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teamwork-300x200.jpgNot a day goes by when an employee, volunteer, Board member or colleague doesn’t retire, get promoted, move companies, change roles within the company or at least think about any one of these. For the vast majority of my clients, they run lean and are challenged to source projects even when fully staffed; thus, a skills gap is left in its wake.

I’ve found a key strategy for success in this environment is to simply KEEP your high performers. It seems much easier than it is to execute unfortunately. Pay is simply not enough. Pay is not a motivator; however, the lack of pay is a demotivator. Certainly if you do not pay within comparable salary ranges, you aren’t even in the game. On the other hand, you could be in the high end of the range and you’ll still lose top performers if you do not retain top talent.

My firm’s research study on this topic found that retention must become a critical priority. In my experience, the single largest key to retention is leadership.  Leaders create an environment for empowered and engaged employees. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Thus, it requires the rare leader who will make the tough call and who will support his/her people when the going gets tough. Who will behave as an empowered employee if they fear getting beat up?

To learn more about the key strategies to successfully empower and engage employees, join me atAPICS 2014 for my education session “Cultivating Empowered and Engaged Employees” in New Orleans on October 19th. Go to educational sessions, and look under the category for Professional Development.

skillsgapinCA-300x232.jpgCalifornia was responsible for 1/3 of all new jobs added in August in the nation!  I see this on daily basis at my clients.  They are hiring for key positions and struggling to fill the skills gap.  My research showed that 87% of manufacturers and distributors are experiencing a skills gap.

Not only must you be better than your competition at locating and attracting top talent, you must be able to retain top talent.  What do you have in place to retain top talent?  Certainly some companies have comprehensive training and development programs; however, I find the “simple” is amazingly effective:

• Do you show your employees that you appreciate them?

• Do you give your employees interesting projects?

• Do you allow your employees to experiment and fail?

• Do you hold your employees accountable?  Interestingly, I find that if employees know you will hold folks accountable, you will have a much more attractive environment.  Who wants to pick up others’ slack?

• Do you celebrate successes?

• Do you ask for and LISTEN to feedback?

Consider implementing a few of these “simple” retention strategies, and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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The Skills Gap

US Manufacturers Face Shortage of Skills – How Can That Be?

profitthrupeople-300x200.jpgSupply Chain is about making connections and when I talk about The Manufacturing Connector(SM), I am referring to the comprehensive process to connect the rapid assessment and identification of key priorities with the execution of results through the right combination of end-to-end supply chain expertise and improvements in people, processes and systems.

When going into additional depth when it comes to people (Profit through People), I find that it is where I spend 80% of my time and attention for my most successful clients. Thus sit up and pay attention!

The reason people are cornerstone to success and my original brand was “Profit through People”, even though I focus on end-to-end supply chain topics, is because people make or break success. I can’t think of a success story within my clients or contacts where people didn’t play a vital role. Can you?

For example, in order to radically slash lead times, it takes more than dictating a change to Customer Service; instead, it involves each aspect of your order fulfillment process from taking orders to planning production, collaborating with suppliers, managing capacity, resolving operational bottlenecks, implementing the concept of flow (lean thinking), etc. How can such a change be successful unless leaders rise to the challenge, cross-functional teams get formed, culture change occur, metrics get measured, and change management becomes commonplace?

Now expand your thinking to your supply chain partners. Are you collaborating with your customers? Do you have communication processes in place with your bank? Can they support your cash flow needs? How about your insurance carriers? Attorneys? Contract manufacturers? Etc.? It must be one, inter-connected web to succeed, and it will boil down to people!

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

Leadership is the Cornerstone to Delivering Better Business Results

TipsList-300x198.jpgWhen applying my Systems Pragmatist viewpoint to analyzing manufacturing processes and systems, I revisit the fundamentals as they are essential to delivering bottom line business results. Those clients who want to skip over the “hard work” of defining and improving processes and leveraging systems are destined to failure whereas those who take the time to ensure that these bedrock concepts are in place thrive.

