Skip navigation
2014

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAs I’ve been writing holiday cards for weeks now, keeping in touch is on my mind. Why go through all the work to send holiday cards? I think it is a great opportunity to take a minute or two to think about each person as you write his/her card. Perhaps you should be doing a better job of keeping in touch. Or, perhaps you are keeping in touch and want them to know you are thinking of them. If even 5% of your cards make your colleague, family and friends’ day, isn’t it worth it?

I think the value of keeping in touch is obvious from a personal standpoint; however, it might be less obvious from a business standpoint especially as we are all BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. Just think of it this way – who do you call when you need a referral? Who do you call when you want the best service? Those who keep in touch. Of course you must be genuine or don’t bother. Keep in touch and stand out from the crowd.

One tip to implement this week:

Today’s tip is quite easy to implement. It takes no money; no resources and barely any time. Think of one person you would like to keep in touch with and do one of the following: Pick up the phone and give him/her a call. Send a letter. Make a point to find out when he/she can get together, and schedule it. Last but not least, send an email. The most personal approach is always preferred but do NOT wait for the “perfect” situation. I find more people waiting for perfection who miss HUGE opportunities. Pick up your phone….

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…”

image011-298x300.jpgIn my speech at the APICS 2014 International Conference, I talked about the essential skills of today’s supply chain superhero. Doesn’t it seem like supply chain leaders are expected to be superheroes?

I broke them down into categories to make it easy to remember. First are the soft skills which happen to be equal and often MORE important than the technical skills, according to executives. In this category, I included communication and presentation skills, leadership skills and customer service skills.

Next is the technical skills category. These must become an assumption. They include the skills of planning, project management and business processes. How many people do you have who excel in these areas? Exceptional project managers are hard to find. Last but not least is the category of systems. Here we have computational thinking (which doesn’t mean you have to be a computer whiz), ERP and critical thinking skills.

What are you doing to improve these skills? Do you have a mentor and/or coach to help you build these? And are you looking for these in your current employees and job candidates?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit through People:

The Skills Gap

Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars

What is important for ERP success?  The most important ingredient to success boils down to implementation; however, it will help set your implementation up for success if you select the “right’ system as well.  Here are a few strategies to ensure success:

1. Just the critical few key requirements. Although it is natural to think that every piece of functionality is critical (or why not include it since you’re spending money on a new system anyway), don’t. Take a step back and focus 80% of your efforts on the 20% that drives your business.

2. People. Nothing else matters if the right people aren’t on the team. It is 99.9% probable that something will go wrong during the system implementation, and if you have the right people in the right positions (on the implementation team, focused on change management, leading the organization, etc.), they will turn these potential boulders into tiny pebbles along the road to success.

3. The process must be led by the business functions, yet the IT project manager is the key. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but it is one of the most important elements to success. The business must lead the process to make sure it is focused on the key elements that will support the business and drive business value/return; however, they typically are not the best equipped to ensure a successful execution. Therefore, finding an IT project manager proficient in bringing it all together (the business needs, project management, the IT elements, etc.) and facilitating the implementation (sometimes behind the scenes in a supporting role) is key to success.

4. Change management. It isn’t necessary to be an expert in change management to be successful. Instead, leadership is the key – communicate proactively, provide as much clarity as possible about the future state, the roadmap to get to the future state, ask questions, and listen.

5. Training and education. It is the only way to make sure the business results are achieved. Don’t just focus on the how-to’s. Remember the whys – we want people to think, ask questions, push back and work as a team to deliver the expected business results.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the System Pragmatist:

Can You Prevent ERP Chaos?

The IT – Business Partnership

Fotolia_62385885_XS-300x199.jpgERP systems are not of much value by themselves; however, if you leverage the appropriate functionality to support your business, it can pay back rapidly with business growth and value. The key is to select the “right” system for you – a good “fit” for your business.

I find that my ERP selection projects are far more focused on business processes than on technical specs. Actually they can boil down to answering the following question: Which business processes (and related system functionality) are integral to achieving your strategy and providing a competitive advantage? Focus in on just those critical requirements.

