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2013

power_of_relationships_10242013.jpgThe power of relationships is immense! I typically partner with clients to accomplish significant bottom line results on a wide variety of topics ranging from organizational change and culture projects to process projects such as service improvement, inventory reduction and lean programs to technical projects such as leveraging and implementing ERP systems, and there is one common element across all of them - the power of relationships. To add fuel to the fire, it also holds true for personal success.

As tempting as it might be for executives to think that "all will be fine" if only they implement the latest fad (even if it is a "good" fad such as lean, green or whatever will be the next fad, probably rhyming with "een"), technical bell and whistle or best practice process, don't fall in the trap! Although many of these might be valuable from one perspective or another (which is why it is so common to take a trip down this rabbit hole), the 80/20 to achieving bottom line results goes back to people. So, why waste so much time, money and resources on the "20" of the 80/20?


In addition to the traditional aspects of people (hiring exceptional people, valuing your employees, following a simple yet effective performance management process etc.), there is nothing more critical to success than developing and leveraging the power the relationships. Thus, a few tips include: 1) Take stock. 2) Build relationships. 3) Value your relationships.


1. Take stock - It sounds silly but it is not bad to start with simplicity - what relationships do you have currently? Which are those you consider long-term partners (customers, suppliers, trade association members, brokers, other people at your company or client, etc.) and/or people you'd like to stay connected to for the long term? Which are shorter in nature yet critical for a period of time? Which are already on a solid track? Which need help? Take a step back and think about how you'd prioritize? For example, as a leader, it is typical to spend the majority of your time on your non-performers yet your top performers deliver 80% of the results - where should you focus?


2. Build relationships - I'd be surprised if you didn't find someone you need to build a relationship with and/or a relationship to nurture. So, how do you begin? How about taking a step back and thinking of how you can provide value to your employee, your boss, your customer, your supplier or whoever you've identified? No point in starting with what you want - how is that interesting to the other person? It's not! Instead, ask compelling questions and listen - you'll learn everything you need to know in order to build a relationship.


3.      Value Your Relationships - My neighbor across the street from my house passed away suddenly recently - such a nice man. 15+ years ago, I remember him always wandering by to check on things if need be, and he really liked and appreciated my parents as they were whirlwind gardeners (and he didn't even know what they did in the house!) - they came for a long weekend, and my garden/ landscaping could go from so-so to great in 8 hours flat! It makes you think - do you take your relationships for granted or do you value them? The same is true of your best, low-maintenance customer or supplier that you always overlook for your high-maintenance, low profitability customer.

There is only one nugget of wisdom which spanned every role in my 20+ year career without exception which ranged from roles of Production Planner to Project & Transition manager to VP of Supply Chain & Operations to Business Consultant, Entrepreneur and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. and APICS Inland Empire (and non-profits do throw a few wrenches into the mix) - it is the undeniable power of relationships. Think of it this way - who is there for you when the unexpected occurs? What are you doing to build and nurture your relationships?

retaining_top_talent_10222013.jpgRetaining top talent should always be a priority for supply chain management; however, in today's market, losing even one top player, especially a project manager, can make the difference between success and failure.

 

Since the recession, employers have expected logistics employees to be generalists. In essence, employees at all levels in an organization are expected to wear multiple hats seamlessly. At the same time, people are getting tired. In some cases, they've worked for years with minimal or no pay increases while expanding their responsibilities. Although they might be appreciated, often times, they do not know it.


Perception is reality. Therefore, I've seen a trend in my business consulting clients, and in my networks of folks beginning to change jobs. This is creating a panic as they leave huge gaps in their wake.

 

For example, at one of my clients, an entire department left the company over the course of 6 months. That might be considered a black hole! On the other hand, I know of folks in my networks who get job queries frequently who are committed and stay the course.

 

Let's guess which companies those are? The ones that have performance management systems in place with leaders who collaborate on goals, appreciate employees, provide challenges, address the roadblocks (even the unpleasant ones), etc. Interestingly, those who have managers who are willing to provide constructive feedback and address problem employees are much more likely to stay than those who steer clear of the conflicts.

 

 

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  Critical Priority: Retaining Top Talent.

ERP implementation_10_17_2013.jpgI've found that noticing and acting on trends can be a key to success from both a professional and personal perspective. Lately there have been plenty of trends to notice; however, a noteworthy one is that I've received several requests and/or inquiries about ERP implementation, post go-live support, and how to leverage ERP systems to drive business results. One of my recent speeches, "Leveraging ERP for Bottom Line Results" has become a popular topic, and as companies are beginning to think about investing in ERP again, it is all the more important to ensure success with your ERP projects in order to achieve the expected returns.