Undoubtedly, I find the key to success to be in connection points. Is your process documented? It’s amazing how often clients should start here.  By understanding your current process, opportunities for improvement jump out!  Do your processes connect with your system?  Are your employees trained on how to optimize system processes?  How should you handle mistakes in your system? Are there ways to further leverage your system to achieve results? Do you have the right system for your critical business requirements? Perhaps you better take a step back – what are your critical system requirements? If you are upgrading or implementing, have you thought through your critical path tasks? Which are vital to the core functions of your organization? Have you thought through your connection points with your employees, customers, suppliers, related systems, etc.? Do your employees have expertise in project management? And the list goes on….

My best clients understand the value and importance of tying your processes and systems to your objectives. For example, Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP/SIOP) is a system-wide process that ties the entire organization together, and to a great extent, even customers, suppliers and other partners, on one plan. Of course, no S&OP program is successful unless this plan contains the “right” content (the priority end-to-end supply chain topics such as demand forecasting and capacity planning), the “right” people (starting with the executive team and expanding from there), and the “right” systems (inclusive of ERP, business intelligence/reporting, e-commerce, etc.).  When these all come together, results follow. For example, in one client we increased service levels from around 60% to the high 90%’s while improving margins by 10%.

Don’t undervalue your processes and miss vast opportunities. Instead, force yourself and your executive team to pay attention to what might seem mundane yet will propel your company to success.

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What is a Systems Pragmatist? 

Rapid Assessments for Success

stonglink-300x277.jpgAs The Manufacturing Connector(SM), I work with clients on a comprehensive process to connect the rapid assessment and identification of key priorities with the execution of results through the right combination of end-to-end supply chain expertise and improvements in people, processes, and systems.

When going into more depth on the content side of the equation (the Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain), I find that my most successful clients take the time to think through from a strategic perspective. Which end-to-end supply chain content areas are most important to success? Countless topics could be included in the mix, ranging from operational improvement to integrated planning and scheduling systems to logistics performance to cost accounting to requirements such as Sarbanes Oxley, ISO9000 and AS9400.

Are you staying on top of the latest trends? What is your competition doing? Are you attending industry conferences? How about systems user groups? Are you benchmarking? What technologies are common in your industry? Which ones are emerging? It doesn’t mean you should be first; however, you should be aware. Do you have the right supply chain expertise? What options are available to gain supply chain expertise and information for your organization? What training programs are available? Find out how you can have the “best and brightest” when it comes to the end-to-end supply chain process.

There are a plethora of topics covered in supply chain management. How can you become the strongest link in your supply chain?

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The Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain 

Rapid Assessments for Success

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, Amazon and the US Postal Service are testing a new delivery service for groceries including meat, produce etc. They already partner on Sunday deliveries and are expanding their collaboration efforts to see if this new model can be successful.  What a combination of innovation and collaboration!  Win-lose, collaborate for success partnership thinking (beating your suppliers down on price with no thought to creating gains for them as well) is no longer successful.  Instead, think about how to make collaboration yield 1 + 1 = 21.

One tip to implement this week: Do you view your suppliers, customers and other partners as true partners?  How about your employees?  For example, do you search for ways to help your customer reduce costs regardless of its impact on you?  You should!  If everyone started thinking about how to turn 1 + 1 = 21, we’d have exponentially more successful businesses. Try looking at it from the other person’s point of view?  What would benefit them?  What if your approach started with this perspective?  I guarantee benefits to you will follow.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

budget-300x200.jpgWhether as an individual or company, taking financial control is an essential element to success. Many of my manufacturing, supply chain and distribution clients dread budgeting time when they should be looking at it as an opportunity. This is always an appropriate topic but especially when looking forward to the next quarter:

1. Plan - as obvious as it sounds, think in advance about your projected income and expenses. I’m constantly surprised how many businesses and households do not plan and then are surprised at the results.