For example, one of my clients is a battery manufacturer. In their business, traceability is a must. If a battery explodes in a cell phone, they must be able to trace the lot and serial number without delay. Thus, although finance functionality is needed, it does not matter if the system cannot support rapid and flexible tracking abilities. What are your critical success factors?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the System Pragmatist:

5 ERP Selection Pitfalls

Innovation Does NOT Need to be the Next iPhone!

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgIt is all over the news that the Dow plunged more than 300 points, as the sustained drop in crude oil spurred on growth concerns.  Yet last week we had news of the highest job growth in 15 years.  The bottom line is that volatility is the new normal.  How prepared are you and your business for volatility?

Pre-recession, a 100 point drop in the Dow would have spurred on more news than last week’s 300 point drop as volatility has become expected.  This is true in business as well.  For example, one of my clients said that they can have a dramatic increase in orders on Monday morning based on a promotion run on their e-commerce site over the weekend. This is not uncommon. Thus, the key to thriving is to be prepared, resilient, agile and flexible. Do you have people, processes and systems in place to leverage as needed?

One tip to implement this week:

Start with one area of your business or your responsibility – ideally start with one of the most important areas to achieving your strategy and goals. No reason to take on more than you can do successfully as you’ll move 1000 items forward by a quarter inch (if you are lucky enough not to move backwards in several areas) vs. moving your most important area forward by a mile.

Think about how you can be flexible and agile as volatility occurs. It could be great or horrible; either can turn sour if you are not prepared. Build flexibility into your plans. It will not happen by default. Cross-train your high-skilled resources. Utilize temps and contractors for short-term needs. Think about backup suppliers etc. You don’t have to have all the answers. Gather your team to think about how to build flexibility in your business.

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…”

Fotolia_71253125_XS-300x288.jpgWhat is a $1 million dollar planner? And why does it matter?

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of a $1 million dollar planner, which I define as a planner who provides millions of dollar of value to the company’s bottom line – which answers the question of why it matters! I come from a planning background, so I have a bias on this subject, yet my perspective is also based in facts. Typically I’ve found that planners are a lower level position (unless they are a planning manager), yet it is a key position that significantly affects the company’s performance – making it a challenge to find the ‘right’ person for the position. Why?

A planner is in the middle of a hornet’s nest by the nature of the role – in essence, this person is coordinating among several conflicting objectives and parties including sales, finance, production, customers, etc. A planner’s job is to optimize among several variables to put together a production, distribution, transportation or other type of plan that best meets the company’s objectives. In a production planning example, sales typically prefers to have extra inventory to make sure to fill unanticipated customer needs (does the comment, “we can’t sell from an empty bucket” sound familiar?). Finance prefers to minimize inventory because every dollar of inventory is a dollar of cash tied up. Production typically prefers to produce long production runs since it seems more efficient, which results in increased inventory. The warehouse prefers lower inventory levels because there is less inventory to move around the warehouse and to search through to find what the customer requires. So, what would a $1 million dollar planner do with this situation?

A $1 million dollar planner would not view all these objectives as conflicting; instead, he/she would look for “and” opportunities (ways to achieve several objectives at the same time). In order to achieve this outcome, the planner has to push back on the common misconceptions and help the various functional areas work together to achieve the end result. For example, the planner needs to work with sales to show them that there are alternatives and tweaks to the theory of “you can’t sell from an empty bucket”. Instead by partnering with customers, focusing on demand data/forecasting, working with suppliers/ deliveries and production lead times, and prioritizing efforts of key items/skus that achieve the “80/20”, it is possible to reduce inventory while improving customer service. Another example is to push back on the need for long production runs. Instead, focus on quick changeovers for the key skus, which achieves flexibility (which improves the ability to achieve customer service and reduces the need for long production runs) with a lower overall cost.

However, what skills are required to achieve this objective? – A combination of analytical skills, communication expertise and confidence (after all, the planner typically is perceived as stirring up trouble in the minds of dueling parties). I’ve found this combination of skillsets to be a unique combination. How often does any resource possess this combination of skills, let alone a lower level position resource? Not often.

