Skip navigation
2016

people plus initiative equals profit.jpgNo matter how many conversations go on about technology and the latest and greatest processes to drive results in manufacturing and distribution companies (including robots and automation taking over lower-skill positions), people remain "in". Without exception, our best clients consider people their #1 asset.

Who develops the programs for the robots? Who figures out how to utilize business analysis tools and predictive analysis/artificial intelligence concepts? And who implements best practice processes such as lean manufacturing, SIOP/S&OP and the like? People!

There is zero doubt that the best people with mediocre machines, technologies and less-than-desirable systems will outperform mediocre people with the best machines, technologies and systems — every time! We cannot count the times a facility turned around with a new, exceptional leader. On the other hand, we have also seen large complex organizations change out General Managers like singers change clothes in concerts (for example, Reba used to change clothes 15 times in one concert!) — with NO better results (and often worse results) repeatedly. Eventually, a strong leader arrives with largely the same team and transformation begins. Since we pride ourselves on our successful track record of achieving tangible results in partnership with our clients, it is obvious how important people are in achieving this goal. Our initiatives can turn from tough challenges that will take longer to achieve success into fun, exciting rapid-change projects that deliver bottom line results based on the leader we partner with on the project.


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

 

Project Success is All About the People

 

Never Stop Learning

 

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpg

 

Driving back from a client earlier this week, I suddenly noticed beautiful fall trees along the side of the road less than one half mile from my house. It hit me that I must have been driving by these trees for a while and didn't notice, yet I specifically looked for a tour in Japan to see the fall leaves. I could have completely missed what was right in front of my nose!

 

fall trees.jpg

How often do we miss things at work? Do you pay attention to who you walk by in the morning? How about the waste you pass up? How about system errors ignored? And the list could go on......


One tip to implement this week:

 

As my former ProVisors (a group of high-quality trusted advisors) colleague told me recently — you don't know what you have until it's gone. She had to put her membership on hold and is trying to work out the obstacle, and she really misses being a part of such a high-quality, well-connected group. The same holds true for our workplaces. What are you not noticing or appreciating on a daily basis? I bet it could be a long list.

 

Pay close attention this week. Look as you walk. Pay attention to what you walk by — people, waste, process changes, equipment, systems notices (visual systems, error messages, etc.). You'll be surprised as to what you might be missing. Perhaps you are driving by fall trees also. Keep your eyes open and you'll find opportunities.

 

 

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…”

supply chain technology.jpgModern marvels and new information technologies are transforming supply chains. Automation, robots, AI (artificial intelligence), 3D Printing, Bitcoin technology and the IoT (internet of things) are changing the way we look at supply chains. Are you thinking about any of these technologies down-the-line? Or are you thinking about the impacts of your competitors pursuing them? You should!


We partner with clients to keep them at the forefront of these information technologies. At the core, we partner with executives to help them select the optimal ERP system to support their business objectives. Certainly, automation has always been a hot topic. Recently, AI and predictive analysis have become popular as executives think about making strategic decisions. Many clients are also thinking about the strategic value of data and how they can utilize data from their extended supply chain for mutual benefit. 

 

We remember robots being tested 25 years ago and so they are not "new" yet they are gaining in popularity. One method to become cost competitive with low labor rate countries, yet source supply closer to customers for rapid delivery, is to automate. Using robots and automated conveyor systems is commonplace in distribution and material handling. Manufacturers are also gaining steam on these topics. Are you evaluating these alternatives? At a bare minimum, my most successful clients are evaluating, testing and trialing. Similar to the outsourcing craze of the last 10 years, there is no reason to jump on the bandwagon for the sake of following the crowd; however, looking into the options is prudent.

The Internet of things is taking over in our interconnected world. Are you looking into what this could mean for your industry? And to throw a somewhat radical-sounding concept out there — how about bitcoin? There are many potential uses for this technology in supply chains today. 

 

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

 

6 Process & Systems Trends for Success

 

How Challenging ERP Can Be!

teamwork.jpgProjects are the cornerstone to achieving bottom-line business results.

In working with clients ranging from small businesses to large, complex, global organizations across multiple industries, I’ve yet to run across a client that doesn’t rely heavily on project results to support customers, grow the business and increase profitability. What else could be more important to business success?

Since projects cannot succeed with a sole participant, project teams are essential to success. Therefore, discovering the best ways for project teams to work together will lead to results. After leading and participating in hundreds of major projects and many smaller projects over the last 25 years, I’ve compiled a short list of best practices for project teamwork.