2. Think big picture – forget the details and think big picture. Is there a significant difference from last year? Why? What is the trend? Do the numbers make sense when you step back from adding and subtracting? Again, I cannot begin to count the times the numbers have been wildly off target and missed, yet they “added up”.

3. Track progress – don’t wait until it’s too late; start now. After all, why bother creating a budget if you do not use it? In my experience, those companies and individuals that create value through the budgeting process, track progress and adjust accordingly.

4. Feedback – this is as simple as celebrating success and evaluating areas for improvement.

5. Do not marry yourself to a budget for the sake of the budget – one of the most common mistakes is being too rigid about the budget. If the market changes, if a new priority or opportunity arises, if it looks like you’ll make your budget too soon; change it. Think smart flexibility.

6. Consider your presentation – one of the largest hurdles of budgeting is when you achieve it. Will you continue to be motivated to achieve 30% more? What can you do to plan yet create accountability combined with flexibility for what makes sense on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?

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Synthesize for Results

Project Failure: How to Avoid Top Causes

focusonpriorities-300x300.jpgWhen I talk about The Manufacturing ConnectorSM, I am referring to the comprehensive process to connect the rapid assessment and identification of key priorities with the execution of results through the right combination of end-to-end supply chain expertise and improvements in people, processes and systems.

When going into additional depth on Eagle Eye, I find that keeping an eagle eye view remains cornerstone to success throughout the process. Slackers are not welcome!  Being vigilant with observation, prioritization, organization and the like must be omnipresent throughout if you’d like results to occur.

In my experience, eagle eye vision boils down to two main areas: 1) rapid synthesis, assessment and prioritization 2) focus.

Let’s start with #1. Who has seen failure take over as analysis paralysis comes into play?  Probably most of us!  How about leaders who are afraid to make the leap? Equally bad, leaders who are lost in a maze and don’t know how to find their way out? Unfortunately, these occurrences happen frequently. Thus, find those experts in your organization and external to your organization who are able to understand, synthesize and rapidly assess large amounts of oftentimes disparate information and be able to determine priorities and develop roadmaps for achieving objectives. No one can focus on 1000 priorities at once (even though we all try); the key is focusing on the “right” priorities.

Even after your top 3 priorities are clear, don’t let your eagle eye rest, which brings us to #2, focus. The critical component to expediting success is to focus on just the intersection of the three key areas (priority content, people, and processes/systems). It is abundantly easy to get side tracked on the non-essential; however, while you are smelling the roses, your competition will be racing by you in the fast lane. Make sure to translate your plans into results by keeping your eagle eye intact.

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What is an Eagle Eye Strategic Focus?

Synthesize for Results

summertime-300x236.jpgAs summer is quickly winding down, I thought it appropriate to take a step back and think about a few ideas to wrap up the season:

1. Rejuvenation – no matter how busy, it is vital to plan time for rejuvenation. No one can go 24/7 – you’ll be more productive after a bit of rest and rejuvenation.

2. Creative vacations – even if you cannot get away or take time off, find creative ways to take a mini-vacation or stay-vacation. Have you spent an entire weekend reading in bed? Do something to get you out of your routine.

3. Appreciate family & friends – especially in times of volatility, there is nothing more important than your support system. Appreciate and value them.

4. Provide value – instead of thinking about what you’ll receive, start each day with how you can help someone else. Smile and be pleasant to an overwhelmed service employee. What can you do to help?

5. Take a walk outside – exercise can achieve wonders, and what better time to try a brief walk than during the summer (except perhaps in Arizona; however, a midnight walk might be an option).

