How to Keep Your Team’s Morale Up During Change

December 8th, 2016
team morale

Team morale can take a hit during times of intense change. Motivate your team with a relatable, easy-to-understand vision and keep them informed every step of the way.

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

 

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Are You Stuck in Silo Thinking?

December 6th, 2016
avoid silo thinking

It is easy to narrow your thinking and stay focused on work at hand, but we need to get our head out of our operations and think big to innovate and grow.

We 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.

 

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MacGyver Solutions & Using Under-Utilized Assets

December 5th, 2016

supply chain

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-Utilized 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.

ingenuity

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…”

 



ERP Project Success: How to Be Part of the 20%

December 1st, 2016
ERP success

Even as the value of ERP systems becomes more apparent successful implementation is still elusive. Companies that focus on people, design, and testing the limits have better results.

More 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.

 

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Navigating the Global Supply Chain Starts with People

November 29th, 2016
global supply chain

Your supply chain is only as strong as your weakest link so you must develop your employees and find ways for them to work together more effectively.

At APICS Inland Empire’s recent executive panel and networking symposium on “Navigating the Global Supply Chain”, we had some intriguing discussions on the hot topics in global supply chains. Wouldn’t you know, even with a complex, technical topic like this one, people are #1!

Start with your employees. As I said while leading a webinar on “Onshoring Profits” earlier today, I’ve never seen “happy customers” with “unhappy employees”. Have you? Thus, clearly starting there is cornerstone in navigating the supply chain.

However, this step is not enough. We must expand to collaborating with your supply chain partners. Your supply chain is only as strong as your weakest link. Thus, it is worthwhile to collaborate, share information and find ways to elevate your supply chain. Again, this starts with people. Do they know how to talk with one another? Do they understand cultural norms? How about language barriers? Or, let’s start simple — do we pick up the phone? I hope so!

The key to success of any person, department, company or extended supply chain goes back to people. For example, the best ideas die if not communicated effectively. The best suppliers will not work with people unwilling to think win-win and collaborate for success. Customers will not think about what would help your success if you don’t tell them about your business objectives — and ask how you can help them achieve theirs. Your transportation partners might not prioritize your shipment when natural disasters occur. Is your 3PL in sync with you? They are an interface with your customer. Remember, no matter the topic, consider people your #1 asset.

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