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Is JIT Past It’s Time

Posted by tbrouill Oct 31, 2013

I want to change topics now to something that may be a little controversial - Is Just In Time past its time for value in the supply chain?  I want to clarify that question and focus the discussion now with another clarifying question.  Considering all of the 'black swan' natural disaster events and the effects of the extended global supply chain, is there more value in flexibility in the supply chain?  I have been considering these questions for a while now and they have been especially clarified by my series on extended supply chain collaboration.  You may remember that I discussed the importance of collaboration in building a flexible and efficient supply chain.  This has ramifications on the Just In Time practices and your business continuity planning required for your extended supply chain.  Maybe its time for you to develop your supplier support network to provide the ability to easily switch to another supplier in the event of a ‘black swan’ event.

Whether or not you believe in global warming or the climate is changing, you must recognize that the frequency and impact of natural weather events are increasing.  Add to this the recent tsunamis, and global unrest and wars and you have a witch’s brew of events that can impact your extended supply chain.  You can stick your head in the sand and try to ignore these events but this will only cause a greater and unpredictable impact to your organization.  The more prudent approach is to evaluate the potential events based on climate and world events and the potential impact on your supply chain.  This will help you to develop an approach to overcome the impact that such events could have on your extended supply chain.

This is why I think that extended supply chain, including your extended supply chain partners of course, should be a primary focus.  Then Just In Time principles can be incorporated as your secondary focus.  You will need to define what ‘flexibility’ means to your organization and extended supply chain.  This will require developing a supply chain continuity plan that includes suppliers, carriers and value added service providers.  In the IT industry we used to call this a Disaster Recovery Plan and now the value of this type of planning is extended to other key areas of the organization.  The value provided to the extended supply chain by a robust supply chain continuity plan can come from two perspectives; first as insurance against impact by natural or global events and second through potential value new suppliers and carriers can provide through new negotiating powers.

One last piece of advice, don’t think of natural disasters or global unrest as the only factors that can be alleviated, or planned for in your supply chain continuity planning.  You should take into account other factors such as factories being destroyed or closed for safety reasons, raw material availability (this is critical to cost controls too), transportation increases or even new routes opening (such as the expansion of the Panama Canal). 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the critical factors required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  How do you work with your extended supply chain partners to limit the impact of natural disasters or global unrest?

I want to wrap up my recent discussions surrounding a successful implementation with a final observation regarding key personality traits.  The problem with personality traits is that you cannot simply ‘order’ them although you can observe to identify during your interview and then your build phases in order to place the personalities strategically.  Personalities are important in your implementation because these traits become more apparent and become dominant in times of stress.  The implementation and transition phase are both powerful stress inducers, so it is important to to take these personality traits into account when building and scheduling the team for the implementation.  I believe there are two key personality traits and one very important one.  The key traits are patience and stamina and the important trait is a positive attitude.

I think the key traits are pretty self evident.  You must have the patience and the stamina to sift through the evidence to understand the issue and the cause.  This is necessary so that you can identify first a work around and then the root cause and resolution.  During the go live, or implementation, there will be a great deal of activities all happening at the same time.  Then during all of these activities you can start to experience problems.  You must perform a triage on these as they occur, as I’ve mentioned before,  and perform your quick prioritization to work orders in level of importance.  Stamina and patience are important in managing through these activities.  They will help you to work through the analysis which also requires grouping the issues into categories and then related issues. 

The third can be much harder to plan for but it can certainly be a very important factor in supporting both the patience and stamina traits.  A positive attitude is something of a ‘secret sauce’ trait that increases in importance as challenges mount.  This trait is important for the moral of the teams from all sides of the implementation, customer, technology and operations.  It would be nice if there was this trait provide within the teams from all sides of the implementation, however, I do not think it is a requirement that this trait be present in all teams.  A little bit of positive attitude can go a long way in a stressful situation.  Positive attitude can encourage the patience and stamina in stressful situations that arise during every implementation. 