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Lean: Uncommon Common Sense

Leanculture-300x212.jpgIt just so happens I’ve been working closely with a few lean gurus in the last 6 months, and I’ve been partnering with clients to implement lean processes, stemming from traditional operations to critical administrative functions such as order management and planning. None of these efforts will achieve anything if they aren’t backed by the “right” people culture. A few items to think about if you are going down this path:

1. Culture of innovation - Contrary to how most companies operate, a lean culture dictates that mistakes are good.  In essence, if you don’t try anything new, you won’t make a mistake. Thus, you have to allow folks to try and fail (even when it affects your bottom line) – and encourage it!

2. Bottom up - The people at the bottom of the pyramid are the most powerful. Executives and management are there to provide support, tools, mentoring etc.; however, the people who will make or break lean’s success are the people doing the work.

3. Involvement – Of course, you must involve the people. This is not a cursory meeting to update folks; instead, it means you have to be willing to do something you think might not be as perfect as you’d like in order to take their input into account. Are you willing to do that?

4. Education – You must invest in your people and their education. Bring in lean experts to teach your folks to fish instead of catching it for them.

5. Metrics – Many companies fail when they say they support lean but their metrics dictate the opposite. Make sure what you say and what you do are in sync.

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Lean: Uncommon Common Sense

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, the U.S.’s largest drugstore chain Walgreens had a database glitch and customers were unable to fill prescriptions.  The database issue hit 8200 pharmacy locations.  Some customers were inconvenienced while others might be waiting in excruciating pain for the system to be fixed.  In this case, the culprit was a system upgrade; however, it could have been any number of potential causes. No matter how unlikely, in today’s business environment, customers expect high service levels and are less likely to stick by you when issues occur.  Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law will occur somewhere down the road.  Are you prepared for a systems failure?

One tip to implement this week: Think about what would happen if your system went down. What is most critical?  Do you have a backup process in place?  I found out the hard way that a simple backup can be a lifesaver! Don’t delay! Beyond that, think about your most critical files and functions of your system. How can you make sure they stay up?  You don’t have to be a whiz yourself.  I.T. service companies can help. Most importantly, make sure you and your teams are trained on how to perform manual processes. Understanding the processes enough to perform them manually can also be a win-win as ideas emerge for improvement. Go out and ask a few questions. Find out if your business would come to a standstill or if you’d be able to help your competitor’s customers if both of your systems were down.

obstacles-300x225.jpgHave you ever seen a project without obstacles? In my hundreds of projects over the last 20+ years, I never have! Yet every one of my clients over the years has multiple projects running as they are cornerstone to success. Project results are considered essential – improve service, increase margins, accelerate cash flow, implement or upgrade an ERP system without a hiccup, etc. Thus, it is wise to consider how to overcome obstacles upfront. Prepare for success!

How do we effectively do that and deal with obstacles? 1) First, prepare to avoid them. 2) Remain calm. 3) Think about options. 4) Evaluate.

1. First, prepare to avoid them! – Well, of course, it is easier to overcome an obstacle if there is no obstacle. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Easier said than done”. No doubt, as I’ve said that too; however, I have found that with a little thought, you can avoid several obstacles.

My best practice for accomplishing this goal is to stick with what’s simple. First, don’t worry about every obstacle. If it doesn’t matter to the project if you overcome an obstacle, don’t waste your time.

Focus only on those that will make a difference – certainly those affecting the critical path! Then, take 5 minutes to think. What is likely to go wrong? Can I live with that potential result? If not, is there something I could do to prevent it? Follow this process for your top 3 potential obstacles for all critical priorities. Soon, you’ll have far fewer obstacles to overcome – and you’ll likely become more effective by default since you can focus on fewer issues at a time!

2. Remain calm – Again, much easier said than done. Yet I’ve found this can be the most essential ingredient to success. Although it’s a natural tendency to stress or feel bad about the situation, refrain as much as possible. We think more clearly when not stressed. Instead of thinking of all the ways we screwed up to make this occur or worrying about what the worst-case impacts might be, take a deep breath. Most likely, it is not a life or death obstacle. Although it might require damage control, it is likely that it will not end your career. So, why waste energy? Instead, let’s put whatever energy we have to good use by figuring out a solution.

