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2013

In my last entry I suggested that the critical success factors for the Lean Supply Chain should be; improving capabilities, reducing delays in the extended supply chain and maintaining costs.  You remember that I stayed away from reduction of costs as a success factor.  The reason I did that is because I think its more important to focus on improving throughput than to focus only on reducing costs.  I also suggested that one method to achieve these objectives and even prepare for future expansion is to partner with a third party logistics service provider.  In this discussion I will cover some of what I feel are key objectives, or opportunities, to achieving your lean supply chain objectives.


This is where it gets interesting because you must understand your current state and then you must investigate the marketplace for generally accepted practices and then I would suggest that you also investigate other marketplace practices to try to identify potential ‘cross over’ practices that would support your needs.  Now here is where I think it gets interesting; this must be an iterative process because the opportunities change as your mix and match your capabilities.  Remember, though, this is a business exercise and not a thesis of potentials, so you must be careful not to fall into a spiral of analysis paralysis.  This is where it is important that you identify your baseline and then quickly implement the baseline so you can use your results to determine the next cycle of improvements and capabilities to implement.  Don’t try to boil the ocean, the critical aspect is to create the baseline so you can begin to measure  actual results.  In order to ensure you achieve your objectives in this phase it may be a good idea to engage a consult to help keep you out of the weeds and I would also suggest a ‘time box’ approach and limit this duration.


You will find in your analysis that there are a vast amount of opportunities to select from a vast amount of partners.  I think there are two key objectives to this analysis;

  1. Define your baseline objectives, this will be your starting point and your future results will be measured from this baseline.
  2. Define a communications and integrate architecture, this will provide your linkage between your extended supply chain partners and software solutions with your internal business systems.

Of the two above objectives, I place the greatest importance on the second, without a stable and flexible communications and integration architecture you will never be able to take full advantage of the collaborative opportunities that your extended supply chain can provide.


There is also an important decision you must make; is your supply chain a key differentiating factor of your business?  Then once you answer that question you can refine your analysis and your search for opportunities.  Another bit of advice related to the response to this question - there are many aspects and pieces to your extended supply chain and you may decide that one or more of these pieces are a differentiating factor while others are not.  The reason why I am advising you to first decide your differentiating factors is that you have an opportunity to outsource your non-differentiating activities to a third party solution provider.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

Have you contemplated a relationship with a third party logistics provider?  What is your strategy for supporting increased capacity needs as the economy improves?

tbrouill

Lean Supply Chain

Posted by tbrouill Jul 27, 2013

Periodically I like to discuss the Lean Supply Chain and what it means to me and I thought this would be a good time to cover this again because I’ve been reading a surge of ‘Lean’ articles lately.  Let me start with my critical success factors of the Lean Supply Chain; improving capabilities, reducing delays in the extended supply chain and maintaining costs.  You notice that I stayed away from reduction of costs as a success factor.  The reason I did that is because I think its more important to focus on improving throughput than to focus only on reducing costs.  From about 2007 / 2008 time period there has been an increased focus on reducing costs and now I think it is time to shift focus to improving capabilities.  I think that at this point in time that the supply chain has been squeezed pretty lean and now its time to focus on improvements.


I do not mean to say that you should not include cost reductions, what I do mean is that you should refocus any cost reductions into improvements.  The reason that I say this is that after so many years of trimming and reduction I think the greatest risk to your supply chain is atrophied capacity and throughput from years of reductions and trimming.  In fact I think we must begin to focus on flexibility in both capacity and capability in order to to be able to support the increased demand as the economy improves.  Furthermore because the improvements in the economy will be discontinuous at first, the focus on flexibility will be more critical than capacity.  The objective should be to buy the time with flexibility in your supply chain to allow you to build the extended capacity.


A very enticing method to increase your flexibility and your capacity is to outsource some or even all of your supply chain capabilities to a reputable third party logistics provider.  There are many providers that can support your needs with experienced capabilities that will allow you to cost effectively increase your flexibility and capabilities.  These providers also bring various degrees of technology capabilities to the table that can also improve your sales and forecasting capabilities as well.  Third party logistics providers have reached a level of capability and performance that rivals any capacity that you would require. 


One critical success factor to outsourcing your supply chain execution to a third party service provider is developing the relationship and a strong partnership.  The best providers will in fact encourage developing the relationship because this partnership encourages the relationship.  The best providers will also encourage a collaborative relationship in order to continuously improve the services and relationship. 