1. Clarity of Goals

As with almost every team, the team will be far more successful if the individual teammates understand the goals. Start with the goal of the project. Why are we doing this? What does it accomplish? What are the expected results of the project? Answering these questions will provide clarity of the overarching goals.

Next, go over the critical path milestone. What is the goal of each milestone? Who needs to do what to make them happen? Following this exercise provides clarity of the project plan and project objectives. All team members are on the same page up front.

2. Resolve Goal Conflicts

Of course, gaining clarity on the goals and critical path alone won’t foster teamwork. The next step is to resolve goal conflicts. I’ve found that as teams go through this process, 80% of the time, some sort of conflict will arise. The main conflicts fall into two categories – resource availability and department conflicts.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, speed is of the essence. Equally troubling, since the recession, organizations are running lean and so time is limited. Thus, conflicts related to resources are commonplace. For example, let’s assume there are 16 hours remaining this week, and one team member has to complete a project task on the critical path that would require 8 hours of time by the end of the week in order to keep the project on-track. Alone, this is not a problem. However, his/her line manager also has a priority task that requires 16 hours of time that must be complete by the end of the week. An inherent conflict exists. The sooner this problem is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

Equally commonplace are inherent conflicts between departments. For example, if a project task requires Purchasing to get volume discounts while a different task requires Planning to reduce inventory which would require more frequent deliveries, even though both team members are available to complete their tasks, there is a conflict between the two. Again, the sooner this is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

3. Reward Project Goals; Not Individual Goals

One of the most common issues that arise is when the individual is rewarded for doing what benefits them instead of the project team. Similar to aligning goals, rewards and recognition need to follow the team. If each person does their part to contribute to getting a milestone accomplished, the entire team should celebrate success. If one person can be rewarded for achieving an individual goal while the team doesn’t meet its goal, a miss-match will occur.

4. Metrics

I’ve found that one of the most important ways to align teams is to have a common set of metrics. What is measured will be achieved. Thus, if the team has a clear set of metrics, everyone will be tracking the same items. Thus, as conflicts arise, the metrics will provide initial direction. Also, the metrics focus teams on what is most important. In my experience, the simple act of selecting and tracking a few metrics can create significant teamwork. The team unites behind improving the metrics.

5. Celebrate Successes

Lastly, celebrating success is an important way to tie it all together. Teams unite when the individuals get to know one another. Celebrating success allows the team to connect in a different way and it creates momentum. Thus, celebrating small wins along the way (such as the achievement of critical path milestones) can go a long way to enhancing teamwork.

Teams with stronger levels of teamwork surpass the results of those with high individual contributors that do not work as effectively together. In my experience, even if the high individual contributors are the best of the best as compared to medium contributors that work well as a team, the team of medium contributors will win that race. Appreciate the value of teams and consider implementing a few of these strategies to accelerate success. Bottom line results will follow.

 

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

 

How to Keep Your Team’s Morale Up During Change

 

Vision Backed by BIG Goals and Leadership

supply chain risk.jpgAccording to the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) risk index, risk is the highest since 2013. It is easy to become complacent. Are you adding risk into your supply chain conversations and plans?

The increase is driven by supply chain risk in Western and Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically:

  • Western Europe - This trend is clearest in Western Europe, where risk rose to 2.63 in Q3 from 2.60 in the previous quarter. The uncertainty around the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the European Union has had a negative impact on trade and business sentiment in the UK and across the region.
  • North America - North America remains static at 2.101, but both Canada and the USA have seen trade agreements with the European Union stall this quarter.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia - In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, risk has risen to 5.424 from 5.396, following a failed coup in Turkey which is likely to see an increase in interference with businesses.
  • Middle East and North Africa - Supply chain risk has also deteriorated in the Middle East and North Africa from 4.406 in Q2 to 4.413 in Q3, where civil war has all but eliminated international supply chains in certain countries.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa - Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the world's highest levels of supply chain risk, increasing further from 5.544 to 5.558 with Nigeria slipping into technical recession and South Africa narrowly avoiding one.
  • Asia Pacific & Australia - Asia Pacific has bucked the trend this quarter with supply chain risk decreasing marginally from 3.424 in Q2 2016 to 3.415 in Q3. Australian suppliers, in particular have benefited from rising coal and iron ore prices together with an increase in national defense spending.
  • East Asia - Elsewhere in Asia, logistical routes have come under pressure. Super typhoon Meranti has caused disruption to flights, ports, rail schedules and power supplies in Taiwan. Winds of 150km/h have forced the temporary closure of two nuclear power stations but the country's robust building code has mitigated against long-term disruptions.
  • South Korea - In South Korea, meanwhile, the world's 7th largest shipping company, Hanjin Shipping, went bankrupt in August, reducing global shipping capacity by 3% and leaving a cargo as large as $14bn unable to dock. The bankruptcy is likely to have wide-ranging impact on trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe supply chains.