To wrap up these discussions I want to emphasize that each point that I’ve mentioned is important and the importance increases based on the situation.  By the same token, I also think these points can decrease in importance based on the situation.  For instance, patience is not a very important trait when a problem must be fixed immediately because the operation is not working, in fact patience in this type of situation can be a hinderance.  It is important that you have these traits available as ingredients in the mix to in order to achieve a successful implementation and transition to the steady state.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Do you take into consideration personality traits in your teams?  How do you identify the traits that are important to your teams.  Do you have any additional or different traits you have identified to be important?

It is about time now to discuss how you can incorporate all of your lessons learned into your quality program to drive continuous improvement.  I have written in the past about incorporating your quality program into your continuous improvement program and your improvement strategies.  The reason for this is that you will never improve your technology platform quality unless you have a cohesive quality strategy that includes your new initiatives, maintenance and bug fixes.  I thought that this would be a good time to discuss the quality program again as part of the my discussions covering lessons learned from an implementation and transition.

The quality program is one ingredient to a successful continuous improvement program and provides a very important feedback loop.  In fact, my suggestion is that you incorporate your quality program into your continuous improvement program as a central point to collect and measure the results of your continuous improvement program.  Your quality program will incorporate all of the tools and metrics to measure the results of improvements.  These improvements can come from many places like maintenance program, problems, or break/fix, and enhancements to processes and systems supporting those processes.  Your quality program will also provide the historical reference to help in analysis of your improvements identified in your continuous improvement program.

What I’ve learned first hand from implementations and transitions is that a critical aspect of a quality program must be to analyze the evidence with an unbiased view.  What I mean by this is that you must not go into an analysis with assumptions.  Assumptions can cause you to overlook or downplay key evidence to help you resolve your issue.  I know that you’ve seen examples as well as I have.  As an example, if you have a system viewpoint, then when you start your investigation, you will start with the assumption that a system change is required to resolve the issue.  I always remember an old adage in this type of situation - if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.  Thinking about this helps to remind me to look at all possibilities and not just focus on one thing. 

There are two additional tools the quality program can provide, based on metrics collected, one is the pool of issues or requests that have been related to a process and the second is a pool of testing data and methods that have been used to test a process.  I can’t emphasize enough the benefits that these two tools will provide to your organization.  The pool of issues and requests related to a process should be included in your improvement activities to provide a cost effective means of resolving issues and providing a more stable and efficient process.  The pool of testing data and methods will ensure that your testing efforts deliver a high quality and stable process, and don’t forget it is much easier to build on a successful test than to develop a successful test.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you utilize and coordinate your quality improvement program?  How does your quality program support your continuous improvement program?

In this discussion I will return to my theme on lessons learned from an implementation with a discussion on the topic of prioritizing maintenance and bug fixes.  I believe this is an important aspect of the implementation and transition to a stable environment.  No matter how much you plan test for your implementation, there will be bugs or maintenance changes required to address those ‘bumps’ that you will encounter.  The planning, design and testing phases will help to ensure that you only encounter ‘bumps’  but never think that you will catch everything.  As I mention earlier, this is an important aspect of the transition and can set the tone for your relationship going forward with the operation and your customers.

When I refer to prioritizing maintenance and bug fixes I recommend you think about it with a view of two phases.  The initial phase immediately following the go live will most likely be very hectic and you will be required to maintain a focus on completing the fixes.  The stable phase, as the name implies, will allow a more thoughtful prioritization and it will not be as hard to maintain a focus.  In either case it is important to track the bugs and what was required to resolve the issues.  This tracking log will allow you to periodically evaluation your environment to guide you in your maintenance.  This tracking will also provide a guide for future initiatives to improve the quality of your product and deliverables and reduce the issues encountered in future implementations.

My advice is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best in your implementations.  It is better to be surprised by a low volume of issues than to be overwhelmed by a large volume.  This initial planning will set the tone for the implementation and transition to a stable environment.  Another piece of advice is to coordinate problem reporting through a single point of contact.  This provides a straightforward and simple method to perform a triage on the problems and also document the problems for tracking purposes.  This will also allow your team to maintain a focus on resolving the issues without diversion.  Utilizing a single point of contact will also allow you to group similar problems together for resolution.  The objective a focus of the support team during the implementation and transition phase should be resolving problems.  This may seem a little overwhelming at first but you will experience steady improvements by utilizing the single point of contact to coordinate your efforts and priorities. 