To wrap this up and recap the key objectives that can be met through a partnership with a third party solution provider are increased flexibility and increased capacity.  A partnership with a quality third party logistics provider will also allow you to take advantage of the expertise and experiences that they have developed over the years by serving other clients in similar market spaces.  The mantra for success here is focus on your strengths and take advantage of others strengths by developing collaborative partnerships.!


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

Have you contemplated a relationship with a third party logistics provider?  What is your strategy for supporting increased capacity needs as the economy improves?

tbrouill

Best Practices Inertia

Posted by tbrouill Jul 24, 2013

In my last discussion I briefly covered what I think is a risk to following Best Practices which is the ease of falling into a rut of inertia by following Best Practices.  I see two key risks to what I would call falling into the Best Practices trap and those risks are; following others encourages people to wait for the innovation, the term Best Practices and be taken to imply that you are the best at what you do.  I understand that there are many benefits to implementing industry best practices, however there are other points that you must take into account when you start your initiative.  While I wouldn’t cancel a Best Practices initiative, I would change the name to better fit your objective; perhaps a name like Practice Improvements.  Quite frankly, I’ve never understand why the name Best Practices has been in vogue for so long, I think a much more descriptive name would be Latest Practices.


LIke any initiative, you must be careful to maintain the commitment and discourage inertia and a Best Practice initiative is no different.  This is why I suggest starting with a name change to focus on the objective, and the objective I suggest is Practice Improvements.  You can start with benchmarking of your market competitors to provide suggestions for a baseline.  You must then evaluate that target baseline against your current practices to identify the areas of improvement.  You must always focus on your company’s differentiating factors and you must evaluate whether the target baseline will support and enhance your differentiating factors.  Never, never skip the evaluation step of the initiative this is a critical step that will set the tone and tempo of your initiative. 


The third critical aspect of this Practice Improvements initiative is to understand, and commit to, the aspect of an on-going initiative that will continually evaluate and improve your practices.  To be successful, I think your Practice Improvements must take into account not only improvements to the processes supporting your business and also improvements to your business practices in order to more effectively.  The Practice Improvements initiative objectives should be to allow you to reach new levels of service, products, practices and market penetration.  In fact, the objectives to this Practice Improvements initiative should be to develop new markets and the services products and practices that support new markets.  You should not follow you should lead and the best way to start this leadership position is to eliminate the word follow from the initiative.  Don’t let the inertia sneak up on you and here is the key word that can cause the inertia - ‘following’.


Start your initiative on the right foot by choose a powerful name that describes your objectives. Commit to your initiative for the long term so that you have the opportunity to implement the types of improvements that require time to grow.  Measure your practices against key performance indicators in order to identify the practices that benefit your company and the practices that don’t make a difference.  Focus on leading your industry and not following even if they profess to be best practices.



And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

What other names can you come up with to better describe a Best Practices initiative? What are your experiences with a Best Practices initiative?  Did you achieve the benefits you anticipated?

My discussions recently have been focused on the enterprise and organization as a whole and now I thought it would be good to bring this back home to relate to the supply chain specifically.  While the supply chain is a part of the overall enterprise, it does have some of its own idiosyncrasies that need to be considered in your plans.  One point that is not an idiosyncrasy in the supply chain is the business comfort phrase that I highlighted when discussing the enterprise - ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’, of course there are additional comfort phrases that may be more focused on the supply chain that must be considered and addressed.  I believe though that the supply chain practice in general is a little more open to questioning these comfort phases.  I have two reasons for this; first I believe I am much more open to questioning these comfort phrases and I must say that most of my colleagues and peers I’ve spoken to have also been very open to questioning these phrases; second I believe that the supply chain practice is very engineered oriented and I believe this makes it more open to questioning the norm.


All kidding aside, I truly do believe that the supply chain practice in general is much more open to questioning what I have been calling comfort phrases.  I also believe this is because of the type of people and skills that are involved in the supply chain practice.  It is much harder for a comfort phrase to stick when your practice calls for measurement and outcome evaluation.  These methods can mean death to the inertia that is promoted through a dependence on comfort phrases.  After saying all these wonderful things about the supply chain practice and my colleagues regarding the abilities to overcome the inertial caused by the comfort phrase ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’, I must say that there is one comfort phrase that still causes problems.  That one common comfort phrase for the supply chain practice is ‘best practices’.  This is the one very common phrase in the supply chain practice that brings a great level of comfort and more importantly causes normally regimented people to not question the practice.  This is the one phrase that we must agree to always question.  This is the phrase that will encourage inertia, after all, your methods are backed by ‘industry best practices’, right? 