I’ve found the key is to find the resource with the aptitude and attitude required for this type of role (whether or not they have experience) and provide the training, support and tools for success. And, this position needs what most people need – someone who values his/her contributions and understands this unique, complex environment (whether or not they can navigate it themselves). It sounds simple, but it can be the critical component to your $1 million dollar planner.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the Strongest Link:

A Planning Mindset Is Invaluable to the Supply Chain

Profit through People: Is Talent Important to You?

image009-300x200.jpgAs the year winds down, it seems an opportune time to discuss supply chain management trends. I find that those clients that pay attention to trends and find opportunities to leverage them often surpass their competition.

I’m working with a diverse portfolio of manufacturers and distributors ranging from $6 million dollar, family-owned businesses to $100 million dollar facilities of multi-billion dollar, global companies.  When I see trends that cross company-size, geography, position, etc., I take note.  If you can apply the “right” best practice to the “right” situation at the “right” time with the “right” people, you can dramatically increase the value of the business.

Several of the latest supply chain management trends that pop to mind include:

1. The value of collaboration:Although I’ve always believed in the value of collaboration, my critics thought it was too “touchy-feely”. Imagine how surprised they are to see dramatic growth, profit and cash emerging from collaboration! And now it is gaining in popularity to boot.

For example, SIOP (sales, inventory, & operations planning) can yield substantial results by aligning demand with supply, and more importantly aligning the various departments of the organization – and customers and suppliers – on the same page. One of my clients achieved a HUGE increase in service levels (from 60% to the high 90%’s) and a 10% improvement in margins. Not too shabby for “touchy-feely”!

2. Innovate to thrive: Since the world has become complex, global and highly competitive, we must stand out from the crowd. Operational excellence must be an assumption. Instead our focus should be on innovation. Innovation does NOT need to be a new invention or a new product or service. Instead, it can be a new way to leverage already-existing processes, tools, products, etc. How can we re-package and combine products and services in a way that provides exceptional value for our customers? Do NOT think R&D has to be where innovation starts.  Involve your employees. I promise you’ll be thrilled with the results.

3. Leverage technology: It has become more difficult to “keep up” with customers’ expectations, competition and the ever-changing business environment; thus, it is essential to leverage technology for success. Of course, you can still have the most efficient, manual system possible; however, if you are spending time doing what can be replaced with technology, you have missed an opportunity to grow your business, innovate and the like.

For example, I’m finding that utilizing the “right” ERP system can give small and mid-tier companies the infrastructure they need to take advantage of GROWTH opportunities. For all-size companies, ERP systems will provide the tools to collaborate with customers and suppliers, accelerate cash flow, increase efficiencies, etc. Of course, it does not stop with ERP systems. Evaluate your needs and be smart about selecting the right technology for your needs. Perhaps bar coding, forecasting, e-commerce, business intelligence, etc.

4. The Skills Gap: According to my firm’s research study, 77% of manufacturers and distributors are facing challenges in finding skilled resources. However, I didn’t need to conduct a study to determine this trend – it is prevalent with my clients, my APICS Inland Empire Chapter (I’m the President of the Inland Empire chapter of the #1 trade association for supply chain management) and my Ontario ProVisors group (I’m a group leader for a group of trusted advisors inclusive of CPAs, attorneys, commercial bankers, etc., in the Inland Empire).

The KEY to this trend is that those executives who value people will have a significant opportunity to leapfrog the competition. I see underappreciated and undervalued people at every client. Look for them. Give them interesting work. Appreciate their contributions. They won’t be thinking about shorter drives, more money and better bosses because they’ll be engaged. Since it is clearly a winning strategy and costs us nothing, why do so many companies ignore it?!?!

5. The Amazon Effect: According to my firm’s research study, 65% of manufacturers and distributors feel customer service gaps vs. Amazon-like offerings. Amazon is driving substantial increases in customers’ expectations. For example, my clients’ customers typically expect a 50% reduction in lead times – and 24/7 accessibility in some fashion has become an assumption. Have you set up your organization (people), processes and systems to meet these needs?

6. Near-sourcing: My next research study will be on in-sourcing and near-sourcing as I see this trend continuing to gain steam in the next year. The TOTAL cost to produce in China has become negligible to the cost of producing in North America; thus, executives are beginning to think about in-sourcing and near-sourcing. After all, how will they deliver same-day or next-day from China? What type of cash is tied up in inventory, in transit and in warehouses?  How can they reduce supply chain risk? And the list goes on. How do you think this will impact the skills gap?

