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2015

peoplepower-300x196.jpgI constantly go back to what my HR mentor (Debra Daniels) used to say, “It begins and ends with people.” She was right!

Earlier today, I went to lunch with 3 trusted advisors who work with the same types of clients as I do. One of them told us a story that reminded me of the critical importance of people. Long story short, he worked with a couple that ran a business. The husband believed in command and control type management – suppliers need to be squeezed, people are costs (not assets), etc. Eventually the wife filed for divorce, and the husband happily gave her the business while taking the great investment portfolio they had built. She listened to the people who worked for her, implemented ideas that made sense and was wildly successful. The business grew 10-fold. Not only did she end up with the larger piece of the pie, the people were motivated and energized. Win-win!

In your everyday interactions, think about how you would like to be treated. What would energize you? Treat others that way, and success will follow.

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

It Begins and Ends with Leadership

The 3 C’s to Leadership Success

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgCertainly on Memorial Day weekend, it is important to honor those who have served and to set aside time to spend with family. It shouldn’t take a special holiday for us to focus on these priorities; however, it certainly is a great reminder. I find that we get so busy in our everyday lives that we overlook some of the most important priorities such as supporting our soldiers, talking with those who have served in the past and even just spending time with our families. I recently went to DC, and there is such great history there that forgetting the importance of Memorial Day would be impossible. What are you doing this weekend?

One tip to implement this week:

You might wonder how focusing on those who have served and spending time with families has anything to do with work success but I see a connection. Those people who are the most well-rounded typically are much more successful – and happy – than those who aren’t. If you have someone who has served in your family, have you called to thank them? Or just to talk? How about volunteering in some way? Even just spending time with family can not only go a long way in making their day but it also can make yours. When you get back to work on Tuesday, you’ll be reinvigorated. If you’ve missed the opportunity this weekend, do it next weekend. It will have all the advantages along with the unexpected element thrown in for good measure!

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…”

Fotolia_73424023_XS-300x200.jpgAs we approach Memorial Day weekend, it is imperative to revitalize our projects. After working with countless manufacturers and distributors to elevate business performance, I’ve found that projects are the lifeblood of most organizations as their success or failure impacts customers, profit/loss and or cash flow in almost every client. Thus, making sure there is significant emphasis on their success should be a top priority for success.

Typically, my clients look like a ghost town during the holidays. Everyone is understandably distracted with family and friends. Those working do not feel pressure for rapid progress. Therefore, it is critical to revitalize projects rapidly following downtime. Of course, the holidays provide an obvious need; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking it is the only timeframe to revitalize a project. The same effect occurs during summer vacations or after a long-term project that completes (such as an ERP system implementation or a merger or acquisition).

People tend to take a step back with a sigh of relief. Of course, most of the time, it is well-deserved; however, rarely if ever is there time available to do this as your competitors will pass you by. Thus, a few keys to success to revitalize your project include: 1) Reenergize the vision with an event. 2) Schedule a cross-functional project review. 3) Follow up on critical timeline tasks.

1. Reenergize the vision with an event: One of the best ways to revitalize your top project is to hold an event or meeting to reenergize it. Make sure top management attends. Re-explain the importance of the project. Discuss the value and impact the project will have on the organization. Find positive progress to encourage. Thank the project team members for their dedication and results. Take time out of the workday to celebrate accomplishments thus far. Last but not least, the project leader should be energetic and excited about the project and rally support for the project. In essence, do a kick-off at the start of every project to energize the team and get everyone at the same starting point.

2. Schedule a cross-functional project review: Now that the project’s importance is clear, it is a perfect time to schedule a cross-functional project review. This type of review will refocus the project team on accomplishments to date, immediate next steps and upcoming critical path milestones. It will also reengage the team members with each other, the project leader, project sponsors, etc. This type of meeting will also allow discussion on potential bottlenecks to address and will include the “right” people to proactively address these concerns.

For example, at one of my middle-market manufacturing clients, we held this type of cross-functional project review in order to breathe life back into the project after a few weeks off. In essence, the meeting refocused efforts on what was important and reminded team members which tasks and communications were essential. It worked like a charm as the team completed the project on-time and under-budget with better results than anticipated.

3. Follow up on critical timeline tasks: Although the critical path timeline is bedrock to success, its importance is often overlooked. The project manager should refocus efforts on critical path follow-up. Understand exactly where progress left off. Follow up with critical path task owners with due dates coming up. Ask for their ideas on how to ensure success. Explore for concerns or potential roadblocks. Projects do not fail because of roadblocks; they fail if the roadblocks are not addressed rapidly. Thus, being proactive to head off as many issues as possible that will affect the critical path will ensure success. Yet something will still make its way in to create chaos for your critical path. Be ready to jump on these issues and tackle them to the ground.

