To cut down on unproductive meetings, Melia Peavey takes her staff meetings directly to the trouble spot. "When you're cooped up in a meeting room the problem seems remote," says Peavey, COO of Peavey Electronics Corp., an 1,800-employee electronic musical instrument manufacturer in Meridian, Miss. "By going to the site you get decisions rolling quickly. The different managers can pick up on what needs fixing. The human-resources manager can see how employees work together. The MIS manager sees how employees use the computers. You can stop and question employees on the spot, rather than hearing secondhand what's going on."

When rejects piled up in the raw materials warehouse, for example, Peavey and her managers went right to work by cleaning up the debris and brainstorming about ways to improve operations. Today, the production department sorts rejects by vendor and salvages more parts, purchasing agents make weekly trips to the warehouse to avoid overordering, and the receiving staff takes more care in stacking raw materials.

"Employees are impressed that management is involved and not sitting in offices looking down on everything," says Peavey.