Since your extended supply chain likely relates to one if not several of these geographies, it is worthwhile to make sure you stay on top of what's important. For example, those with product tied up on the ocean waiting for decisions with the Hanjin bankruptcy without a backup struggled at best. 

 

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

 

Will Supply Chain Risk Surprise You?

 

How to Manage Supply Chain Complexity

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpg

 

Since I lead a group of top notch trusted advisors, I hear quite a bit about exit plans gone awry. Unfortunately, most business owners do not plan to exit the business far enough in advance. Of course, you can still exit; however, you will not get as strong a multiple for your sales price. On the other hand, I was fortunate to hear one of the rare stories of a business owner who achieved a wildly successful exit where he received double the industry norm.

 

He started planning for his exit 15 years ahead of time. Of course, this was one of the keys to success. Far more can be accomplished with this sort of lead time — and, as a side benefit, being ready and/or waiting for the "right" timing isn't such a big deal in this case. He put together a plan and stuck with it. Not rocket science but wildly successful. He also paid top dollar for the best people — both employees and advisors. Have you taken stock on your exit plans (whether from the business, for your career etc.)?

exit plan.jpg

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

As it apparent by reviewing this successful case study, it isn't something that will be done in a week — or a year. However, you can get started this week. His first step was to figure out his end goal. Set aside time to determine your end goal for your company, your department, your career or whatever you'd like to address. Gain feedback from your trusted advisors and sources but think about YOUR goal — not someone else's goal.

 

Next start thinking about the plan. His plan was not overly complex. He picked a FEW strategies to accomplish his exit plan. You can do the same — and you might be surprised as to what can be accomplished in a week. Your plan will take longer than a week but if you figure out your goal, there is no reason to wait. Get a jump on the next step.

 

 

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_107427376_XS.jpgDramatic growth is commonplace. Companies are looking for opportunities to improve margins, accelerate cash flow and cut costs. Only those companies that change will endure. And only those teams that embrace change, and the leaders who engage people around change initiatives will thrive. The others will be left in the dust.

 

In order to create this type of engagement, leaders must support team morale during change. But if you think about it, why should this be an issue, if the change is presented properly from the outset? Who wouldn’t be excited about positive and interesting new opportunities?

 

Here are seven key ways to keep your team’s morale up when there’s a change under way.

 

1. Start with a compelling vision. People don’t fear change. They fear the unknown. Thus, one simple first step in overcoming this hurdle is to provide a vision (e.g., a reason for the change). Start by clearly answering the questions:

  • How will the change help the company succeed?
  • How will it help your customers?

 

For example, when I was VP of Operations for an adult incontinence manufacturer, we saw our job as helping our parents and grandparents maintain a quality lifestyle in their older years. It certainly provided a sense of purpose and vision to our projects —and this is valuable!

 

2. Translate the vision. Although lofty visions can be quite valuable, it’s also important to be able to translate those visions into something tangible. You want to be able to show how each department, team and person will relate to that vision, add value and contribute it as well. I’ve found that the most successful leaders take the time to help team members understand how their piece of the puzzle contributes to the bigger picture.

 

3. Collaborate on the plan. When team members participate in a change, rather than have it dictated to them, they’ll buy into the new way of doing things and feel good about it, too. You can make this happen by collaborating with your project team to build the new plan.

 

Provide guidelines, ideas and advice in order to spur the process forward. Ask for input and ideas from all team members. Don’t dismiss ideas without explaining why. And don’t just accept ideas to include input if they’re not optimal for the end result. Instead, be willing to take the role of a coach and facilitator.

 

After partnering on hundreds of projects over the years, I’ve yet to see one fail when it’s approached in a collaborative manner; but I’ve seen many fail when the approach is: “Just do it because I am your manager.”