Thank critical path task owners who recently completed their tasks on time. It is important to remember to appreciate your team. Ask them for recommendations to keep the project on track. You’ll be surprised as to how easy success will become!

Since projects are cornerstone to delivering bottom line business results, it is worth revitalizing your core projects at key juncture points such as after the holidays. There is no downside to revitalizing your key projects as it will gain additional traction and focus throughout the organization. On the other hand, if you do not revitalize them, you are likely to have lackluster results and end up in a project turnaround situation. Instead of leaving it to chance, take control of the projects which are key to success immediately.

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

What’s the Secret Ingredient to Project Success?

Project Failure: How to Avoid Top Causes

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI attended the Grand Ole Opry last night…..what an amazing Country Music tradition! I love that the Grand Ole Opry is actually a radio show.  Now, in addition to having the radio station featured on the stage, it also includes #Opry. Times evolve but radio still rules in Nashville! They get great sponsors for their radio show. And, it worked as I went to Cracker Barrel this morning solely because the radio advertisements compelled me to give it a go. Country stars from YEARS ago are popular at the Grand Ole Opry, and they sing along with the newest performers. Where else can you go to see that?

Almost every business has some traditions. What are yours? You’d be surprised as to how appealing your traditions can be. Employees are attracted to traditions. In today’s war for talent (as I heard the Skills Gap referred to last week during a keynote), tradition can matter as attracting and retaining employees can put you ahead of the crowd. What are your traditions?

One tip to implement this week:

Do you know what your company’s traditions are? If not, find out. Ask long-term employees. Ask about stories from the old days. There must be something your company stands for. If not, create a tradition. Tie meaning into what you do. How do you create value for your customers? How do you make the world a better place? What is special about your culture?

If you are not in the position to create a tradition for the company, create one for your area or with the people you interact with on a daily basis. I’ve seen the lowest employees on the totem pole create tradition. What would pull people together? Put your creative juices to work and take a step out of your comfort zone to help create tradition. It is highly likely you’ll start enjoying your job just a little bit more!

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…”

Fotolia_50590735_XS-300x200.jpgLately I’ve been talking with many clients and potential clients who are interested in growth. Although rapid growth is exciting, it can also be one of the most challenging to navigate. Systems can provide the perfect tool to leverage for success – whether your company is small or big.

Even the strongest of my clients are deterred with rapid growth. In many cases, the client is still relatively small and concerned with cash flow yet they are starting to experience “big company” problems. For example, customers do not care what you have to do to service them. They expect you’ll have what they need where they need it when they need it. Just think about Amazon. Same day and next day delivery has become commonplace. E-commerce capabilities and mobility (seeing the information on your cell phone and iPad) are expectations.

Similarly, larger companies also can benefit from systems. One of the best ways to gain new customers, new items and to cross-sell is to upgrade your capabilities. If you can stand out from the crowd by leveraging systems behind the scene, you can achieve great success. So, how can systems be leveraged for growth? There are several ways: 1) Volume.  2) Best practice processes.  3)  Automation.

Undoubtedly, one of the tenets of a system is that it is a vehicle to be leveraged to support significantly higher volumes without additional effort. Whether your customers buy 1 or 100 and whether you have 5 or 1000 customers does not matter to a system; however, it matters greatly if these transactions must be completed manually. The system will then figure out how many components and materials are needed to support these customer requirements. In essence, the system can function as a “big calculator” to cover these types of volume increases.

Next, the system will support best practice processes. Unfortunately I’ve seen clients (and people) who have the latest and greatest technology available yet they fail miserably. The reason this occurs is that they do not take the time to think through the optimal process to be utilized with the system. One way to think about this is “garbage in, garbage out”. A system will only calculate “junk” faster if you don’t focus time and attention on your processes. How can you set up your daily, weekly and monthly routine to best support your business? Build these into your system, and your system will become invaluable to growth.

The opportunity to automate is another advantage of leveraging a system for growth. There are countless opportunities to automate in every business. I’ve yet to walk into a new client without significant potential to take steps out of processes by having the computer perform steps and calculations for you within a set of guidelines. For example, instead of manually calculating what you need to produce in order to meet your customers’ needs, an ERP system will figure that out for you and provide you with a recommended plan for review. Then, our job becomes managing exceptions and adding value instead of performing routine tasks.

