Best of PI - Misc 4

Summer 1992 How On Earth Do You Make a Decision Around Here?

Throughout history some of the most infamous people had, among other things, a common decision making technique. Atilla the Hun, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein and their like never bothered to ask for advice. They made up their own mind and told the troops what to do. They found no need to concern themselves with what others thought because they were the boss and the boss decides what's best. After all, that's a macho way to make decisions.

We recently had a customer ask a question about how a company that operates the way T-S does, with participative management and company ownership by the employees, makes major decisions. As president I should know stuff like that but I was not able to answer her without some investigation. The answer I found is most easily described with an example of how we recently implemented a major change.

About 18 months ago, the company that provides our manufacturing and accounting software told us they were adding the ability to put a manufacturing order for our plant directly on the computer.

When we make out an order to produce books in our plant we have always typed all the specifications and instructions on a 9 x 12" envelope. We then make ten to twelve copies of it so each department can see what they have to do and when to do it.

If there were any changes to the order during the production process all those copies had to be changed and with 400 to 800 jobs in production at any one time, keeping all those copies correct was practically a full time job. If one copy was incorrect, a mistake could occur.

The proposed new software would allow us to put the order on our computer system where changes could be recorded immediately and the production departments could then produce their own copy but not until they needed it. Thus, they would always get the current information.

To decide whether or not we should do this and, if so, how it could be done, our computer manager put together a twelve person committee including at least one employee from every department in the plant and office.

Their assignment was to determine the potential benefits and problems and if it looked positive, develop an implementation plan that had the support of the majority of all the involved people. This was not a simple assignment.

They began meeting over a year ago and got together every other week.

At the end of each meeting they published their minutes for all who were interested to see. They gathered comments from other employees, discovered new problems and gradually got all 250 people, including me, on board.

Over a six month period these people met 14 times. They used brainstorming and other fancy techniques to try to uncover and solve potential problems.

Tbeir original plan was very complex but after 14 meetings it ended up very simple. By the time they (the committee ended up with 2O people including one manager) finished, virtually every T-S employee had been exposed to their ideas and everyone was strongly encouraged to comment.

In June they put their plan into effect by trying the new on-line concept on 50 jobs. They have since met regularly to review how it is working and they tell me by the time you read this, every order in our plant should be "on-line".

I'm not well enough informed to know what all this committee went through (although I do know that at one point it looked like the change would never fly), or why it took 14 meetings to accomplish, but I do approve of the process.

If you intend to run a company by participative management then people have to participate. If a decision or change is going to effect you then you should have the opportunity to state your views. It's actually your duty.

We have over 100 people currently involved in committees that are working on ideas just as complex as the on-line job order. For better or worse, it's our way of life. It's the way we make decisions.

Atilla the Hun might not approve of this decision making process but then we're not out to plunder Mongolia or whatever it was that he plundered. We just want to run a business and get the people involved.

Return to Best of PI - Contents

Summer 1992 Super Short Run Books

Our story about our Super Short Run System generated a great response. We quoted morejobs in that area in the past month than we did in all of 1991.

If you missed that article , here's a synopsis. In addition to our main plant capabilities that produce soft and hard bound books in quanfifies from about 500 to 6000, we also have a separate operation that does soft and hard bound books in runs from 25 to 500. This is done on totally different equipment and has some restrictions such as no blues and marginal halftone reproducfion, but otherwise it does offer something unique.

Return to Best of PI - Contents

Fall 1992 TS Prints AAUP Winners

The 1992 winners of the Association of American University Presses Book Show (books actually published in 1991) have been announced and we modestly say that for something like the 1Oth time in a row Thomson-Shore printed and bound more winning titles than any other company. We manufactured a11 of them.

Return to Best of PI - Contents

Fall 1993 Printer's Ink Issue Well Received

The last issue of PI was remarkably well received. We had over 100 requests for additional copies and several news letters asked if they could reproduce parts of it. One graphic arts publication said "Volume 9, Issue 2 of the Printer's Ink newsletter explains all the printer's jargon and the technical details of book printing. It's really a college education in book printing complete in four pages." We actually had a salesman from another book printing company call and say he learned more from reading PI than he did in his own company's sales training program. Ain't that sweet? Well at least it's nice to know somebody out there is reading it.

Return to Best of PI - Contents

Fall 1993 TS - A Text Book Example of Ethical Business Practices

We had an interesting phone call late this summer. A business professor at a large university called to ask us if he could refer to T-S in a textbook he is writing. The book is a summary text on U.S. business practices and will be published by Harper/Collins. Each chapter will have a lead-in story to set the tone for his coverage of that chapter's subject. Thomson-Shore will be used as his example on the ethics in business chapter. His knowledge of us came from our having printed several books for him that he published himself and also from his conversations with the University Press at his school.

Return to Best of PI - Contents

Winter 1994 Short Run Small Customers...We Love Them

One thing that T-S has gotten pretty good at over the years is working with individuals who want to publish their own book. Some of these are very short runs ... 100 copies or so ... and sometimes more but regardless, it is a market that is significant to us and one we have learned to handle well. Each year we print close to 1000 titles (out of a total output of about 4000 titles a year) for people or publishers who do, at most, one book a year . . . maybe only one book in their lifetime. If you fit in this category, give us a call. Who knows, you may hit a winner. My next door neighbor and very close friend authored and published his own book on monitoring the quality of river water. We have now produced ten printings and a total of 37,500 copies in seven years for him. His wife handles the fulfiliment out of the inventory they keep in their basement . . . a real family effort.

Return to Best of PI - Contents