While this triage method is a great way to document and prioritize your issues, as I mention above, it will also provide a great tool and data for your lessons learned review.  The lessons learned is an important activity in completing your implementation and transition to a stable environment.  Unfortunately, the reality is that many times the lessons learned activity is not completed or given short shrift.  This is understandable because in some cases by the time you get to this activity your team may be a little burned out.  This is another reason why its important to document your issues!

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you plan for your implementation and transition to a stable environment?  Do you complete a lessons learned activity for every initiative?

Pre-hiring forms come in a couple of variations and are used to support different objectives.  In this discussion I will focus on two types - organization fit and skills evaluation.  Organization fit seems to be a very popular type of test for many large companies.  Skills evaluation tests are used for various types of evaluations to identify mainly experience levels.  I have personally used skills evaluations in various forms for technology skills.  I’ve experienced various results in using these tests and in my experience I would use the tests as input but never for the hiring decision. 

I think that it is safe to say that everyone has seen, heard of, used or even completed a pre-hiring evaluation.  I also think that it is safe to say that everyone has various levels of results, both positive and negative, with these types of tests.  Let’s be honest, these tests are a means to eliminate candidates from the mass of applicants, especially resulting from the recession, for each position.  These tests allow you to evaluate skills and ‘fit’ up front and are a cost effective means to pre-certify candidates.  In times of low unemployment these tests will also allow you to evaluate the skills and ‘fit’ up front again to confirm expertise.

These tests have improved over the years, as any business tool would, and I also expect them to be continuously improving as new objectives and requirements are identified by the business.  I believe now that these improvements will also speed up because of the general increase in change velocity and because of the benefits that more and more organizations realize.  Another reason that these improvements will increase in velocity is that there are more companies focused the methods to develop and improve these types of tools.  I look at these tools as an offshoot of the training industry and as I’ve said before, in order to understand the value of your training program you must have a method to measure that value.

The next logical extension for the skills evaluation is to use as a placement and training plan development tool.  I think that these tests can be very useful when combined to help identify individuals that have a ‘knack’ for a certain position.  These tools can help you identify the best fit for a position based on personality and skills.  Then you can even measure the candidates’ current skill level against your baseline skill level.  This can then help you to identify a training plan and schedule to plan when these candidates will have the skills necessary for the position.  I see this as an extremely valuable opportunity for companies to take advantage of the new capabilities in technology, testing and then training. 

These capabilities can bring dramatic improvements to your hiring practices.  It can also bring a tremendous value to seasonal hiring, or hiring in high turnover industries where you seem to be constantly hiring and training new employees. 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Are you taking full advantage of your supply chain training program?  How does your internal training organization benefit your supply chain?  How do you measure the success of your training efforts?


Extending Evaluations

Posted by tbrouill Oct 19, 2013

In my last discussion I spoke about the importance of a robust training evaluation program in supporting and identification of training coordination and improvement to bring value to the bottom line from a training continuous improvement program.  I wrote at some length about the importance of a robust evaluation program based on evaluating the actual performance improvements of the students.  There is a place here in a new and more robust evaluation in addition to the measurement of the actual job performance improvements.  This evaluation can then be used at multiple points and with multiple objectives.  You should use an evaluation for the group before the training program to identify the level of overall experience of the group.  You should use the evaluation form after the training to measure the students’ initial understanding of the training.  As a little bit of a twist, you can also use the evaluation form in your hiring to identify skills in a formal manner to provide input into a hiring decision.

