meta Bottom Line: Who Is Responsible For This Mess? :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

Bottom Line: Who Is Responsible For This Mess?

How often do dairy managers stand in their offices and, with some kind of report in hand, deliver this frustrating news to their staff? Once is too often, if it’s your bottom line that is headed south. No one needs a winter vacation from financial success.

“Successful Dairies Don’t Make Excuses! They Make Changes!”

“It’s not my fault.” “It’s the economy.” “It’s the weather.” “It’s the government.”

Any or all of these might used to shift blame.  What does this mean?  No one really cares.  No one accepts responsibility.  The owner is the only one asking, “Who is responsible for this mess? When push comes to shove, messes are only eliminated when changes are initiated.

“What Does Accountability Look Like?”

It isn’t simply a case of taking the blame when the you-know-what hits the fan.  It’s not about who is guilty.  Being accountable means delivering on a commitment.  Milk production.   It is about being responsible to the targeted outcome, not just the daily routine of completing a set of tasks.  You can’t sit in an office and know what is working in the barn. You can’t hide in the barn and have any idea what is happening in the office. It is about initiative, action, and follow-through.

“Motivation Starts at the Top …. And After That… We all Know What Runs Downhill!”

When life throws a curveball, we are tempted to assign blame. We all know the routine.  Bad news is received at the top.  And bad news like it’s pungent neighbor in the manure pit runs downhill.  Soon there is a sh*t storm brewing that is delivered to the all within earshot.  Some listen stoically.  Others run for cover.  Then what?  Life goes on the same as before until the next bad news day.

WAIT!! Turnarounds mean you don’t talk AT staff.   You talk WITH staff.

Getting angry when people fall short is not productive. It simply reduces motivation and performance.  Success is about finding alternatives that change a negative into a positive.

  • Good managers know how to get a two-way conversation going. Employees need to feel
  • comfortable speaking up about their side of the situation. They shouldn’t be afraid to claim a
  • role in the problem for fear of even more criticism raining down on them.

Talk Up the Positive Too!  Who Is Responsible When Everything Goes Right?

Face to face conversation may not be the only way of communicating, but it is the best way. Both sides must participate and be understood. And then move on.  But don’t forget to share the good news too.  Does your team know enough about your dairy’s successes?  Big or small, knowing what’s going well on the dairy can make a big difference in preventing problems and learning how to deal with issues.  If the boss claims all the successes and staff bears the burden of problems, it kills motivation. Honest recognition motivates.  

Too Often It Becomes One Side VERSUS the Other Side. 

Here are five ways dairy operations dissolve into a tug and pull and what to do about it. 

  1. “It is Obvious What is Required” versus “It’s not obvious from where I see it.”
    Because you, as owner or manager, have benchmarks to reach, bills to pay and animals to raise, you may be very clear, in your own mind, about what needs to be done. To the person further away from the center of things it’s likely that it isn’t clear why things need to be done or even how they need to be done. Dairy staff may perform completing repetitive tasks without knowing how it affects the outcome.  If the job is not only repetitive but boring shortcuts or changes may creep in that negatively affect the outcome. How do you measure success? How do the workers measure success?  There needs to be alignment between the two. Some of the best modifications and improvements can come from skilled people who feel the work they do is worthwhile, the opinions and suggestions they have are heard and appreciated. If you don’t want lowest common denominator results don’t treat the working staff like they don’t count.
  2. “It’s Not Rocket Science” versus “I’m Not Paid to be A Brain Surgeon”
    New science, new economics, and a continually shrinking work face have resulted in the loss of people with skills. Has brought in new unskilled labor.  Has necessitated upgrading of skills. New equipment.    Digital inputs and monitoring. All of these could mean that the person doing the jobs needs training to be able to meet the rising expectations.  Are you ready and able to provide the skilled training?  Do you know where to get skilled instructions?  You must realize that if your staff doesn’t know how to do what they are being asked, then you are setting them – and yourself — up for failure.
  3. “Your Success is Tied to Results” versus “Results Don’t Mean Anything to Me!”
    When the milk check arrives or payment checks are sent, owner-managers have readable feedback and exact numbers on how successful the dairy operation is. When there is a sudden fall in production and or payments, it should not come as a surprise to anyone who is paying attention to the day to day operation. Sometimes problems seem sudden when, in reality, it is the result of lack of communication. Someone is afraid to ask for help. There isn’t any buy in to the necessity of reaching measurable Any movement in a negative direction needs instant attention.  In modern dairying, it is counterproductive to wait until the month end, year end annual review. What can be done now? How can it be fixed today?  What new and improved schedule do we need to put in place? A slip off track can become a major detour if it isn’t dealt with promptly.
  4. “You Didn’t Do What Was Asked” versus “So What? Not my stink. Not my ”
    This is the second time in the management staff dialogue where there is a disconnect between the reasons for the rules or operational procedures and the lack of incentive felt by staff to carry them out. Even when expectations are clear and proper training has been provided, it’s possible that the level of buy-in remains low or is even declining. A turnaround could be as simple as a regular positive acknowledgment.  An open dialogue about how routines are either well done or not working also raises the level of buy-in. Provided success is recognized.
  5. “There Isn’t Any Room for Your Mistakes” versus “Accidents happen. Live with it!” Even when you have a good idea, a well-formulated plan, and a willing team, there are enough variables on a dairy farm that things can go wrong. Somehow, a feed formula is incorrectly mixed. Medication is forgotten. Scheduling of follow-up is overlooked. A staff member misses the training session and, unwittingly changes things back. Anyone of these and many more can be the reason for problems. Once again it isn’t who is blame but who can fix it that is important. The only wrong answer is the one that says maintaining the status quo is okay.

The Bullvine Bottom Line – From Mess to Success in Two Steps!

Whether you are management or staff, it is essential to recognize that there is no gain in falling into a pattern of blame and shame. When everyone learns how to accept responsibility and is willing to be held accountable, the operation has found the two building blocks that are the foundation of a successful dairy.



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