There are countless reasons to consider implementing a new system, upgrading your system or further leveraging your system to support growth. I see it as one of several “capacity items” that need to be put in place to support growth. If your sales people can sell without inhibition because they know you’ll have the capacity (people, processes, systems, machines, etc.) available, imagine what can be achieved!

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Leverage Your ERP System for Bottom Line Results 

6 Process & Systems Trends for Success

Fotolia_80682660_XS-300x211.jpg80% of companies are not in front of their demand. How can you decide what to plan for if you don’t know where you are going? You don’t! Thus, it makes sense to spend time upfront to determine your best estimate for customer forecasts and your demand plan.  Don’t worry about perfection as the definition of a forecast is that it will be inaccurate; however, you can get in the ballpark. By achieving this goal, you will better serve your customers, grow your business and improve margins.

If you are unsure where to start, consider digging into the following:

1. Talk with customers: Pick up the phone and find out what is happening with your customers. Are they promoting certain items? Or focused on specific locations? What are they seeing in terms of demand further down the supply chain?

2. Talk with Sales: Certainly Sales should be staying on top of what is important to customers. Ask Sales which products, categories, and/or customers should be the focus.

3. Talk with Customer Service: Customer Service can often be overlooked as they might not be perceived as strategic; however, they can have extremely valuable insights into customer demand. Customers are likely to tell them about upcoming demand, challenges, and other valuable information about the customer.

4. Ask for demand data: Often times, customers will have information about what their customers are purchasing. Ask for the data that pertains to your items. If you are able to gain data, you can perform analysis of your customers’ customers’ preferences. It can yield a goldmine of information.

5. Look for market intelligence: What does your market project? For example, if you are in aerospace, you will likely track the number of airplanes Boeing, Airbus, etc. are producing. You’ll then be able to extrapolate what your forecast is likely to be.  Even if you are not in an industry with long-term market intelligence discussed in the news, market insights will still exist. Knowing your industry can go a long way!

Generating a demand plan that is a reasonable representation of your company’s growth is the first step to implementing a SIOP (sales, inventory, & operations planning) process which can yield substantial results. It starts with superior customer service and delivers profit and accelerates cash as you optimize and balance your demand with your supply.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

Demand Planning Best Practices

Sales & Operations Planning Drives RESULTS

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI attended the compelling Renaissance Executive Forums All Member meeting last week in the Inland Empire, and it got me thinking about female leaders. One of the keynote speakers discussed this topic. Who would think it would take me attending an event to think about an obviously appropriate topic? I have been one of very few women leaders and consultants in manufacturing. For example, without my former CEO, I would not be here today as he told the Board of Directors that he didn’t care that his VP of Operations wasn’t a “grey-haired man with a Harvard MBA” because I was able to achieve results.

The point of the keynote by Maureen Berkner Boyt is that there is a war on talent. I certainly concur as my Skills Gap research states the same thing – only the best will attract and retain top talent. She cited statistics such as female leadership yields a competitive advantage: 2% more cash to the bottom line; 22% lower turnover rate and 30-40% increased patent citations from mixed gender teams. So, what are you doing to encourage female leadership in your organization?

One tip to implement this week:

No matter your position, think about how you can help promote the advancement of women. Is your culture accidentally supporting the advancement of males only? If you are a leader, take a step back to evaluate your culture. Are you looking for opportunities for female leaders (and career progression)? I’ve seen many clients overlook top talent who happened to be women. Are you attracting women with your hiring practices and company brand?

If you are not in a hiring position, you can still make a difference. What knowledge can you share? Can you recommend a female colleague for a key team? One easy tip is to keep your eyes open. Just looking for female talent can yield interesting results. Once you see talent, find a way to help promote these folks within your culture. I’ve found that if your objective is to look for solutions (instead of pointing out all the problems), they will appear.

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…”

litebulb-300x250.jpgI recently attended the Southern California Logistics & Supply Chain Summit hosted by the Center for Supply Chain & Logistics of the Drucker School of Management and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. There were several interesting trends and innovations; however, the keynote speaker from Walgreens stood out in my mind.

If you are unwilling to try something new and fail, you will be a miserable failure at innovation. You must be willing to “go BIG or go home”. Randy Lewis, the former Senior Vice President at Walgreens, launched a division-wide disability hiring initiative based on the principle of “same jobs, same performance, same pay” which resulted in 10% of its workforce composed of people with disabilities. He had loyal fans for employees – both those with disabilities and those without. Who said we cannot be innovative in a manufacturing or distribution environment?