3. Think about options – In my experience in working with all types and sizes of organizations across multiple industries and globally, the best way to overcome an obstacle is the same across the board – think about options. Don’t waste time determining what caused the obstacle at this point (unless it will help in the resolution); instead, focus attention on options to overcome the obstacle. There are always numerous ways to overcome an obstacle. Don’t worry about the merits of each of the options until you’ve brainstormed a list of options. Ask your team members for ideas. Talk with colleagues. Even ask unlikely sources. I’m constantly surprised by what I learn from unlikely places. Project management is a team sport.

4. Evaluate – Once you have several potential ideas to overcome the obstacle, evaluate the top few. How likely are they to be successful? What downsides do they have? Which have other negative impacts? Typically it’s best to take resources out of the equation upfront so that you find the optimal solution as folks often get tied up in thinking of what they think is achievable vs. the ideal solution. Why would you want to miss out on a perfect solution because you aren’t sure how to staff it?

Now, it’s finally time to add resources into the mix. Don’t fall into analysis paralysis. Keep it simple: Determine a ballpark amount of time and resources the option will require. Determine to what degree it will resolve the issue or improve the situation. Is there anything else that would have to happen to ensure success? Will it likely be approved?

Then, when you’re 80% ready, GO! In today’s new normal business environment, speed matters. Thus, a 2% improved solution is not worth sacrificing a week of time (or even a day in most cases).

I run into countless obstacles. Whether I’m successful or not has little to do with whether I run into an obstacle; instead, it has to do with how I address the obstacle. Become quicker and more effective, and you’ll surpass your competition.

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Turning Data into Dollars

Systems Pragmatist:  6 Essential Ideas to Drive Business

datamining-300x241.jpgAs I’ve been putting together a SIOP (Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning) executive meeting presentation, it made me think about data mining. In this case, there is very little information available – in comparison to other clients, the ability to retrieve information is in the bottom 20%, yet I was still able to put it together. Thus, it made me think about a few tips:

1. Base reports: So long as the company uses a system, there will be some data you can access. Even the worst case scenarios, which make the ERP experts shudder, have untapped information. Find it.

2. Manual information: I’ve yet to go into a client who didn’t track some sort of information. True, it is often too much of the wrong information; however, they are tracking something. Find those people and understand what they track.

3. Accounting: Again, every company has to have financials. Thus, worst case, start with the Accounting team.  They might be leery to provide it but if you involve them in the process, you’ll likely be successful.

4. Track it yourself – To get ballpark estimates for some metrics, you can take a sampling approach and go out and track it yourself.

5. Report writer – Every system (even the most fundamental and surprisingly inexpensive ones I’ve seen for smaller companies) have some sort of report writer or the capability to integrate with a report writer such asCrystal Reports. Pursue this path!

6. Hire IT experts – I’ve seen countless times where folks who are good at retrieving data can glean information even from the worst systems.  At one client, they called him the “Data Ninja”.  I loved that term as I’ve run into data ninjas at many clients (although I have to agree, he was the best!), and those who don’t have one can bring on a temporary Access expert or SQL expert etc.

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Turning Data into Dollars

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, J.C. Penney’s climb out from potential imminent disaster continued last month.  J.C. Penney reported higher sales, wider margins and a smaller quarterly loss.  Although that might not seem like much to celebrate, it is a night and day difference from results experienced under their disastrous overhaul led by successful former Apple Inc. executive, Ron Johnson.  J.C. Penney tried a new strategy with Ron Johnson, and rapidly discovered that “fit matters”!  Customers provided their opinion by leaving in droves.  I applaud J.C. Penney for trying something new and pursuing innovation; however, it is critical to keep fit in mind from the start.