Let’s take a reasoned view of this phrase though to show the fallacy in the phrase.  This is where I believe the inertia can sneak up on you and here is the key word that can cause the inertia - ‘following’.  Why do you think that ‘following’ is the best method to become an industry leader?  Think about this - industry leaders set the ‘best practices’ and the very next step is to improve those best practices.  Remember that best practices are always changing and improving, best practices also may not support the needs for your market niche.  My advice is to take the industry best practices as a starting point and then continuously look beyond for methods to improve and adjust to best meet your specific needs.  You should not strive to follow best practices, you should strive to set the best practices.



And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

What supply chain comfort phrases have you experienced?  What types of challenges did these comfort phrases bring about in both your day to day activities and your efforts to implement change?

tbrouill

Innovation As Commodity

Posted by tbrouill Jul 21, 2013

I’ve been thinking about the concept that I described as outsourcing innovation and how it relates, or in some cases doesn’t relate, to the success of a company.  First of all let me lay some grounding statements; there is nothing wrong with outsourcing, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing innovation.  In fact I think what I have described as outsourcing innovation can be a very beneficial aspect of business improvements.  I also must recall the old saying - all things in moderation.  I think this is especially fitting in this situation.  The point that I think should be made here is that it is a natural, and regular occurrence to benefit from acquiring innovation by acquiring start-up innovating companies.  I also think there is a second and important point that needs to be made and that point is that the acquiring company must take the innovation and be able to integrate into their ecosystem and this integration requires internal organic innovation.


This is where I came to the concept of viewing innovation as a commodity.  As everyone knows, a commodity is something that a company acquires with the intention to resell to their customers.  The concept of acquiring an innovative product or service is the same as acquiring any other commodity, the objective is to sell it to your customers.  This is now the point at which you must make a decision and that decision is how will you incorporate and make the innovation your own.  This is where your internal and organic  innovation skills will come into play.  At a minimum you must determine how to manage incorporating, or internalizing, your acquisition.  However, you must also make the decision how and if you will internalize and continue to grow and improve your acquisition. This decision is influenced by your company’s guiding principles and practices - do you view an acquisition as a means to obtain a leg up and look to internalize and grow the innovation?  Or, do you view an acquisitions as just another commodity to package and market and look to replace the innovations with this next new acquisition?


Your guiding principles and practices that direct your actions as they relate to acquisition of innovation I suggest will make the difference between a company that is successful, stable and able to grow or a company is simply a wholesaler, or reseller of these commodities.  A third option must also be covered in this discussion - the acquisition of innovation to limit or eliminate competition.  There is nothing wrong with this objective either, after all business is a competitive venture and the objective of all businesses is to beat the competition and one way to beat the competition is to eliminate the competition.  I think that in this case the question that just can’t be accurately answered is - how does this elimination of competition impact the market in the long run?


The important points in this discussion are your views and objectives as they relate to the acquisition of innovative concepts, products or services.  Do you view your company as a simple reseller of innovation?  Or, do you view your company as an integrator of acquisitions to grow and improve your company’s capabilities, services or products? 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

How do you view what I call the outsourcing of innovation?  What companies today do you identify as companies that have become successful through this type of outsourcing?

tbrouill

Overcoming Inertia

Posted by tbrouill Jul 20, 2013

In my last discussion I spoke about business comfort phrases and they can provide guidance for current business procedures and yet at the same time hinder change.  Lets face it though, this is no major discovery, in fact it would be a major discovery if this were the only hindrance to change.  This discussion is not about how to overcome business comfort phrases, this discussion is about how to overcome inertia.  I bring up business comfort phrases though because they provide a great example of a practice that can produce inertia.  After all, business comfort phrases are not the killer of innovation or change, however, the inertia these phrases can encourage are a great method to discourage inertia and change.


I will start here with a statement - Inertia is the great killer of innovation and change.  I believe that this is a key to successful innovation or change.  In every challenge, business or personal, the key to success of your initiative is to identify the problem.  This is a well established and commonly accepted practice and this method is taught in all schools and seminars.  This discussion though is not about how to succeed in a business or personal initiative, this is about how to overcome inertia.  Bare with me for a moment longer though while I tie this together.  Remember, one of the steps to successfully delivering an initiative is to identify any risks that can derail or delay the initiative.  I would suggest then that a key risk to any initiative is inertia and one of the key factors in causing inertia is the business comfort phrases that provide guidance.