In my experience in working with multiple companies in a variety of industries and globally on implementing and leveraging the use of ERP systems to drive business results, I've seen the good, bad and ugly and have derived a set of best practices for achieving success. A few of the keys to success include the following: 1) Build core metrics into the process upfront. 2) Focus on exception processes. 3) Look for ways to simplify

1.   Build Core Metrics into the Process Upfront - Building core metrics into the process upfront is undoubtedly the #1 key to success. For example, in one Oracle implementation, the company went over and beyond to ensure success by hiring not only Oracle consulting experts but also process experts to ensure a seamless transition; however, there was a significant gap with the day-to-day business. As is typical in implementations, often your best internal experts become involved with the implementation (and not focused on prior responsibilities), transition to new functions in the business or are dealing with entirely new business processes tied to the new system; thus no one is minding the store.

In my example, although there were people tasked with metrics and it appeared that the teams were well-organized, no one realized they were shipping significantly less immediately following the go-live. Soon, it built on itself, and they were suddenly behind and scrambling in shipping, production, planning and purchasing as well. Customers suffered! And costs increased. Instead, I've found that if you determine your core metrics upfront (or as soon as you realize your gap) and develop a simple tracking process; you'll avoid unnecessary chaos and upheaval to your business.

2.  Focus on Exception Processes - I've found that although there is typically a concentrated focus on testing all of the core areas of the business, implementations fall short with exception processes. I've yet to see an implementation that wasn't struggling to maintain deadlines; thus, you are often fortunate to get through the testing and pilot process with your main functions let alone exceptions. Unfortunately, how many typical days are without exceptions (no mistakes, no entry errors, no changes in customer orders, and no delays in purchase orders)? Not many!

As exceptions begin to occur, the processes fall apart. It builds upon itself as well-intentioned employees find workarounds to resolve the exception which creates down-the-line issues. Instead, it is vital to ensure exceptions are incorporated into the training process. If that ship has already sailed, make sure to focus a team of people on bringing the organization up-to-speed on how to handle exceptions.

3.  Look for Ways to Simplify - Last but not least, look for ways to simplify - your processes, systems and implementation. It is easy to get side-tracked in complexity when implementing a new system, as you want the system to do everything you previously couldn't do as well as you wanted in order to achieve your business goals.

However, I've found it is at least 10 times better to simplify:

1) Boil down your desires to your core business drivers - what are your profit drivers? What aligns with your strategy?

2) Align your systems with your core business drivers through your critical success factors - typically, there are a handful of functionality areas to focus on in order to ensure the system will support your business and guarantee a smooth transition with key customers.

3) Ensure that the team focuses on these areas, even if it's at the detriment to the rest of the areas. I've found this is easier said than done; however, the rewards are substantial. Implementing and leveraging systems can help drive business results; however, they often cost FAR more than intended with poor results due to implementation chaos.

Take a look at implementing a few best practices and turn a potential mess into results!

Why not start on the right foot by syncing lean with the business strategy, integrating it into the culture and putting in the effort to implement solid operating principles? Not only will you deliver bottom line results but you'll also develop a culture of continuous improvement?

10152013_erp_implementation .jpgI've found that successful ERP implementation project leaders are unsung heroes as few supply chain executives could or should understand the thousands of moving parts and critical elements to achieving success. What are a few of these key elements?


1.           Start with a goal - What are you expecting your system to do? Hopefully not jumping jacks through rings of fire - outrageous? No. Because of the number of moving parts, it is a challenge to grasp; thus, it is incumbent on us to boil it down and gain clarity.


2.            Develop a roadmap
- No point jumping into training and debates on how to set up key functionality if you haven't developed a roadmap. How will you get from here to there? How will your processes change? What are the impacts?


3.            Think design - Design is a critical element when it comes to integrating the logistics process and system into a sustainable solution going forward. Ask design experts for help as it requires someone who sees connections and down-the-line impacts that most don't.


4.            Focus on critical requirements - The critical requirements that have the most impact on your business from a systems perspective (what's unique to your industry or business from a systems perspective or something that is a competitive differentiator) should gain the majority of your focus.


5.            Celebrate Your Project Management Gurus - The rest is a continual planning, assessment, redesign, metric tracking and follow-up on the critical path timeline. Organization, follow-up, leadership skills are a must. Appreciate that these unsung qualities will make or break your success.