One tip to implement this week: Whether you are hiring, looking for someone to participate on a project team or collaborating with customers, make sure fit is not an after thought.  I’ve seen countless poor performers excel when transitioned to a role with a better fit, and unfortunately, Ron Johnson is not alone – many successful folks become wildly unsuccessful when promoted or transferred into poor fit jobs.  Why lose an exceptional employee by ignoring fit?  Equally worse, why spend huge dollars to hire the best-sounding person to be stuck with a problem employee?  Instead, think about fit.  It can be as simple as understanding which qualities are important for fit in your department or company.  Next, deliberately ask fit questions.  Be on the lookout for fit.  Suddenly, fit will improve and results will follow.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain talent? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

rightpriorities-300x300.jpgIn today’s new normal business environment, executives run from meeting to meeting, call to call and rarely have time to THINK.  How do we know we are working on the right priorities?

I’ve found that my most successful clients plan time to think about strategy, growth, innovation and topics such as these.  It cannot be an after-thought!  Actually, this is one advantage of the horrible traffic in the L.A. area – sometimes it provides quality thinking time about your business.  However, who would hope for bad traffic?!  Instead, set time in your calendar to think and brainstorm about these types of topics.  This will develop your Eagle Eye.  I’ve found that developing this skill is critically important to allocating your time to the most beneficial items – those which will have the most impact, are most urgent and which require attention.

One opportunity to achieve this would be to attend an upcoming invitation-only executive roundtable discussion at Harvey Mudd College, moderated by me and my colleague Kash Gokli, professor of Manufacturing.  If you are an executive in the Southern California area who is interested in innovation, please review more informationabout our event on August 28th and let me know if you are interested in attending.

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What is Eagle Eye Strategic Focus?

Metrics Rule

Assessment-300x191.jpgI will be rolling out a new diagram/ graphic next month that depicts how my service lines “work together” to dramatically improve performance.  In the interim, I thought I’d talk about the first step which is rapid assessments that deliver success.  A few tips include:

1. Take a cross-functional view – Only assessments which cross functional lines will provide significant value as no function works alone.

2. Look for connections – It is where the various functions, systems, processes, and people cross that is essential.  Focus on these areas.

3. Focus only on those areas impacting the critical objectives – Too many assessments take forever and end up in binders covered in dust on your desk.  Throw that thinking out and go for the practical – what really matters to your organization?

4. Consider priorities – How are you determining which items are most important? Take a step back and think about whether it is 1) urgent.  2) significant in impact  3) getting better, worse or staying the same on a daily basis

5. Keep best practices & fundamentals in mind – An easy way to rapidly size-up where to focus is to think about the current state vs. fundamentals for the type of business vs. best practices.  When all is said and done, where do you come out?

6. Capabilities – The best plans are useless if the team is incapable of understanding the plan or how to execute it.  Incorporate your capabilities and provide recommendations to fill gaps.

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What is Eagle Eye Strategic Focus?

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s July sales were DOWN by 2.5% – the worst in over 10 years! A significant contributor to this weak performance was due to the meat-supplier scandal in China affecting its sales in Asia and Africa.  As businesses try to find ways to grow sales in today’s highly competitive environment, fundamentals must remain in place to ensure quality and service.  What could be worse than finally achieving some success with organic growth to have it squashed by quality concerns? (In McDonald’s case, meat expiration date concerns..) Once customers leave, they are far less likely to return.

One tip to implement this week: Check in on your fundamentals.  Typically we are buried in day-to-day survival – managing projects, resolving problems, handling customer questions, preparing for Board meetings and the like.  Instead, set aside time (which you consider to be as important as your top customer, CEO or Board member calling with an urgent priority) to take a pulse on your fundamentals.  Go to Customer Service and Shipping, and ask about customers and service.  Go by a the production line and ask questions about quality.  Pick up your phone to call a key supplier.  Talk with your informal leaders and find out what’s on their mind.  Take stock of your fundamentals and address any potential risks uncovered.  If you don’t, you’ll wish you had as they surface from your customers instead!

