Keeping it simple

Jackie Mathers

Jackie Mathers

First published in Business columnists by

The KISS principle is often cited in business – “keep it short and simple” (or, for some, “keep it simple, stupid”). This month, I saw it in action.

There are mixed views on the current state of the UK manufacturing industry, but it is very much alive and well at the Global Service Manufacturing (GSM) Group.

Headquartered in North Yorkshire, the firm manufactures, among other things, tread plates, interior and exterior trim, labels and nameplates for the automotive, aerospace, industrial and domestic appliance markets, employing more than 400 people in the UK.

I had the pleasure of visiting one of the firm’s nine factories this month. The factory was immaculate, and every member of the team I spoke to during my visit was focused on delivering high quality work. As I toured the site, it became clear why.

I learned that the team is involved in shaping their working practices. That involvement, coupled with the firm’s “autonomy with accountability” philosophy, is resulting in an engaged and motivated workforce that takes responsibility for delivering on performance targets.

It isn’t all plain sailing. The business has faced tough decisions, particularly when the downturn hit the automotive sector. GSM cut back production significantly but, unlike many of its counterparts, didn’t shut down completely.

Instead, production switched to a shorter week and staff were deployed elsewhere in the factory. It meant that when demand picked up again, GSM was the only factory capable of getting production underway at short notice, which helped ensure its survival.

I always enjoy meeting the entrepreneurs and businesses that are making such a significant contribution to the regional economy. It’s fantastic to see what drives entrepreneurs forward, and to learn more about the ways in which so many businesses are surviving – and thriving – through the economic downturn. It also helps us shape the support we provide for businesses.

On the face of it, the GSM philosophy seems so simple: do things right, do them well and look after your team. Seeing it in action is inspirational, and it served as an important reminder to me not to overcomplicate things that don’t need to be complicated.

I’d love to hear from other businesses about the secrets of their success. If you’ve got a success story to tell, contact me on business.school@yorksj.ac.uk

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