‘Job Sharing’ Viewed as Enlightening Experience for
Recently, while attending the K/BIS in Chicago, I had the
opportunity to hear a presentation by Don Lipp, a former employee
of Disney and an author of Even Monkeys Fall from Trees.
Lipp spoke about the responsibilities all of us have in the
workplace. One of the things he mentioned was that, at Disney, all
employees including top management worked all of the jobs of the
other employees. He told a story about how everyone always thinks
the jobs of fellow workers are easier than theirs, and that other
people’s contributions fall short of their own.
I started thinking about our own employees and the things I
often hear them say. For example, when an installer says, “The
salespeople have the best job because they make the most money and
they do the very least. All they do is have people give them money
for a new kitchen or bath, and then they go home.”
Then I thought about how the drivers say the installers have it
easy, “because all they do is install cabinets and it’s us who have
to load and unload the heavy items, and carry them into the house,
while all the installer does is talk to the homeowner and have
And then I thought about how our office staff often expresses
the view that not many people appreciate what they do while, in
their view, their job is really the most important.
I decided then and there to follow Lipp’s example and make
everyone in our company do what everyone else does.
We started a sort of job-sharing practice for a few days. Each
week we have one or two people go and work with someone else.
Installers will sit in on a job presentation, so they’ll have the
opportunity to see just what it takes to sell a job. The
salespeople will go out on an installation, and work for a day or
two during different aspects of the job, so that they can get to
see just what it takes to install the projects we sell. Similarly,
our truck drivers will sit with a customer as a designer explains
why the bath or kitchen should be designed as it was.
All of our employees need to understand that in this business,
like any other things are not always what they seem to be.
The effects of this practice have been quite interesting. While
our production manager used to say things like, “The installers are
all a bunch of crybabies. If everything is not just perfect, they
complain,” now she sings a different tune.
While she was on a install of a project, the plumber had to go
in the basement of the house and open a clean-out plug. She was
standing there, and suddenly a whole lot of junk came out of the
stack pipe, and got all over the plumber. She then watched the
installer climb up into the attic to connect and run the vent for
the spacesaver microwave oven. It happened to be a 97-degree day.
She said when the installer came down from the attic, he looked
like he’d just walked out of a shower.
The bottom line? She now has a newfound appreciation for the
installers of the projects we sell. Her complaints are much more
subdued, because she now realizes that their jobs are no trip to
Since our salespeople have begun job-sharing, we’re seeing
similar results: Less complaining and a better understanding of the
importance of having a complete set of drawings, and an agreement
that’s complete and detailed. The installers, in turn, are saying,
“I never realized how hard it is to sell to some of the people we
deal with.” And, “How did the designers learn to design, and make
everything fit so well?”
We’ve had installers come with the designer for the final
walk-through and see what it takes to collect the final check.
Allowing them to see first-hand and from the homeowners’
perspective things that aren’t completed, or work that’s sloppy,
makes them better installers. Seeing this has opened the eyes of
our installers because they do not want this on their
The entire attitude of the
company personnel has changed since we implemented our job-sharing
practice, because they’re all sitting in the other person’s seat.
We think that this sort of job sharing is going to make a world of
difference in the attitudes of all of our personnel.
One word of caution, however, should you decide to proceed: The
one rule we have is that no one goes on a project they were
involved with. In other words, designers cannot go on their own
jobs to work with the installer, and installers cannot go on the
job they are going to install or a job they worked on.
As an owner of the company, it’s equally important that you go
out on the truck for deliveries, work on a job for a day and see
what has changed, work in the warehouse, or help unload a truck of
cabinets for a client. Similarly, you should sit with the designers
and see how they’re selling or presenting projects. This can only
enhance your company, and more than likely improve the working
relationships with all the company employees.
Callier & Thompson
Kitchens and Baths