The first point is to develop an evaluation form that will help to focus the actual training in the areas that require the most training.  In order to do this you should develop a training evaluation form that is focused on the training curriculum that will rate the understanding and initial capabilities of the training attendees.  Obviously you want to use this form to help in developing a curriculum and not simply one training class. Your focus should be on the types of training required and the level of training required.  This initial evaluation will help the training coordinators to identify the attendees to schedule for the different types of training that will help to focus on individual training needs.  This focus on the individual training needs will bring value to both the organization and the training program.  It will bring value to the organization because you would not be providing unnecessary training.  It will bring value to the organization because you can ensure that all employees have the same skill level and will provide a method to ensure this.

Next is the evaluation to measure the delivery, or the initial understanding, of the training.  This form should not focus on the training delivery as much as it should measure the understanding of the material.  In other words, this would be something of a final exam.  You can use for two purposes; if the attendees show a particular problem understanding certain aspects of the training you can revise the training, it also shows the attendees they must pay attention during the training.  You should also include some sort of penalties for not passing the exam.  This would start with requiring retaking the course up to some disciplinary or maybe moving to another position.

The final use for the evaluation may require some additional effort but I think this has the potential to provide the greatest value to your organization.  This pre-hire evaluation will first of all allow you to evaluate a person’s ability to perform the position from day one and second of all it will allow you to evaluate fit to both the organization and determining the appropriate position.  I’ve noticed that many organizations have implemented an evaluation in the hiring process that will evaluate the fit to an organization.  I have heard of very few organizations that implemented the ability to perform the position from day one.  My advice is that you should focus your efforts based on the position.  In other words if you are hiring for a supervisor or management position you should focus more on organization fit.  On the other hand, if you are hiring for an individual contributor you should focus on job skills.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Are you taking full advantage of your supply chain training program?  How does your internal training organization benefit your supply chain?  How do you measure the success of your training efforts?


Training Evaluations

Posted by tbrouill Oct 16, 2013

In my last discussion I mentioned an important aspect of the training continuous improvement program, a robust training evaluation process.  I wanted to expand on that in this discussion because I believe this can be a very valuable tool in your training program and a key to driving value added improvements to your program.  I’m sure that you all have seen and completed a training evaluation form.  I’m also sure that you all have thought to yourselves this is something of a waste of time.  The evaluations I’ve seen are similar to the customer satisfaction surveys you are asked to complete after purchasing a car.  I suspect that the execution and results of these evaluations are similar.  Like the car purchase evaluation I suspect that the objective of the training evaluation is to get the participants to rate the class high, ‘all fives’, because the evaluation is used as a measurement of the delivery of the material.  I suggest that we need to completely change the training evaluation form to measure the results of the training.  In other words, did the training give the knowledge and skills to the students that allow them to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently?  I do think its important to measure the delivery of the material, and I also think its important to measure the effectiveness of the training.

Measuring the effectiveness of the training can be very difficult but I think it provides a great deal of value when delivered.  The trick to measuring the effectiveness is to develop objectives before you even start your training.  This will take some effort up front to determine what you want to achieve as a result of your training.  It also requires a bit of patience and a view for the long term.  On the other hand, this approach will provide a great deal of value.  The additional benefit to this is the buy-in from senior management you will achieve by bringing value to the bottom line.  It is past time now that we should be viewing training from the perspective of the value that it brings to the business. 

The way to bring value is to treat your training program as another continuous improvement program.  I was promoting this approach when I started these discussions with the Listen, Do, Review ‘ approach.  Now I am proposing that you add the additional steps of check and act, or revise, to your training program.  I’m convinced that a focus on value add, and not the soft value add of additional training for training’s sake, but the hard value of measurable improvements in efficiencies that will reduce the cost of your operations.  In order to develop a value added training program you must evaluate where the value can be gained and then you must develop the methods that will allow you to measure the value that your training will bring to the bottom line. 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Are you taking full advantage of your supply chain training program?  How does your internal training organization benefit your supply chain?  How do you measure the success of your training efforts?