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  ERP Implementation: Secrets to Success

lisaanderson

Customer Service

Posted by lisaanderson Oct 11, 2013

07182013_stand_out_from_the_crowd.jpgThe value of exceptional customer service might not be clear upfront; however, it is invaluable! I often hear my clients think about sacrificing “a little” customer service in order to save money or address other priorities. After all, it doesn’t seem like it should have a significant effect. For example, are we willing to sacrifice in order to gain a good discount? Just think about your Procurement function – what is top priority? Total cost including service, quality, etc.? Or, do we say those are important but measure on cost? Or how about month-end shipments? Which is prioritized? Service or quarter-end sales revenue dollars? If you want to thrive long-term, it better be customer service!

 

In today’s new normal business environment, service is of paramount importance. Will you stand out from the crowd? Being “good” is no longer enough if you want to create loyal customers, generate referrals/ grow business and collaborate with customers for success. You must be differentiated from the competition.

 

The crucial importance reminds me of how simple yet exceptional service stood out in my mind a few years back. It was a regular evening, and I was excited to stop by Mimi’s to pick up my favorite pumpkin pancakes, coveted during their limited time available on the holiday menu. While stopping by the store prior to picking up dinner at Mimi's, a woman backed into my car. Unfortunately, I saw her coming and blew my horn, but I couldn’t do anything but watch it happen. And, of course, she had a huge truck, and so she not only bumped my bumper but it damaged my hood as well.

 

After calling the police and finding out that they no longer will come out to non-injury accidents, I realized that I was on my own. So, we exchanged information etc. It all took a while, as she couldn't find the information in her husband's truck, and she had to borrow my cell phone to call him. He responded to her description of backing into someone by saying, "that's what side mirrors are for"; thus, she broke down in tears, which didn't help our situation.

 

An emotional 30 minutes later as we finished up the process, I got a phone call. It was Mimi's - they wondered where I was because they didn't want my pancakes to get cold. I told them that someone had backed into my car in a parking lot and so I ended up delayed but was finally on my way. By the time I arrived at Mimi's, they made a completely new set of pancakes so they wouldn't be cold, as they didn't want me to have any more issues after the car incident. How impressive is that customer service!

 

After arriving home, I called my insurance agent and left a message. I was concerned about the appropriate process to follow to ensure I was covered and didn't want any issues (after all, everyone hears the horror stories of people completely changing the story surrounding the accident while driving away from the scene). With excellent customer service, he called immediately upon arriving at the office the next morning.

 

My insurance agent demonstrates exceptional customer service – consistently. I found him by driving by his office when I first moved to California, and he went out of his way to help me with an MBA class related to insurance at the time. In this situation, it happened to occur on New Year’s Eve – of course! Thus, he planned to leave the office early but was very helpful in answering all of my questions and stayed late to help me with a few concerns. How many agents will pick up a non-essential phone call after closing hours on a holiday in order to help make a client comfortable? Again, that's value!

 

Next I had to go to a body shop to get a ballpark estimate. I went to the same, approved body shop I had used previously solely due to their customer service. I was so impressed that I wasn’t upset that I had to bring the car back to readjust the doors – a big inconvenience I overlooked for exceptional service. They did not disappoint. The same manager was on duty. He was very helpful and provided information. I told him that I was anxious to get the estimate (as I was mainly worried and anxious because I didn’t want my car to be totaled), and he went out of his way to ensure I was happy. What else can you ask for?

 

Although I spent a significant amount of time dealing with this problem, it could have been FAR worse if I hadn't received excellent customer service from three separate service providers. Do you think I'll be a repeat customer? You bet! Would I pay extra money to be guaranteed a quality experience and stress-free service? Absolutely! What are you doing to ensure your customers, clients, employees and supply chain partners feel the same way?

Supply_chain_collaboration_10_08_2013.jpgCollaborating with supply chain partners not only develops stronger partnerships but it also can deliver significant bottom line business results. 

 

I've noticed that my strongest clients dedicate time and attention to developing relationships and collaborating with their suppliers, customers, transportation partners, brokers, trusted advisors etc.

 

There are countless options to think about ... 

 

1. Collaborative ordering - I've worked with multiple companies to set up processes so that they can determine what to order and when for their key customers (such as Boeing) - this creates a win-win.  You are a stronger partner to Boeing and you have the opportunity to optimize inventory, freight and internal efficiencies.

 

2. Supplier partnerships - Instead of win-lose negotiations; successful companies find win-win opportunities.  How can both companies increase profit, reduce time etc.?

 

3.  Warehousing partners - Look in unusual places for partners to share warehouse space - customers, suppliers, friendly competitors, other key relationships?  For example, who does your commercial banker know who might need to share costs?