The good news is that once you’ve identified a risk, the chance of it occurring drops dramatically, generally speaking.  This risk is not like other risks however because the very nature of the risk causes it to reoccur on a regular basis.  This risk will continue to cause questions throughout your initiatives; questions like ‘Why should we change?  This is the way we’ve always done this.’  These are very difficult to overcome because it feels like they keep coming up and every time you think you’ve overcome the risk it just comes back again, and again, and again.


Obviously overcoming this risk and obstacle to your success will require stamina.  In addition to that, overcoming this risk will also require imagination - the imagination to project where and how these questions will be raised throughout your initiative.  This is where your hard work and persistence will pay off.  You must counter the questions of why with your own questions; questions like ‘Why not’ or even ‘Why have you always done it this way?’  Again, you must be both creative and persistent to overcome this type of inertia.  In fact I would say that this is one of the most difficult risks to overcome because the laws of motion state that things in motion will slow and stop unless there is some energy that propels them.  OK, I don’t really know if that is a rule of motion, but it should be.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

How have business comfort phrases such as ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’ hindered your innovation and change?  Have you ever experienced a time when a business comfort phrase helped your innovation or change?

tbrouill

Business Comfort Phrases

Posted by tbrouill Jul 18, 2013

Business comfort phrases can be compared to the comfort foods.  Business comfort phrases provides a feeling of safety in the feeling that you are safe in your actions.  I consider ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ as a type of business safety phrase.  This simple phrase provides probably the best example of the power, both positive and negative, that a comfort phrase can provide.  On the positive side, this provides a powerful incentive and impression of a safe haven and the comfort that knowing you are following historical precedent.  On the negative side this provides a powerful hurdle to overcome when implementing change.  So the question is - How do you know when its time to take comfort in the phrase and when its time to overcome the comfort phrase to progress to the next level.  In other words when does someone use the comfort phrase as a guide to help and when do they use it as a shield to deflect change?


Everyone has run across a situation where they have run into the brick wall of a comfort phrase.  I can provide two examples of the phrase ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ that convey very different results;

  • People at a company that was in business for 120 years, and the people using the phrase had worked at the company for 30 years used the phrase ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.  This conveyed a very powerful impression that the process was well tested and supported the business objectives in a consistent and positive manner.
  • People at a company that was in business for 20 years, and the people using the phrase had worked at the company for 12 years used the phrase ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.  This conveyed a much less powerful impression, one that simply highlighted a close-minded approach.


These are great examples of the need to be extremely careful that you do not become complacent and use the comfort phrase a shield from change.  The interesting point that is highlighted by these examples is that they show there is no time limit to using the same phrase to shield yourself from change.  In addition to that it shows that people will have a tendency to gravitate the the practice that provides comfort and a safe haven.  These examples also show just how quickly these comfort phrases can be accepted and embraced.  These examples also show that you must be vigilant in your efforts to not fall into complacency.


The only way to get past these comfort phrases and overcome the inertia they encourage is to focus on the opportunity that change will provide.  You must also become comfortable with be uncomfortable.  Change is hard and not just because of any degree of difficulty required to implement the change, it is also just as important to become accustomed to the discomfort that goes along with the change.  I think the most difficult part of change is becoming accustomed to the discomfort.  I would also say that in order to succeed you must overcome your discomfort and even learn to embrace the discomfort.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

What comfort phrases have you experienced?  What types of challenges did these comfort phrases bring about in both your day to day activities and your efforts to implement change?

tbrouill

Outsourcing Innovation

Posted by tbrouill Jul 14, 2013

In this entry I want to expand a bit on a topic I brought up in my last entry related to what I referred to as outsourcing innovation.  This is the method where a large ‘successful’ organizations acquires the innovation through acquisition of the startup that developed the innovation.  The reason that I brought this up is that generally speaking it is the start-up entrepreneurial company where the vast majority of immediate and game-changing innovation currently comes from.  The reason that large ‘successful’ companies search for and acquire these types of innovation is that these startups are in the exact opposite environment as the larger and ‘successful’ companies.  These start-ups, in fact, are the perfect incubator environment to outsource the research and development activities that would have been required to be performed within the larger and ‘successful’ companies. 


