would favor Maria, far better looking than a card lock and better help to improve my Spanish.

1% discount on the vacation price

What if trading Maria for the above mentioned alternative would give me 1% discount on the vacation price?

Well, the saving would be equivalent to four drinks at the hotel bar. I still value Maria’s kindness more than this. So I’d turn down the discount and let Maria make her living.

And 2% discount?

This would buy me and my wife a set of wonderful tapas and a glass of wine in a typical harbor tavern facing the Ocean. With such a perspective and having experienced how fine these tapas are, I’d say Maria, your job could be at risk..!

And 4% discount?

Maria would lose her job for a two persons full day excursion to Lanzarote’s volcanos and other sightseeing highlights, including the ferry across the Ocean channel and the buffet lunch plus three or four cups of Cava (the local sparkling wine coming closest to champagne) at the hotel’s bar.

Why trading Maria?

Still in my warm spa with dimmed light, chill out music and zen-inspired decoration, I went on with my analysis; what would turn me from being a nice guest praising Maria’s kind attentions into a selfish heartless guest trading her for a humanless process?

The tradeoff between what I get in actual conditions and what I could get more with a minimal additional effort. Maria’s charming ways would not stand against a tangible and meaningful personal advantage like getting more out of our vacation for the same price.

I believe a majority of guests would have similar analysis and similar conclusion.

My guess is that in future consumers will welcome all advantages of automation and robotics as the price for them will be minimal or remain hidden/unknown, just as most of us enjoyed buying cheaper garments made in low-cost countries even they came at the expenses of local jobs.
Someone else’s job.

Post scriptum

The term ‘robot’ in this post’s title is both a teaser and a generic term for a technological humanless substitute of human occupation.

Maria may give up her job to a humanoid robot, but I don’t think the return on investment will allow it in near future.

The real Maria gave up giving free Pilates discovery lessons, a part of the hotel’s animations, to an externally hired coach. From now on the hotel guests must pay for it. Not the trend clients expect…

Constraint vs. bottleneck

In Theory of Constraints lingo, there is a subtle difference between a constraint and a bottleneck.

A bottleneck (resource) is a resource with capacity less or equal to demand while a constraint is a limiting factor to organization’s performance, an obstacle to the organization achieving its goal.

A constraint can be called bottleneck but a bottleneck is not always a constraint.

Let’s take an example of a plant with a subassembly workshop gathering resources A, B and C. The whole process needs another resource D and final assembly consisting of resources E and F. The capacity of each resource is displayed under their letter.

The demand is 100 units per day.

According to definitions we’ll find two bottlenecks: resource B limited to 80 units/day and resource E limited to 60 units/day. Each of these two have a capacity less than daily demand.

Resource B is handicap to resource C and for the whole subassembly workshop, but has little influence on the throughput of the plant. Plant’s throughput is limited by resource E, which is both a bottleneck and the constraint. It is primarily E which hinders the plant to deliver 100 units/day.

Imagine The subassembly is led by a foreman named Hector. Hector’s realm encompasses The resources A,B and C. The final assembly process is his customer.

Hector has significant experience within this company and is well aware B is a bottleneck. Even so Hector may not know anything about Theory of Constraints, his common sense made him discover some good rules to better exploit the bottleneck resource.

For example, Hector organized breaks so that B is never left unmanned and not running, manages to minimize changeovers.

If he knew about Theory of Constraints, he would probably squeeze more throughput from B, for instance placing the quality check before the bottleneck in order to insure only OK parts will be processed by the very limited B. Actually quality check is after C, which sometimes causes B to waste valuable time processing parts that will not pass the quality check, something that could be foreseen before B.

As it is the case in many companies, top management set local productivity objectives and is expecting Hector’s subassembly to run with best productivity. Logically Hector will complain about B’s limitations and keep asking for another investment in a second B. Waiting for this investment, Hector manages to produce daily around 80 units, the best subassembly can do.

In Hector’s eyes B is the constraint, which is true if we consider subassembly alone.

Production manager Isadora has to take care about the whole plant and thus considers the whole process. She doesn’t know either about Theory of Constraints, but her analytical skills and common sense focused her attention onto E, the bottleneck and constraint to the whole process.

Having limited means, she’ll explain Hector that working to increase the capacity of B would have little interest as long as E is the limiting factor for the whole system (the plant). What Isodora did not notice is that as long the daily limit is 60 units/day, some costs could be saved in subassembly if its daily production would be aligned to the capacity of E, for instance overtime and excess inventory carry over costs. But she’s blinded by local productivity objectives set by top management.

Nevertheless, Isadora came close to self-discover the five focusing steps of Theory of Constraints:

  1. Identify the constraint (E)
  2. Exploit the constraint
  3. Subordinate everything to the constraint (e.g. subassembly)
  4. Elevate the constraint
  5. Prevent inertia to become the constraint

If Isadora succeeds to elevate the constraint E, chances are that the B will be the next constraint!


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