Fotolia_54116212_XS-300x200.jpgIn today’s world, Amazon and mega distributors like Amazon have turned the way consumers purchase on its head!  Who knew Sunday deliveries would be possible – delivered by the Post Office no less!  Rapid delivery is commonplace.  If you aren’t thinking about how to UP your value AND deliver quicker, you will be passed by your competition.

Amazon has changed the way we view service.  They know their customers.  Gather information about their customers’ preferences and utilize that information to provide value add services customers don’t know to ask. However, once the customer receives the value added service, there is no turning back.  It becomes a necessity.  This is true for my family.  My parents discovered that I could order items via Amazon and get next day and even same day delivery, and now they are disappointed when I can only achieve two-day delivery.  Who knew?

None of the service improvements would be possible if Amazon didn’t start with strategy.  They became the powerhouse in terms of product choices.  Books, kitchen sinks, clothes, whatever you want, you can find.  In essence they’ve simplified the shopping experience by putting everything you can think of in one place.  Why would you go anywhere else?

Since Amazon impacts are prevalent in manufacturing and distribution businesses, my firm conducted a research study on these impacts and dug deeper into which we should pay attention to.  If you’d like to learn more about the results from my Amazon effect research study, please reserve your free report and sign up for my webinarwhere I’ll go one step further with strategies for leveraging the Amazon effect in your workplace.

Take a step back to think about Amazon’s strategy and how you can incorporate ideas into your business.  Instead of being passed up, leapfrog your competition.

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

Stand Out from the Crowd and Delight Your Customers

Fotolia_47884119_XS-217x300.jpgAmazon has certainly made a splash in recent years with out-of-the-box thinking in terms of customer service!  Who thought Sunday deliveries would be possible?  Same-day deliveries are becoming commonplace.  Immediate downloads of a huge selection of Kindle books is expected.  Drones are a discussion point.

What can we learn from Amazon when it comes to customer service?  A few tips pop to mind:

- Speed rules: If you aren’t decreasing your lead times, you’ll be passed up by the competition.  Immediate deliveries are not just increasing with Amazon.  Just ask your customers.

- Customer experience: Good is no longer enough!  Do you stand out in the crowd in terms of your customers’ experience?  Dig deep to understand your customers and find ways to delight them.

- 24/7:  Typical Monday through Friday bankers hours don’t cut it.  Special customers want to know how to reach you wherever you are and whenever they have an urgent need.  Are you findable?  How would your customer service attitude be at 9 a.m. on a Sunday?

- The right combination of self-service and full-service: Amazon does a great job in understanding its customer base.  Some folks like to research, do everything themselves and just place an order, whereas others prefer guidance and/or someone to talk with.  It is possible to talk with a person!

If you’d like to learn more about the results from my Amazon effect research study, please reserve your free reportand sign up for my webinar where I’ll go one step further with strategies for leveraging the Amazon effect in your workplace. Think about how your customers perceive you.  What can you learn from Amazon, tweak to make sense in your organization and implement?

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Why Customer Service Must Be #1

The Amazon Effect: Create a Customer Service Edge

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, employers have added over 200,000 jobs for six months in a row.  Employers are ramping up investment in their businesses again.  I’m seeing my clients realize that they need to fill skills gaps especially with today’s complex supply chains.  My recent skills gap research agrees.  The question is whether they can find top talent.


Those who want to attract top talent need to think about what employees are looking for.


One tip to implement this week: Take a step back and think about what you want as an employee.  Do you want control over what you do?  Do you want to be able to make decisions?  Do you want to have to support people who don’t want to carry their weight? I find the vast majority of managers know about the problem people but don’t want to address the issue.  Of course it is uncomfortable; however, what signal does that send to the high performers in your organization?  To become attractive, you don’t have to spend bunches of money; instead, think about what you’d want and start making choices to make your organization desirable.