This concept touched a cord and I realized this is reasonable next step to the outsourcing of functions within a large company.  I don’t think I’ve heard this concept described in this manner in the past but that does not mean that this is not an accurate portrayal.  I am simply putting the pieces together in order to describe the process in a manner that can be related for a more clear understanding.  First lets look at a simple definition of outsourcing - when and organization contracts with another organization to perform a function as a representative, or as a replacement to functions or activities within the first organization.  Second lets look at an objective, even if its unspoken, of many if not most startups; define and develop a product or service to a point where the company can begin to generate a profit and many times the objective is to be acquired by a large ‘successful’ company for a significant profit. I hope you can see the reason why I am suggesting this to be viewed as outsourcing innovation.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, I’m only saying that we should look at this activity for what it really is.  I’m suggesting that this type of ‘outsourcing’ may be a very productive innovation to the practice of outsourcing, in fact.  This type of outsourcing can and I believe is a very powerful lure to large ‘successful’ companies because it eliminates the risk and allows them to simply focus on the successful innovations.  This is also why I suggest that we view this as the next logical progression of innovation - allow another to develop the innovative products or services to the point where they are recognized as a value and then acquire the new product or service to create or deliver to the market.  This innovation outsourcing will increase the cost of innovation and on the positive side it completely eliminates the risk of failed innovation or unproductive research and development.


This type of innovation allows the large ‘successful’ company acquire immediate and game-changing innovation in a steady stream and eliminate their internal, costly, capabilities and teams that would have been charged in developing new products and services.  This allows the large ‘successful’ companies eliminate the risk of unsuccessful research and development.  The results of this type of outsourcing is that the large ‘successful’ company becomes an organization that provides the efficient manufacturing and distribution for these innovative products and services.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

How do you view what I call the outsourcing of innovation?  What companies today do you identify as companies that have become successful through this type of outsourcing?

In my last entry I ended by saying - If hindsight is 20/20, then shouldn’t you change to incorporate hindsight as quickly as possible?  I’ve been thinking about that over the last few days and I realize that this is a very important concept in this era of increasing discontinuous change.  As the level of change increases and the cycle of change quickens it is even more important to realize when your current practice needs to be refreshed.  I believe now that one of the most dangerous phrases is ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.  This single phrase should probably be the a key driving factor and an incentive to change. 


Innovation is one of the most popular topics now in business circles and seminars, everyone wants to embrace innovation.  The interesting thing, in my opinion, is that while everyone pays lip service to innovation, very few actually embrace innovation in a manner that can truly change the their market and business.  While the business seminars embrace innovation, the market is destroying innovation through a laser focus on the short term return on investment that also excludes almost any type of risk to those short term benefits.  I think you can see the challenge to supporting innovation in an environment that is focused on low risk and short term return.  The nature of innovation is the exact opposite of the nature of larger and ‘successful’ companies.


This is the reason that generally speaking it is the start-up entrepreneurial company where the vast majority of innovation currently comes from.  These start-ups are in the exact opposite environment as the larger and ‘successful’ companies.  These start-ups, in fact, are the perfect incubator environment to outsource the research and development activities that would have been required to be performed within the larger and ‘successful’ companies. 


There is another method of innovation that can be supported directly by the larger successful companies and that is a method of continuous improvement ingrained into the corporate culture and encouraged to bring about innovation in a more thoughtful and repeatable manner.  This is where my suggestion of speeding up the incorporation of hindsight into the mix of the continuous improvement practice comes into play.  I suggest that one of the greatest methods of speeding continuous improvement is to regularly look in the mirror at your past failures and successes.  The greatest way to predict success in the future is to take advantage of the successful endeavors of the past, in other words, if you have identified a current challenge take a look at the process or methods that were successful in the past.  This is where hindsight can really make it interesting, in addition to performing a review of your past successes you should also re-evaluate your past failures.  I say this because past failures can provide two benefits, or opportunities for improvements; the first one is that the past failure can provide some guidance in determining a solution, the second is that a past failure may succeed under a new situation. 


You may have a hard time accepting this but think about something else; wisdom and experience does not come from being right all the time.  On the contrary, wisdom and experience comes from failures and using those failures to guide future actions.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

How have you used previous success and failure in your everyday activities to guide improvements?  How would you incorporate these methods into a program to encourage innovation?

think a key discussion in defining your business education objectives is - How do you define innovation as an objective?  After all, objectives should be both understandable and measurable where innovation is more of a mission or even a long term goal.  My argument here is that innovation is too ambiguous to be an objective.  This can be a whole series of discussions in itself so I will try to simply cover some key points in this discussion. 