 

4. Communicate the plan. A critical step for keeping morale up during a change initiative is communication! Just as people don’t fear change, they fear the unknown; they fear not understanding how they will get to the vision. In essence, the fear lies in no-man’s land —the uncertainty in getting from Point A to the “Promised Land.”

 

Thus, communicating the plan and allowing ample time for questions and answers is paramount to success. Again, feedback and ideas can still be incorporated if it makes sense. There is no reason to drive around the block three times to get to the same place you could get to by walking next door. In addition to providing information and comfort with the plan, you could pick up on superb ideas that will ensure success.

 

5. Manage the critical path. As in all projects, the critical path should be the focus. If the critical path stays intact, the project will likely succeed, even if it runs into non-critical path task bumps along the way. On the other hand, if the project team becomes distracted during the bumpy times and loses focus from the critical path, the project will veer off track.

 

Begin by explaining the importance of the critical path up front, so team members will understand why the focus might not be on their tasks. Make sure everyone knows they have an important piece in achieving the vision, no matter what the role. Ask all task owners to help each other and to succeed together.

 

6. Adjust as needed. As simple as it seems, don’t become so focused on your project plan that you lose sight of adjustments that should occur along the way. Since change is the only constant in business today, change will occur. Make sure you consider any changes that relate to your project and adjust accordingly.

 

7. Feedback. Last but not least, celebrate wins. Focus on strengths but do not ignore weaknesses that will impact success. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, have a conversation with them. One of the main ways to keep morale up is to address roadblocks and issues in an honest and respectful manner. Provide suggestions.

 

Once again, it’s not change that people resist, but the unknown. Strong leadership and project skills will go a long way toward navigating your team through the bumpy waters and on to success—and keeping morale up along the way!

 

Originally published July 20, 2015, @LiquidPlanner. http://bit.ly/2hoPOy0

 

 

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

 

Vision Backed by BIG Goals and Leadership

 

The Value of Clear Communication

think big.jpgWe not only work across many manufacturing and distribution industries such as aerospace, building products and food but we also work across company-sizes ranging from small and medium size owner-operated companies to medium size private equity-backed firms to large, complex, global organizations. Thus, as we see trends across each of these segments, we pay attention. Unfortunately, silo thinking is commonplace.

Traditionally, silo thinking refers to thinking from your department-perspective and not looking cross-functionally; however, we also see vast examples of silo thinking from the company perspective. In this case, the organization falls into the trap of thinking internally and not thinking about supplier and customer impacts. And, it could mean that we think U.S. centric, even though we'd bet significant dollars that no one has a 100% U.S. centric extended supply chain. We need to get our head out of our operation and think BIGGER.

In today's Amazon-impacted marketplace, extended supply chains are more interconnected than ever before. Thus, we must be aware of the impacts of our decisions on the rest of the supply chain. Actually even more important than remembering impacts, we can grow revenue and profits by looking for opportunities and unmet needs across our extended supply chain. Think about why we say "a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link". Anyone with a problem supplier might have learned this the hard way!

A natural extension of this thinking leads us to remembering that although English is the most spoken language in business settings and even though the U.S. is a big and generally affluent market, there is something to be said in remembering that 95% of consumers live outside of the U.S. And, since our supply chains extend throughout the world, we must be able to have conversations about global impacts, cultural differences and strategic priorities. Flip your silo on its head.

P.S. On a related note, we are going to kick off two new newsletters shortly — one for clients only that discusses these types of thought-provoking topics and one on the latest supply chain trends and news and how to apply it. We'll keep you in the loop on how to receive them.

 

 

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

 

Cross Functional Success

 

The Hidden Benefit of Observation

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpg

 

I've always appreciated the concept of MacGyver-type solutions (and so I enjoy the re-booted TV series as well). When I was a VP of Operations, I was quite proud of what we accomplished with minimal resources — having minuscule to no resources can spur creativity. Wiley contacted me for a book proposal several years ago, and thanks to a consulting colleague and friend for the suggestion, the working title was "Bubblegum and Paperclips: The MacGyver Guide to Leveraging Under-Utilize

Lisa's cat.jpg

d Assets". I still might pursue this book as I've always had a passion for what can be achieved with determination and creativity, thanks to my Mom.

 

I thought my cat exhibited a few of these characteristics by using this empty Christmas box for a fort — or, I could be assigning more ingenuity than he deserves but that's OK..... I bet he thinks we can't see him.

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

Pick one challenge or opportunity — we all have at least 100 so finding one shouldn't be too difficult. Take a few minutes to think about your situation. What could you use to resolve the issue or leverage the opportunity? Do you have any "bubblegum" lying around? I bet you do!