 

4. Transportation partners - There are an amazing number of options to get from point A to point B.  Do you just hire a carrier or ship everything via UPS?  Have you thought about using rail in collaboration with local companies? Pooling trucks?

 

5. Collaborative R&D - Are you involving your customers, suppliers, equipment suppliers, transportation providers and others in your product development process?  How else will you optimize packaging, customer needs, material options and more into one plan?

 

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  Supply Chain Collaboration

cross-integration_10032013.jpgIn the last few years, every supply chain consulting project has included an aspect of cross-functional, cross-company, or cross-border integration. Thus, what could be more important than figuring out how to integrate (businesses, projects, etc.) successfully? It is an opportunity to leave your competition in the dust, as there are no easy solutions, and it’s not a problem that money alone can solve.

So, what are the keys to success? I’ve found these to be the top three: 1) Leadership. 2) Clarity of goals. 3) People, cultures, processes, systems.


1. Leadership. As my HR mentor says, “It begins and ends with leadership.” It is undoubtedly true; thus, you must start with leadership. Who will lead the integration? Are they the best choice for bringing people together? Forget about technical requirements to start. It is essential to have a leader!


What is a leader? Consider these words or phrases: Respected. Trustworthy. A positive role model. Makes ethics and values a top priority. Willing to take prudent risks. Has strong communication abilities. Sees people as assets; not expenses. Always remembers the customer. Strives for the next level of performance and innovation. And my personal favorite – accepts accountability for issues but shares credit for wins!


Of course, there are no “perfect” leaders. Find the best qualified person, provide them support and tools, and “go.”


2. Clarity of goals. It is amazing how this one simple step consistently achieves results. Don’t think you’ve communicated goals, especially when it comes to logistics. Make sure they are clear, understood and supported.


Typically, in cross-functional initiatives, unclear goals are the culprit of less-than-desirable results. It is not as easy as it sounds. You must get into enough detail cross-functionally, cross-culturally, cross-company to get to a goal that makes sense to everyone. Everyone must understand WHY they are working towards the goal. How do they provide value to the end result? Why does it matter?

One way to make sure you have clarity of goals is to figure out your pay and rewards systems. Can one function succeed while another fails while achieving the objective? Sounds ludicrous but occurs frequently. Make sure everyone is on the same page to the degree of detail required to align rewards and recognition systems – even pay. For example, is the goal part of the pay performance criteria for each person? If not, why would everyone be on the same page?


3. People, cultures, processes and systems. Now the hard work. How can we integrate the people, cultures, processes and systems for the initiative in a win-win-win sort of way? This is why leadership and clarity of goals are critical, predecessor requirements.


In my experience, there are countless (and seemingly endless) issues that arise. These can range from how to free up enough resources to focus on the integration effort (as the same people are required for special initiatives and to run the daily business) to disagreement over which processes and systems will provide the best result. Addressing each of these issues, continually communicating and requesting feedback is vital. Again, remaining relentless on the goal is essential, as it helps to address many of these issues.

There is no substitute for solid leadership and unrelenting focus. Value and utilize each person’s strengths. Find overlapping areas of cultures, processes and systems. Look for opportunities for each person, culture, or company to benefit from the other. Ask for feedback and ideas. Don’t give up. The path will emerge.

 

Achieving a win-win in integrating cultures, people, processes and systems will not only yield a huge financial return (and likely put you far ahead of your competition), but, more importantly, it will also result in happier and more productive and dedicated employees – what could be more important?

10012013- strategicpriorities.jpgI thought it might be interesting to brainstorm top strategic priorities commonplace today for manufacturers and distributors.


1. Speed. More and more, I'm seeing speed enter the logistics contest as a key strategic priority. How do you set up your organization to be in front of your competition in terms of speed?


2. Service. Since the recession and with the widespread use of Amazon, suddenly customers are demanding more for less—and faster than ever before. Yet even fast shipping isn't enough if you don't stand out from the crowd in terms of the complete service experience.


3. Collaboration. How effectively do you collaborate with your supply chain partners? Those who value collaboration seem to generate more business at better margins than the rest.


4. Marketing. One of my business consulting colleagues and friends talks about your marketing "sweet spot." I'm seeing a renewed focus on R&D, product development, thinking strategically about market positioning, etc. If you are interested in increasing profitability, it cannot be overlooked.


5. Technology. Technology for technology's sake is a waste yet it can also be a competitive advantage. I'm seeing an increase in executives interested in how to leverage technology to improve key business processes and productivity.


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  The Hidden Benefit of Observation