Pay attention to trends for opportunities to grow your business, become more efficient, increase margins and the like. I’m launching a new service, the Profit Chain Accelerator Program to identify and leverage these types of opportunities. Email me for more information.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the Strongest Link:

Emerging Supply Chain Trends

Inventory Velocity

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpg

I read in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. is on pace for the strongest job growth in 15 years after November’s growth of 321,000 jobs. This news doesn’t surprise me as my clients are in growth mode. Even though my clients cut back during the recession and have been reluctant to add back more than absolutely necessary, they are now adding key positions to grow the business.

As I’ve been discussing since my Skills Gap research report, employers are undoubtedly finding themselves short of the top talent required to grow profitably and successfully. There has been a dramatic reduction in lower skilled jobs over the last 20 years as manufacturers and distributors have automated, moved low-skill labor jobs to lower cost countries, etc.; however, with automation and value-add products and services, the demand for higher-skills increases. Thus, employers must attract, retain and train top talent. What types of training programs are you implementing?

One tip to implement this week:

As the year winds down, it is a perfect opportunity to look for training opportunities that will support your strategy and plans for the New Year. Do NOT just assign someone to train or to devise a program. Your top talent should be a priority! Be involved and create teams to determine which training program will provide the most value and align with your objectives. Make sure your employees understand the importance and that you are investing in their success. My APICS Inland Empire Chapter is offering CSCP classes (Certified Supply Chain Professional) in January – this will provide a great end-to-end supply chain toolkit. Consider options like this to invest in training for your employees.

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…”

Fotolia_60649639_XS-300x204.jpgVolatility is the new normal. Those organizations that can succeed with change will thrive. Thus, it is worthwhile thinking about how to become effective with organizational change to not only increase the value of your business but to also create an enjoyable workplace:

Fit with strategy – Change for the sake of change without looking at fit with the company’s strategy is useless yet occurs frequently. Focus efforts on what really matters.

Do we fear change? – No! People don’t fear change; they fear the journey to the future.

Explain the whys – Who doesn’t respond better when they understand why they are doing something – and, even better, explain why he/she is integral to where the company is headed. Suddenly, you have interested participants.

Communicate – I’ve found that you cannot under-communicate regarding organizational change. One way to ensure your teams understand the journey is to keep them in the loop. Communicate what you know. Be upfront and tell them when you cannot communicate. Trust will follow.

Listen – It sounds obvious but rarely occurs. What’s more important to successful organizational change than to listen to your people? Even if what they are saying doesn’t seem important, it is important to them or they wouldn’t bring it up. Take the time to make sure they know you care about their feedback.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to use your Eagle Eye:

Accelerate Change Management Results

Secrets to Succeeding During Organizational Change

120214-300x228.pngI’ve yet to meet a client that didn’t have FAR too many priorities for what could be achieved successfully. Instead of accepting additional priorities, think about which priorities you should be focused on.

Consider the following factors:

1. Alignment with strategy: Oddly, I find it is easy to get caught up in priorities that do not align with your strategy. Check on this upfront.

2. Urgency: Is it time sensitive? For example, if your dog will run into traffic in the street, it is an urgent issue and cannot wait.

3. Benefit/cost: If the item isn’t addressed, what will happen? Will you lose $5 million dollars? Will you gain a key customer? Or even though it might be time sensitive, the impact isn’t significant.

4. Is it getting better or worse? What would happen if you ignored the topic? Will it get better on its own? Worse?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to use your Eagle Eye:

Strategic Priorities

Are You Working on the RIGHT Priorities?

lisaanderson

Gratitude

Posted by lisaanderson Dec 24, 2014

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpg

I’ve been enjoying friends and time away for Thanksgiving. This time of the year reminds us of the value of gratitude. Thus, I thought it was an opportune time to discuss gratitude and remind us how important it can be for both personal and professional success.

Don’t we all feel more engaged when we know we are appreciated? Of course! I’d like to express gratitude for my family (especially my parents for their never-ending dedication to the success of their children and grandchildren and the value of family), my health (nothing much matters without family and health in the end…), great friends, good clients (what could be better than enjoying the people you spend your days with!), exciting travel (I’ve been very fortunate to have visited numerous countries and exciting locations), and the list goes on.