 

For example, instead of jumping to a capital solution, what tools, machines and resources do you have? Perhaps if you tackle the topic from another angle, a breakthrough will occur. I have solved countless challenges with minimal expertise in the particular subject area some thought was required when several experts with the equivalent of "Harvard PhD's" in that subject area couldn't. The MacGyver solution worked. Ask good questions. Rely on the right resources. Think about what you have instead of focusing on what you don't. Solutions will emerge.  


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_77087121_XS.jpgMore and more clients are pursuing ERP implementation projects as executives realize they need better tools to support business objectives– growth, service, margins, cash and the like.

When implemented well, ERP systems can support substantial business growth without the additional investment in resources. Certainly, as the minimum wage goes up and workers’ compensation and healthcare are such significant issues, it is something many executives are thinking about! However, ERP systems can do much more – they can help collaborate with customers and suppliers. Those with the best-extended supply chains will thrive in the end, and so it makes sense to take a look at upgrading ERP.

Thus, finding a way to successfully implement an ERP system is of paramount importance, yet the statistics dictate less than stellar performance. Typically, 80%+ of ERP system implementations fail to achieve the expected results. As experts in this space, we can attest that several of these are due to unrealistic expectations without the associated resources and efforts to ensure success; however, either way, ERP success can prove elusive.

Therefore, understanding how to give you a leg up with strategies for success can be vital. Ignore all the best practice mumbo-jumbo and focus on what will really matter:

1. It’s all about the people: As with almost every business success, ERP success is no different. It goes back to the leader – and the team. Have you assigned whoever is available to lead the project team? Or have you put thought into it? Have you freed him/her up from their regular activities or made sure he/she can dedicate the time required? Are you saving your “A” players for growing the business and your day-to-day responsibilities instead of ERP? Sound odd? Well, we come across this on a daily basis in our consulting business. How about the software supplier’s project team? Why should you be worried about them? You shouldn’t unless you are interested in success.

For example, we’ve been involved in several ERP selection projects lately and have stayed involved to ensure the process designs would support business objectives in the best way possible, and, unfortunately, we can convey countless examples of the 80% that run into issues with people. For example, in one case, the project leader was on top of things – truly much better than the average project leader for the size company, yet the project still struggled due to people issues. The software supplier ran into trouble with their project manager. You never know what can go wrong and so it’s smart to remember to keep your eye on the importance of people.

2. Focus on design: The reason we often stay involved with the design process is that this is one of the critical success factors to ensuring ERP implementation success. The quandary is that this type of role requires a broad and diverse skillset, rarely found in project managers.

The skills required include a broad, cross-functional process expertise, an understanding of database design, an understanding of down-the-line impacts of typical system transactions, an understanding of report writing/ programming and the ability to communicate effectively and bridge the gap between the technical and application resources. In our experience, we run across this type of resource 5% of the time in our clients. On the other hand, we run across this type of skillset perhaps 30% of the time with the ERP resources; however, the really bad news is that even though the capability exists 30% of the time, it is used perhaps 10% of the time. The ERP supplier does not want to dictate the design as it will be “their solution” instead of the “client’s solution”, and it is a trick to communicate effectively enough such that the client believes it is their idea or is accepting of the information.

Is it any wonder ERP projects fail miserably?

3. Focus on what could go wrong: It is often rather difficult to keep the ERP project team positive and moving forward because they are causing disruption to the day-to-day success of the business and pushing the envelope with new ideas (sometimes perceived to be threatening or ill-conceived) and process changes which might or might not be accompanied by organizational changes (another key issue with ERP success). Thus, no one wants to create more havoc by deliberately creating tension, thus, forcing practice when mistakes are made and transactions go awry is overlooked. However, this is exactly what must occur to ensure success. Deliberately try to screw up the system when testing. It is not to be a “naysayer” (which can sometimes be the perception) but it is to make sure the team knows how to back out of bad situations. It is far better to “break” the system in test than with your #1 customer!

We cannot tell you how much nonsense we’ve heard about “system XYZ” is set up to perform best practices and so the team just doesn’t want to deal with change. In 95% of the situations, this statement isn’t true. Instead, forget about all the hoopla about best practices and focus on these 3 keys to success; results will follow.

 

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

 

How to Increase Teamwork to Ensure Project Success

 

Serving up an ACE in Your ERP Selection and Design