In my last entry I discussed a concept that a read aptly called “Listen, Do, Review” training practice.  This method follows the successful continuous improvement concepts of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA).  Anyone that has followed my writing will recognize my passion for the continuous improvement concept.  In fact, I guess you could say that continuous improvement is my ‘hammer’ and I view most activities in business and especially within the supply chain as a ‘nail’ that can be improved with the ‘hammer’ of continuous improvement.  I’m sure that you see the relationship between ‘Listen, Do, Review’ and ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’.  The frustrating point to this is that while it is a very simple concept it is extremely difficult to enact because of the misconception that training does not provide measurable value.  Unfortunately, I have seen many times over that while people may not believe there is a value delivered by training, these very same people are shocked when an initiative goes over the cliff that one key factor to this failure is a lack of effective training.

My advice is to follow a training strategy of ‘Listen, Do, Review’ in order to show the value that can be achieved with a focused and robust training methodology.  Training should not be something that pops up periodically for large initiatives, or spikes in staffing requirements.  The simple fact of the matter is that is has been proven in every practice that success comes from a sustained and focused effort that evolves and improves over time.  The ‘Listen, Do, Review’ process cannot be viewed as a one-and-done process.  This is a continuous process improvement method focused on your training.  Considering this you must then take what you learn in the Review phase to identify activities that must be reinforced by additional training focused in the area(s) in which it is required.  The ‘Listen, Do, Review’ should be viewed, and implemented, as ‘Listen, Do, Review and Re-do’ to be successful.

The ‘Listen, Do, Review’ process can also be used when evaluating the type of training and the methods of delivering this training.  This will involve the evaluation of the quality of the training, but this evaluation must be focused on the results of the training and not a training evaluation form distributed in the training.  We are very lucky in the supply chain because this evaluation can performed by monitoring and measuring the performance of the employees after the training.  Many organizations also have a great method already in place that can be used to evaluate the quality of the training delivery, the labor performance management software.  This software can, and should, be used to evaluate the quality of the training delivery as part of the performance tracking measurements.

You already have a process in place with the labor management software that will measure the quality of your training efforts.  You can easily use the reporting and historical measurements available from the labor management software to evaluate the improvements that are achieved from your training.  In fact, the labor management software can also be used to focus your training efforts on specific areas of the operation.  

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Are you taking full advantage of your supply chain training program?  How does your internal training organization benefit your supply chain?  How do you measure the success of your training efforts?


Training For Success

Posted by tbrouill Oct 13, 2013

As I mentioned in my last entry training is one of the key factors in ensuring a successful initiative.  The next point that I want to make is that in order to be successful in training, you must practice and in order to practice, you must have and support a training organization.  Training requirements are different in different functions of an organization.  Some areas require targeted and ‘continuing’ types of training.  Some areas, like the supply chain, require regular operational training and new employee on-boarding training.  Since this is a discussion regarding supply chain practices, I will focus on the requirements of a successful and continuous training program to support the organization.

Supply chain operations is one area in an organization that requires a robust training program that includes a training department to support the operation.  This training program can, and should, be viewed as a competitive advantage and a key requirement to the success of your supply chain organization.  Effective training would involve three key areas; new employee on-boarding, new initiative training and continuous improvement training related to engineering improvements.  These requirements are one of the factors that will support the success of your training program in the supply chain.  Remember, practice makes perfect and coordinating your training requirements across the business needs allows you to review and improve all of your training program needs.  Training is an area that can benefit dramatically from a continuous improvement program.

In the past I’ve spoken about the importance and benefits of a ‘tripod’ approach to initiatives.  Training is one of those initiatives that will benefit from the ‘tripod’ approach.  The legs of the tripod would be new employee on-boarding, new initiative training and continuous improvement training.  The one thing that will tie the legs of the tripod together is the continuous improvement evaluation that includes the continuous evaluation of the training program. 

The evaluation of the training must be a key factor to your training continuous improvement program.  This evaluation though must be made up of two types in order to provide value to the training program.  The first ingredient involves the trainee evaluation forms.  These forms provide an opportunity for a level of personal feedback that can provide some value.  The second ingredient is the measurement of the success of the training in the operation.  This ingredient provides the greatest value to the continuous improvement of your training program.  This ingredient also involves the greatest effort to be successful so it is one of the activities that is easily overlooked, or more likely this activity simply cannot be supported because of the effort involved in it.

