There Should Be No Gap:
During a recent discussion on our economy, a friend said to me, “In fact, we are not manufacturing much in the U.S.” He wasn’t referring to the pandemic slowdown or the 2009 recession. He was trying to make the case that the U.S. has shipped manufacturing offshore, and we don’t make many products here now.
However, what he claimed was “fact,” in reality, is not fact. The truth is that until the pandemic shut down a great deal of production, manufacturing had fully recovered from the 2009 recession. At the end of 2019, the U.S. was at a new manufacturing high (110% of the 2012 level).
I know what he was thinking. Manufacturing employment has been steadily declining from 1945 until 2010. From what I can tell, looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total non-farm employment has leveled out at 9 million workers. Manufacturing output isn’t down. We are still producing as much as we ever did. However, employment in manufacturing is down, mainly due to automation. (See the graphs at the end of this post.)
The point is, if, at all possible, there should be no gap between facts and the statements we make. We all make mistakes, of course, and facts do change over time.
Head and Heart
As leaders, we must provide what we know to be facts as we deal with our teams and employees. The message isn’t always easy for others to hear. Yet, the conversation must be had. That is when the leader must employ heart—be compassionate. I call that carefrontational.
There have been abundant carefrontational meetings during the pandemic shutdown. Business owners and CEOs delivered hard facts to c-suite leaders, management teams, and employees. The reality of significant revenue loss has forced many companies to reduce headcount significantly.
Many companies are growing during this pandemic. Their products or services are in high demand. Yet, they face difficult decisions on how to keep employees safe while also increasing production. Again, the leader must be compassionate and put employees first. The leader must determine the facts around the business environment AND must discover as best they can the reality around the transmission of the coronavirus.
Science is self-correcting. That’s a beautiful thing, but it presents problems for those of us making decisions on what we know now. We know things are going to change. Science will correct itself, and what we thought was the best yesterday will not be best now. We have to be able to not only update our data and knowledge; we have to be able to articulate to our employees what has changed, why it has changed, and what it means to our operations.
If we develop a culture that respects determining relevant facts, tries to avoid gaps between statements and those facts, and is always checking assumptions and changing circumstances, then we will have an agile company. It will be a company that is adapting quickly to the realities of our marketplace.
Images for reference. Click on an image to enlarge it.