One tip to implement this week:

It is a great time of the year to look for people to express gratitude to on a daily basis. Why not look for those you might not typically think about thanking? You can make a BIG difference in someone’s day with a well-deserved thank you that you might overlook during other parts of the year. After all, we rush through our days and miss hundreds of opportunities to express gratitude to our co-workers and team members. Make it your mission to find one opportunity each day – and use it!

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…”

Are you thankful for your employees? And do you see your employees as a cost line of your P&L or do you consider them an asset? In my experience in working with many companies across a wide range of industries, geographies and company-sizes, it is 100% true that those companies that consider employees as assets thrive – hands down.

Succeeding in today’s new normal business environment requires a well-thought out and fundamentally different strategy than five years ago.  Standing out from the crowd requires innovation.  I’ve yet to find a client with an innovative culture that didn’t value its employees. Top on the list is to view your employees as assets. According to LMA Consulting Group Inc. research, 87% of manufacturers and distributors are experiencing a skills gap. Thus, it doesn’t require a Harvard PhD to see the value of retaining top talent.

A few simple yet highly effective strategies to retain top talent include: 1) Find your stars. 2) Focus on your stars. 3) Be an effective leader.

1. Find your stars: Your star employees will make the difference between being stuck in survival mode and THRIVING. Thus, you must begin by identifying these stars. Many times, these employees are overlooked – heads down, delivering results, leading projects, etc.

Since they aren’t typically focused on politics, they are likely to be under the radar. And worse, since they are focused on delivering results, they are likely to bring up uncomfortable topics and ask for tough decisions. Thus, they might not be considered a star. Unfortunately, I’ve found that leaders tend to think stars are those who are liked, agreeable and hard-working. For example, employees who work long hours are in this category; however, that doesn’t necessarily relate at all to whether the employee achieves and accomplishes anything while working hard.

Instead, look for those leaders and employees who consistently deliver results. You’ll have to look hard, as they might not have time to promote their results since they are focused on ensuring they occur. Who is not complaining? Typically, when employees complain, we immediately wonder about the person being complained about. Why? The deviation from standard is the person complaining. It’s fascinating how we can chase our tails without considering the facts. Look for informal leaders. If someone has an issue (not a complaint), who do they go to for help?

2. Focus on your stars: I cannot tell you how often companies make the HUGE mistake of ignoring their star employees. What could be easier to deliver your growth & profitability numbers than leveraging already-existing assets? Why must leaders jump to the conclusion that they can solve “all the company issues” by replacing star leaders and employees? Sound ridiculous? Absolutely; however, it occurs every day. And why do they treat the leaders and employees delivering results poorly? In my experience, it’s because the pragmatic approach to management can be uncomfortable.

It requires hard work, commitment and integrity. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. For example, instead of focusing on understanding roadblocks, emphasizing results and being an example, isn’t it easier to say “if we replace Sally, it will solve our problem”? After all, is it more comfortable to want to spend time in meetings with those who will agree with everything you say and appear supportive than those who push back and bring up potential roadblocks?

Those companies who THRIVE will be those who not only identify their stars but also focus on them. Find out what they think. Ask for their ideas. Promote them. Appreciate them. Explain how their value contributes to the company’s success. Invest in them. The bottom line: Treat them like your #1 asset.

3. Be an effective leader: Last but not least, star leaders and employees crave effective leadership. I could write another 500 pages on effective leadership; however, a few musts include: 1) Establish goals and discuss. Both easy goals and unrealistic goals are not only ineffective but are also a de-motivator. Goal setting isn’t simple but it’s core to success. 2) Provide support, tools and appreciation on an ongoing basis. The hard work begins. These cannot be empty promises with your star employees. You will work harder than ever before to succeed. 3) Continually work together to find opportunities and evolve in a way to ensure success.

My passion surrounds delivering bottom line results with people. It doesn’t require capital or cash; instead, it boils down to leadership. Is it worth investing effort into your people to grow your business and accelerate business results?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit through People

Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars

The Skills Gap

high-five-300x200.jpgAccording to a 2013 Gallup poll, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged.  What a startling statistic!  Through observation of clients, trade association members, and colleagues, I’d agree with that statistic.