I suggest that the trick to ensuring that the measurement of the training program success and requirements is supported by senior management is to focus on the value that these measurements can provide.  The value can be shown by broadcasting the success of your measurements and distributing the measurements out to additional areas.  For instance, in order to measure the success of a specific training engagement you should develop a test to measure the understanding, why not use this test to measure the capabilities of new applicants?  You can include a test in the application process in order to identify applicants with a level of skill to perform a specific activity, or to identify and customize the level of training required for new applicants.

There are many opportunities to show benefits that result from a robust training program.  You only need some imagination to develop them.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Are you taking full advantage of your supply chain training program?  How does your internal training organization benefit your supply chain?


More Keys To Success

Posted by tbrouill Oct 12, 2013

My next lesson learned is another key to success that was confirmed during my recent implementation experience.  This factor is training of both internal customers and external customers.  This success factor also depends a great deal on collaboration to share information and experience.  The sad thing about training is that it is another one of those activities that tends to be overlooked, or more appropriately shorted, when other activities in an initiative encounter delays.  Training should be planned and developed at the same time as you define your business process and develop your testing plans.  Training is easy to overlook or forget about but it is also one of those critical success factors that will make or break your initiative. 

The key to a successful training program is in the planning and coordination.  Training is an activity that you can improve with practice. To this extend you should begin your training planning with the development of your business processes.  If you include your training development as a step in your business process development you will find that it is much easier and provides an opportunity to develop a more robust training program when you start your program yas a part of your analysis and design.  Don’t start your training program in a later phase in your initiative and expect to be able to remember and develop a robust program without a lot of effort.  Long ago there was a testing planning and execution method called a ‘V Method’, the ‘V’ refers to the level of effort you should expend on testing activities across the phases of the initiative.  In this method you would expend a little time at the beginning of the project at the start of the ‘V’, and you would expend more time as the initiative continues until you would be expending the majority of your time at the end of the initiative.  I suggest that you utilize this ‘V Method’ in planning your training.

In order to be successful, however, you must execute your training plan.  This is where the rubber meets the road and your planning will provide a return on investment.  Based on what I’ve seen in successful and most importantly unsuccessful training programs you increase the likelihood of success by following a ‘listen, do, review’ method.  Here is what I mean by ‘listen, do, review’ -

  • Listen - This is done in a classroom environment and focuses on a lecture and hands-on trials.  This provides the overview and an opportunity to try the functions in a controlled environment.  One of the take-aways from this step is the training material.  The training material should include a step by step instructions that can be used on the floor to help ensure the trainee is following the correct process.  These detailed training instructions are the secret to success.
  • Do - This is done out on the floor in the actual work environment and focuses on the trainees actually performing the activities based on the training material.  In this phase the trainees are following the detailed instructions in a ‘live’ environment to practice and ensure understanding.
  • Review - This is done back in the classroom environment and focuses on the trainees replaying their experiences to confirm understanding and revise the detailed instructions based on suggestions.


Following these steps will help you ensure the success of your training program and this will help to ensure the success of your initiative!  These are simple steps and the earlier you start the greater your success.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What success factors have you uncovered in your improvement initiatives?  More importantly, what factors have you identified as detrimental to the success of an initiative?


Keys To Success

Posted by tbrouill Oct 9, 2013

I just spent four weeks on a successful implementation and transition from a legacy and highly manual supply chain to a new systemic solution.  Based on this experience I can say that one of the keys to this success was ruthlessly limiting software and process customizations.  This was no small feat either because it involved multiple warehouses and product types in addition to replacing the legacy systems and procedures.  Most of these manual procedures were not documented or fully understood to help as a guide for the implementation planning.  Don’t get me wrong - there were, and still are problems, but I can say that these problems seem easier to address because one problem area has been eliminated - software customization.  I’ve been involved in both greenfield (highly customized) and ‘standard’ (little or no customization) and I would recommend the ‘standard’ implementation any time over the greenfield version.  Based on this experience I can say that one of the essential keys to success is the elimination or at least dramatic reduction of software customizations.