The point here is how can you define education objectives that will result in innovation?  Well, to start you must understand or define the type of innovation you are targeting.  In a previous discussion I identified what I called two types of innovation;

  • A long term type that comes as a result of continuous small or quick changes that build upon each other that will eventually lead to a game changing result.  This is honestly just another way to view a continuous improvement program that moves from operations to focus on your entire business.  In this change you are focusing on small changes so you can quickly test the improvement and then also quickly build on the improvements.  I would argue that this type of innovation is more achievable and more easily planned.
  • A quick or immediate game changing innovation that will immediately create a new market or dramatically change your existing market.  This type of innovation is obviously harder, or more likely almost impossible to plan and achieve. 


Let me present these types of innovation in another way to help to clarify; the long term innovation is comparable to a retirement investment strategy where it is something that you regularly add to and review to ensure you maintain progress; the quick innovation is more comparable to hitting the lottery.  When I describe the types of innovation in this way I hope you can see that both types of innovation can produce the same level of results but one type is something you can plan on where the other is more related to luck. 


How, you may ask, does this all relate back to defining innovation as an education objective?   I hope it begins to make sense to you after my explanation.  First of all you must define this as a long term goal and not as an objective of innovation.  Then you can define your short term objectives to meet your long term goal of innovation.  So what should your short term education objectives include?  They should include institutional objectives that will build upon a framework of continuous improvement.  These objectives will provide the value add to your company and provide the justification to continue.  They should also included personal objectives that will provide an incentive for your employees to accept continue their education. 


Then, in the spirit of continuous improvement you should also regularly review your education objectives to refine and replace the objectives that don’t make sense.  Remember - its important for your education objectives and you should plan to change your objectives as you learn!  One point that comes to mind - if hindsight is 20/20, then shouldn’t you change to incorporate hindsight as quickly as possible?



And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

What additional examples can you provide from the last 20 years to show the both the positive and negative experiences with defining educational objectives?  Have you experienced improvements or deterioration of innovation over time that may have been impacted, both positively and negatively, by your objectives?

tbrouill

Education Objective

Posted by tbrouill Jul 7, 2013

Today I want to discuss a very important aspect of education that I am starting to realize may be a key factor in the success of creating that learning spark.  I think that this is such a simple factor that its very easy to overlook and that will allow the initiative to be side-tracked or even worse, fail. This key factor I think is to identify the objective, which in this case I believe is to create  a learning culture.  Then the next step is a ‘simple’ project management execution.  In other words I think the trick to creating the learning spark and the learning culture is to treat the start-up as you would any other program or project. In order to ingrain the new culture you must create the new habits and I think the most effective way to create new habits is through a thoughtful execution method that project management supports. In order to start the initiative you must identify your objectives and since this is a business initiative your objectives must move the business forward providing measurable results.


This is where I believe the framework for your successful initiative will be defined; you must clearly define your education initiative value proposition along with your objectives and your measurements when you start the initiative to develop the learning culture.  This initial effort at defining  the value proposition, the objectives and the measurements are the key factors to creating a continuing learning program, or a learning culture.  This may sound simple, but as in most cases, the most simple looking outcome can be the most difficult and most complicated to enact and deliver.


In order to be successful, this initiative requires a significant investment from senior level management in both time and money.  The time involved is probably the greatest investment in the overall strategy to delivery a learning culture.  This is not a fire-and-forget initiative for senior management and it cannot be supported as a type of ‘pet project’ it must be supported in both acts, funding and words by the senior management team in order to deliver the value proposition identified in the initiative and then continue to deliver ongoing results into the future.  In order for the learning culture to be successfully implemented and nurtured into a self-sustaining culture, your senior leadership team must provide a continuous level of both financial support and encouragement.  This means that the senior management team must understand, and commit to, this initiative for the long term business success strategy that it is.


Lets tie these points together now to help to understand the objectives and opportunities and also tie this to some key business objectives that can sustain the overall success of the company.  This relates back to the type of company that senior leadership desires to encourage.  I suggest, though, that in order to ensure the long term success of your organization you must focus on innovation.  I also suggest that there are limited methods to deliver innovation; through the imagination and willpower of an individual; through purchase or acquisition; homegrown through internal development or discovery, for example.  I propose that the most efficient and most likely to provide a continuous stream of innovation is the homegrown method.  If that is true, then the most efficient method to ensure this homegrown innovation is through implementation of a learning culture.  The trick is to help the senior leadership team understand and focus on this long term opportunity.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show...

What additional examples can you provide from the last 20 years to show the both the positive and negative experiences with developing learning cultures?  Have you experienced improvements or deterioration of innovation over time and was it related to the culture of the company?