During my presentation at APICS 2014 on “Empowering and Engaging Employees”, we broke into small groups to discuss strategies for achieving these objectives.  A few of the top tips to keep in mind include:

1. Vision: Clarify the vision. Where are you and the company headed? Everyone wants to understand their destination.

2. Top Goals: Help your employees come up with 3 key goals for the next quarter. If you are the employee, take 3 key goals to your manager to review. You’ll see how what you’re doing fits in with the vision.

3. Provide the freedom to experiment: Employees want to know that they can have an effect on their work and that their ideas are heard. Provide opportunities for employees to test new ideas. Accept that failure is a part of the process.

4. Encourage collaboration: Who doesn’t enjoy a good brainstorming session and coming up with ideas that can make a difference?

5. Celebrate success: Appreciate the seemingly small stuff that plays a pivotal role in achieving success.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit through People:

Are You Ready for Year-End?

How to Effectively Engage Employees and Achieve Results

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI just left an executive SIOP (sales, inventory & operations planning) meeting with a client. We are rejuvenating the process to gain alignment and to spur a rapid improvement in on-time delivery (which will be followed by a reduction in lead times). I’ve been working with quite a few of these types of projects lately, and they have reminded me of how easy it becomes to get caught up in non-essential detail. Since SIOP process relies on data, the natural tendency is to dig further into data and think up all sorts of interesting ways to look at information; however, what I’ve seen “work” is simplifying with a relentless focus on the critical success factors.

For example, if the data shows we have 50% excess capacity for a particular work center, it doesn’t matter whether it is 40% or 60% or if the numbers were calculated before or after an accounting adjustment. The point is that 50% is a significant, directionally correct number. Put together plans to leverage this new finding. Thus, in this example, perhaps you could re-allocate crews from this work center to a different overloaded work center if you provide training during the transition.

One tip to implement this week: I find that the vast majority of my clients get hung up in finding the “perfect solution”, in analyzing “one more” set of data and the like. On Monday, take a step back to think about your top 3 priorities. Then, re-evaluate the metrics being tracked and your performance to the metrics. Ask someone intimately involved in the day-to-day process for their thoughts on the topic. Simplify: decide what is relevant, stop focusing on the non-essential (which can be a significant portion of our day) and move forward. Progress and results will accelerate!

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…”

Fotolia_68350386_XS-300x225.jpgIn today’s new normal business environment, innovation is a must for project success! Often, I hear my clients think “I’ve designed this project for success; now I’ll hand it over to the worker bees to execute”; however, this approach is no longer enough. No wonder we have so many unfinished projects and disheartened project team members scattered throughout my clients! Instead, we must create a culture of innovation to ensure project success.

We must find a way for execution and innovation to live hand-in-hand in business, from the executive suites to the shift workers on the production floor. Certainly one possibility is to embrace the lean culture; however, I find there is almost more confusion than clarity among organizations in how to ensure all these “great” concepts yield results. Instead, think of innovation as deeply rooted in your culture. It is not complex or confusing. Innovation must start as culture change.

According to “Inside Steve’s Brain” by Leander Kahney, a book about the late Steve Jobs and creative innovation, innovation doesn’t have to be complex: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Thus, innovation is not some complex, non-understandable phenomenon. In addition to pure creativity, it’s about re-packaging—literally and figuratively—by connecting the dots in a new way and seeing trends and hidden profit opportunities. Who is typically the best suited to find these types of opportunities? Not the executive suite! Not managers! Yes, it is the people who perform the work – project team members. Thus, why would we think it would work to give them “what is best”, tell them to execute and typically, although we voice support, we don’t support with our actions when it gets tough (such as cross-functional turf battles or ideas affecting month-end performance)?

So, instead of following this path to work hard yet leave many half-finished projects hanging around, we need to create and implement a culture of innovation. How do we go about doing that? There are four basic ways: 1) Focus on the customer. 2) Value your project team members’ input. 3) Support trials & failure. 4) Encourage flexibility.

1. Focus on the customer. No project sponsor would say they aren’t thinking about the customer’s needs but do they? Are they doing what they think the customer wants or are they asking those closest to the customer (project team members) and the customers themselves? Instead of assuming you’ve completed this step, take a step back and talk with the project team members who interface directly with the customer and those which directly support customer needs. You’ll be surprised what you find.

