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  • Writer's pictureTim Hammerich

The Temple Grandin Interview: An Unexpected Lesson

Dr. Temple Grandin’s story is inspiring. If you haven’t already seen the movie about her life, I highly recommend making it a priority.

I was ecstatic to interview her for the Future of Agriculture Podcast to discuss overcoming obstacles, influencing agribusiness, and understanding animal handling.

What I didn’t expect was a fascinating insight on management.

Dr. Grandin was telling me about how McDonald’s conducted meat processing audits in 1999 based on a scoring system she had developed.

She states that as a result of her scoring system and these audits, she saw more changes in the meat processing industry in 1999 than she had seen in her entire career (dating back to the 1970's).

In a very short amount of time, 90% of plants were able to stun 95% or more of the animals on the first shot (up from 30%). They were able to decrease the number of animals falling, the number of animals showing signs of discomfort in the stunning area (such as “mooing”), and the amount of times they had to use the electric prod.

Also, through Dr. Grandin’s scoring system, the plants were able to drastically reduce or eliminate various acts of abuse and animals being hung on the rail prematurely.

Those facts by themselves are incredible. However, I was really shocked to then hear this part of the story:

Of the 75 audited plants that made major improvements, only 3 had to make large investments. 72 of 75 plants simply had to improve management and maintenance.

Dr. Grandin tells me in the interview that she has found that “people always want the THING.” They are waiting around for a product or technology or “shiny object” to solve their problems for them. They never want to be told that the answer may lie in their inadequate processes or management.

She elaborated that getting people to to buy new equipment was never that difficult. The hard part was getting people to operate the equipment correctly. However, in order to achieve this you have to train the MANAGERS and hold them accountable to making sure their workers are doing things the right way.

I think we, as managers, can often fall into the trap of resisting change for fear that it is an admission of guilt that our process wasn’t working. What Dr. Grandin’s story reiterates to me is that most business problems can largely be solved by more effective management.

What’s bothering you about your company, team, or workflow? What types of management changes could be implement to proactively minimize those challenges?

Steve Jobs was the king at the unveiling of new technology. Part of us would all like to be that guy or gal on stage announcing a product that will revolutionize the world. But in reality, the most impacting and lasting change can come in the form for good ole boring management. A scoring system, a checklist, an employee training, or a clearly defined process or expectation.

I’m very thankful for the short amount of time I got to spend talking to Dr. Grandin and for this management gem of a reminder.

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