When an ergonomics issue has been identified at your company, how do you engage with stakeholders (designers, maintenance, and engineers) to implement a countermeasure?
This is a situation I encounter frequently while working with the new-model development team at Toyota. As the pilot ergonomist, my main function is to identify part issues and countermeasures during vehicle development. I also play the role of negotiator, helping stakeholders see and understand the problem with the part’s design. Negotiating with stakeholders is no easy task, and can be very frustrating at times.
Here are 3 tips for engaging stakeholders:
- Talk beyond the numbers. Once a concern has been identified (e.g., a push force exceeds the guideline), focus your discussion with stakeholders towards the root cause of the problem and potential countermeasures. If the measurement system is reliable, don’t dwell on the measurement results (i.e. the numbers) or method.
- Put the concern into perspective. When is a “borderline concern” a real concern (e.g., a force that measures marginally above the guideline)? Help stakeholders understand the concern in its environment. For example, a borderline force could be a major concern if it’s done in a poor posture and there are no alternatives to improve the posture.
- Show the impact of failing to design out root cause or implement the countermeasure. A designer’s main priorities are styling and performance, followed closely by costs. They often regard countermeasures in terms of dollar amount increase/decrease per vehicle, and do not see the costs absorbed by the assembly plant. Help designers understand the true cost of a countermeasure (or a lack thereof) by demonstrating what additional equipment/tooling or staffing would be required at the plant level and the additional burden on processing.
Although a win is not always guaranteed, mastering the art of negotiation can broaden the stakeholders’ perspectives and encourage them to study a countermeasure before rejecting it.