2. Value your project team members’ input. It might sound strange for a discussion about innovation; however, the best people will create innovative ideas, products, and services. Ask your project team members for ideas, input, threats etc. Do NOT ignore them when they push back. See your team members as your customers and dig into what they tell you. Listening is the 80/20 of creating a culture of innovation.

3. Support trials & failure. One of the best ways you can show that you value the ideas of your project team members is to give them room to try them out. The quickest way to kill a culture of innovation is to encourage ideas but not follow through and support them. It is much harder to implement than it sounds! In my experience, the first time an idea fails and causes month-end issues or customer problems, innovation is stifled.To counter this, we must reward mistakes as it is a critical component of cultivating a culture of innovation. At best, I see this philosophy at 20% of my clients. If it were easy, we’d all have a culture of innovation. Give your employees the tools and knowledge and get out of the way. Celebrate failure. If they haven’t failed, they haven’t pushed the envelope far enough. This will encourage further innovation.

4. Encourage flexibility. Do not become married to one idea, one product, one customer’s perception, etc. Instead, create solutions that build in flexibility — think of the nontraditional “and” of two, seemingly opposite ideas. For example, instead of thinking that shortening the project timeline will require an increase in resources for the project; consider thinking about ideas for achieving the “and” – shortening the timeline without requiring more resources. Perhaps there is an overlooked idea which can be uncovered if the project team brainstormed. What if you encouraged a devil’s advocate process to bring out potential roadblocks upfront? Ask your project team to think about how to build flexibility into the process. It will give you many more alternative paths to success when you run into an obstacle or the situation changes due to external forces (which happen daily in the vast majority of my clients).

Think about creating a culture of innovation, and you won’t be disappointed. No one can do it alone; why not get your entire team thinking of how to “win”?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the System Pragmatist:

Innovation Does NOT Need to be the Next iPhone!

Innovation Tips

lisaanderson

Data Driven Leader

Posted by lisaanderson Dec 24, 2014

dataleader-300x200.jpgOne of the concepts that came out of APICS 2014 was the concept of a data driven leader. We are overloaded with data and messages on a daily basis yet the most successful leaders find ways to rapidly sift through the data to see trends, formulate ideas, and make decisions. To be successful in today’s environment, we must be FAST. Thus, being a data driven leader can be a key to success.

For example, in my recent Amazon Effect research study about the impact Amazon and other mega-distributors are having on manufacturers and distributors, executives are saying that the importance of data is increasing. Customers are providing additional demand data, and technology is providing access to many new types of data. The key is to leverage the data for elevating business performance.

What reports do you review on a daily basis? weekly basis? monthly basis? Do they provide the information you need to run the business? Slash the number of reports you receive but make sure the ones you receive are key to driving progress.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on being the System Pragmatist:

Data Mining for Dummies

Turn Data into Dollars

lisaanderson

Life Balance

Posted by lisaanderson Dec 24, 2014

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI just finished a birthday celebration for my niece (in essence). My parents, my mom’s sisters, my uncles, my cousin, my brother and I got together for some great pizza (Spinato’s pizza in Scottsdale is my favorite!) to celebrate Mia’s birthday. She loved her American Girl doll with many changes of outfits….you cannot have too many! And my mom got cheesecake and cupcakes to top off the evening.

I find that it is too rare that families get together like they used to. Well, I don’t know how typical it used to be; however, we saw my grandparents at every birthday, holiday, etc. One of my aunts lived down the street for many years, and it was great fun growing up close enough to walk over. I remember she used to make pancakes in the shape of animals. Another aunt came by weekly when I was in high school to take my best friend and I to the movies. Another aunt had me over to play tennis etc. And my aunt from my dad’s side started me on a collection of dolls of my nationalities. My mom’s best friend who we also considered an aunt was always full of fun surprises when she came over – making bizarre foods, ice cream etc. 

Whether you spend time with family or just get away with friends, remembering the importance of life balance can be essential not only to personal fulfillment but also to creative success at work.

 

One tip to implement this week:

As we head into the holiday season, think about how you can make sure life balance remains a priority. Pick up the phone and call a relative or friend you haven’t talked with in a while. Make time to let your family know you care. Compliment a co-worker. Smile. The “little things” can go a long way.

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…”