Innovation is essential to succeed; it is no longer enough to be “good”. You must be able to stand out from the crowd to succeed in today’s business environment. Listen to pioneers like Randy. They will provide ideas and spur thought. Read about the latest trends. Attend events. For example, the APICS-IE executive panel & networking symposium had several innovation gurus on our panel. Value your supply chain employees – ASK them. Certainly if Walgreens can utilize people with disabilities and come out with equal efficiency with only half the absenteeism and workers comp costs, it is worth thinking outside the box.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

How to Accelerate Cash Flow through Supply Chain Innovations 

Tips for Physical Inventory Success

Fotolia_65099185_XS-300x150.jpgOne of the most successful strategies for success for executives follows the Occam’s Razor concept of simplicity – keep an eye out for opportunities. It is amazing how often vast opportunities pass us by because we are deep in execution and not looking at what is going on around us. Instead, remain vigilant on keeping your eyes open for trends, issues and opportunities you and your business can leverage for success.

For example, many of the great innovations in history came from places such as unexpected successes, unexpected failures, market changes and the like.  None of these would have occurred if the innovator had been unobservant.  Think about each event that occurs as an opportunity. Is there a way the process could be improved? Did it open doors for a completely new way of doing something? Instead of getting caught up in what didn’t work, think about how you can use these experiences as an opportunity.

So how do we do this? There are several strategies that can lead to success; however, here are a few of the top ones to try out: 1) Plan a certain amount of time into your day to walk around and observe. Pay attention to what’s going on. 2) Ask questions and listen. You might gain a goldmine of information. 3) Look at everything that happens as an opportunity – good or bad.  What can you learn from the situation or leverage from the situation?  You never know when the next BIG idea will occur. 4) How can you combine things differently for a better result?

As they say at the DMV, keep your eyes “on the road” – look for opportunities.

Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

Manufacturing Connectorâ„  Eagle Eye Requires Keen Observation, Focus

Synthesize for Results

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgMy APICS (#1 trade association for supply chain and operations management) chapter hosted an executive panel & networking symposium which was focused on the topic of innovation. Innovation is a critical topic! Problem solving and maintaining the status quo is no longer enough as customers expect more, regulations increase, etc. Thus, how do you create a culture of innovation in your company?

10 tips that pop to mind that came up during our panel discussion include: 1) Empower your people. 2) Learn continuously. 3)  Try new things and don’t be afraid to fail (which can be considered learning what not to do next time, just like Edison did with the light bulb.) 4) Think about innovative products, services, processes, ideas….. 5) Toyota & Lean concepts apply! 6) You don’t have to be first to market to be an innovator. 7) Think about driverless cars and alternative fuels. 8) Can we be innovative in dealing with the water shortage in CA? 9) Test out Vocademy, a makerspace for 8-98 year olds. 10) Participate in groups like APICS to brainstorm and get your innovative juices flowing.

One tip to implement this week:

A common problem with thinking about 10 tips (let alone the 100 tips we probably received at the symposium) is that it can be overwhelming. Instead, pick your favorite. Or if that is too challenging, pick the first tip. Think about what you can do this week related to this tip. For example, if you are thinking about empowering your people: What can you do so that your people will know you have confidence in them and will be OK if they try out new ideas? Even if they fail! Could you celebrate the best idea that didn’t work?

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…”

blinders-300x300.jpgPart of having an eagle eye is knowing what you don’t see. I’ve found that being observant while walking around a manufacturing or distribution facility can yield many hidden gems. What don’t you see? Do you not see bins of trash? If so, could it be that waste is minimal? Or do they recycle? Find out why you don’t see trash bins.

What else don’t you see? Once upon a time, I worked with a company that went live on a new ERP system. They were not prepared to go live and struggled. Their shipments fell off the map – where they used to ship 20 trucks a day, it fell to 10. However, no one was looking for what wasn’t there, and so it became a bigger problem before it was noticed. Pay attention to what isn’t there!

I’ve had long conversations with a friend who had a 30+ year career as an investment banker and turnaround guru. He never had a failure, and so I asked him for his secrets to success. I can be half brilliant – know who to ask! It turns out that watching for what isn’t happening (such as people not talking about certain items or not working together or costs not showing up) was in the top 10. Thus, take it from his boss who made millions if not billions following this man’s advice – watch for what is not there.

Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

How to Spot Trends

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?