Obviously this suggestion is based on the fact that there is software available to support your fundamental business requirements.  I think this is a safe assumption, especially in the supply chain operations and systems practice.  In fact, it is more common to have a wealth of software choices for your supply chain needs and each of these choices specialize in one or more of the major supply chain practice areas such as retail, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, groceries, transportation, or any of the other major supply chain practices.  I think it is safe to say that you will find more than one choice to support your needs.

The challenge to software selection is to choose the software that best matches your business practice and then revise your business practices in order to eliminate software modifications.  Remember, commercial software packages have been developed over time based on the best business process methods of their customer base.  This customer base drives the commercial software development to support the combined needs of their customer base.  Based on this fact, you should view your software selection as an opportunity to implement industry standard practices.  Don’t be so vain or closed minded to think that your current methods are better than the combined standard practices of the commercial software customer base.  This is probably the hardest and yet most valuable key to a successful supply chain improvement initiative - take advantage of the combined industry standard practices that is embodied in the software package and change your business processes in order to best take advantage of these practices. 

I have spoken in the past about my belief that best practices are ever-changing so you cannot expect to ever be finished.  You should view this initiative not as a software implementation but more of a process improvement that will provide the basis to improve your execution.  The differentiating factor you should strive for is execution.  In order to maintain, and continue, your execution improvements you must be able to quickly and efficiently upgrade the software that supports your execution.  The most efficient method to quickly and efficiently upgrade the software is to eliminate any customization and in order to eliminate software customization you must revise your business processes to meet the software functionality.  This is probably the most difficult concept to accept and embrace.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What success factors have you uncovered in your improvement initiatives?  More importantly, what factors have you identified as detrimental to the success of an initiative?

Its been quite a while since my last entry and I want to thank everyone that added to that discussion with very interesting and thought provoking ideas.  Over the last few weeks I was very busy with a project implementation.  I have quite a few interesting experiences regarding the inevitable ups and downs that come from any major implementation.  In this entry, however, I  want to get back to a loose end that I left hanging in my last discussion.  In my last discussion I left with the suggestion that a great place to start practicing collaboration in a large organization is in breaking down the silos that develop and prosper in these organizations over the years.  Everyone has heard over the years the importance of tearing down these silos in order to improve the performance of the entire organization.  I fully subscribe to this suggestion and the reason is that I’ve come to realize this is simply another name for collaboration. 

I’ve written in the past about changing names and terminology to make an old idea sound new.  While I may not normally subscribe to these practices, I think I do understand the practice and even think there is a place for this in encouraging improvements to an organization or an industry.  I think that in this case though that ‘re-branding’ breaking down the silos to developing a collaborative organization provides a great opportunity to move the organization forward.  There is also another important aspect to the concept of a collaborative organization and that is that it applies to organizations both large and small.  This challenge to developing a collaborative organization does not depend on size of an organization but it does depend on addressing the  ingrained silos that develop in both large and small organizations. 

I have worked in large organizations and small organizations and I can tell you that the only organization without silos is a single person ‘organization’.  Granted, a large organization has much more pronounced silos but the silos are there in any size organization.  In fact I believe that the development of silos in an organization is human nature.  When I think about this human nature is the only thing that explains this phenomenon.  People are social creatures and they naturally develop social groups and members are drawn to these social groups because of their social natures and the tendency to seek out others that have similar beliefs and needs.  It is also human nature to exclude individuals that are different than the others in your group.  This is exactly the practice that has taken root in organizations both large and small.

The challenge is to expand your social network to improve collaboration across departments and teams to encompass the entire company and eliminate the exclusionary practices.  I understand completely that this is easier said than done.  I also understand that the first step to acceptance is to sometimes give the objective a new name.  What I am suggesting is that we should focus on practicing the human tendency to join and develop groups and just expand that practice past the silos.  I am also suggesting that we should focus on fighting the human tendency to exclude others because of real or perceived differences.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you view your silos or teams in your own company?  Are these teams inclusive or exclusive?