Innovation is a Must for Project Success

November 20th, 2014
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innovation for project success

Projects often have a way of going from exciting ideas to abandoned ventures. Successful project management feeds off a culture of innovation to sustain projects all the way to the finish line.

In 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


© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

Data Driven Leader

November 18th, 2014
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data driven leader

Actionable data drives the most successful businesses. To cut through today’s information overload a data driven leader has to be incisive, creative, and decisive.

One 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


© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

Life Balance

November 17th, 2014
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supply chain

I 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…”


© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

Tips for Physical Inventory Success

November 13th, 2014
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inventory management

Completing a physical inventory is a necessary part of inventory management because accuracy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be achieved.

Inventory accuracy is cornerstone to success. It is a bedrock topic to improving service levels, reducing lead times, increasing margins, improving efficiencies, reducing inventory levels….and the list goes on.  Although I recommend implementing cycle counting programs as a way to replace physical inventories, there are times when a physical inventory is a must. Thus, it is worth thinking about a few tips to successfully complete a physical inventory.

1. Prepare, prepare, and prepare: 80% of your success is in preparation. Organize the warehouse, clearly mark areas, label exceptions, complete and review system transactions, etc.

2. Stop/isolate movement: When you begin your physical count, stop all physical and system movements and transactions. This is a critical foundation – similar to building a house, if you start adding windows prior to finishing the walls, the house might begin to fall apart.

3. People and communication: Make sure the right people are in the right jobs for their skill sets. And, communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure everyone has clear instructions, understands how to get questions answered, etc.

4. Manage the control desk: This is the term I’ll use for the team organizing and controlling the process – the Grand Central Station hub. Typically, this person/team keeps track of count sheets, makes sure everything “adds up”, answers questions and keeps the process moving.

5. Metrics/tracking progress: Putting the key metrics and vehicles in place to track progress is cornerstone to success. By reviewing these metrics, the leader can review progress, make adjustments as required and keep the process on track. Metrics also provide for a way to measure success.

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

Cycle Counting: The 5 Keys to Inventory Accuracy

Bedrock Topic: Inventory Accuracy


© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

Inventory Velocity

November 11th, 2014
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inventory velocity

By implementing a SIOP process you’ll be in a better position to leverage your resources for a speedier inventory velocity.

Inventory velocity not only accelerates cash flow but it also can contribute to margin improvement. How do we turn inventory faster and keep our money in motion vs. stagnating in the back of our warehouse?

One of the best ways to keep your inventory moving is to put a SIOP (sometimes known as S&OP) process in place. The better picture you have of your demand plan, the better you’ll be able to align that with your master schedule, production plans, detailed schedules, purchase plans, capacity capability requirements, staffing and skill requirements, and sales plans. Aligning these people, processes and technologies with the overall business strategy while optimizing among competing priorities will drive inventory velocity.

For example, at Transtar Metals, we implemented a sales and operations planning process and drove rapid improvement in inventory velocity. In this case, the reduction in inventory levels not only freed up cash but it also was a contributing factor in a higher valuation for the business and ultimate sale.

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

Three Causes of Poor Inventory Management 

Speed is King: How Do We Leverage for Project Management?


© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

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