Leadership Will Make or Break Success

September 27th, 2016
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success begins and ends with leadership

You may experience short term results with increased project focus, but long term success will fail without effective leadership.

As my HR mentor used to say, “It begins and ends with leadership”. After a 25 year plus career with leadership positions in organizations, trade associations, non-profits and more, it is clear that leadership will make or break success.

 

It is interesting the difference leadership can make. We can go to 2 similar clients with similar products, services, systems and resources with the only difference being the leader, and we’ll see two vastly different environments. In one case, we will be wildly successful and, in the other, we’ll struggle. Even in the best of cases (when they are more closely aligned), one project will have quicker results than the other.  

 

No matter how effective or ineffective the leader, short term results are likely to occur. With focus, things improve. Also, even if the leader has a dictatorial style, he/she can gain short-term results as people do not want to lose their jobs; however, sustainable results will not follow.

 

For example, we’ve worked with quite a few large complex, global aerospace companies. As is typical with any large, complex organization, the leader of an individual facility will be under pressure to perform. We have seen more than our fair share of General Managers, COO’s or Presidents come and go over the years. From time to time, it will be night and day with the change in leadership. One day things seem disorganized and folks are frustrated and struggling on legitimate concerns, and the next, we have direction and clarity. Of course, people do not become less frustrated over night but with clarity and direction, 80% of the people will calm down and performance will improve within a reasonable time frame. The 20% might not be interested in being accountable or they could have crossed the line in terms of frustration levels and need to make a change.

Since leadership will make or break success, make it a top priority!

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

Put Your Eagle Eye on What is #1 to Success – Leadership 

Never Stop Learning

 



Have Your Product Development Efforts Been Successful?

September 23rd, 2016
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supply chain

Last week, Kash Gokli (the head of Harvey Mudd’s manufacturing program) and I facilitated our Harvey Mudd Executive Roundtable discussion with executives of Southern California on just this topic. According to best practices, your new product sales should become 30% of total sales within 2-3 years. This seems like a tall order!

Let’s assume you achieve these goals. Just from the numbers standpoint, it will not work if you wait too long! You need to be developing products BEFORE your current products are in maturity and start their downward trend. And, certainly, it is rare for anyone to have only success along the way in product development; thus, it is prudent to start early and expect failures along the road to success.

One tip to implement this week:

So, I bet you are wondering what could possibly be done this week. I wondered that too until thinking a bit further. There is actually quite a lot that could be accomplished in a week. Get a cross-functional team together to discuss your products and services. Think about where they are in the cycle. Are any getting close to maturity? How are they performing? Do you know the market needs? By understanding these answers, you’ll know where to start.

If you are already in a product development cycle, take a step back to think about whether you think achieving 30% of total sales within 3 years is feasible. What can you do to strengthen your possibility of achieving this objective? Who should you involve? Do you feel confident that your customers are on board? Put a team together to ensure success.

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…”



Winning Leadership Traits for Project Success

September 22nd, 2016
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leadership

The most successful project leaders have passion, vision, and focus — key leadership traits needed to successfully manage cross functional resources.

No matter the topic of your project, it will be more successful if the project leader utilizes winning leadership traits. As our HR mentor used to say, “It begins and ends with people!”

Therefore, leadership is the name of the game, assuming you want to win the game. In project management, this is even more critical because most project teams are groups of cross-functional resources who do not report to the same line manager. Thus, the project leader has to use influence leadership in addition to command and control leadership. Actually, command and control leadership doesn’t even work long-term for those who are “the top dog”; thus, these traits are even more important to learn.

Although there are countless traits that go into being an effective leader, these are the ones I’ve seen the best leaders across our clients employ:

Demonstrates Passion

Even the most exciting of topics can become humdrum if the leader doesn’t show passion. Each project team member is typically working outside of their typical routine. Often, the project leader cannot significantly impact the employee’s pay or bonus. Thus, passion becomes even more important. If the leader is excited about the results that can be achieved, each team member is likely to become excited as well.

For example, when I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain, our CEO was passionate about what we could achieve with new products, reduced costs, new markets and the like. At the time, I was responsible for a cross-functional team in the thick of whether we’d achieve these lofty goals. We had barely avoided bankruptcy and had to work long hours just to keep things going. Without his passion for these topics, it is likely we would have lost motivation as well. We knew there were no bonuses or raises until we got the ship turned around which wouldn’t happen overnight. What kept me from leaving was his passion and excitement about the future – and my contributions to it. Don’t underestimate the importance of passion.

Creates A Vision

Although passion is important, it cannot be successful without going hand in hand with the vision. Executives with passion but without vision are just seen as aimless and not worthy of following. Since leaders should forge the way, this trait is rather essential. Create a vision of where you are going and why.

In my last example, the CEO created a vision of being the best provider of incontinence care. Think about what type of diaper you’d want your Grandma to use. One that was absorbent and made her feel better and almost like she wasn’t wearing a pull-up or diaper or a leaky, inexpensive one. At the same time, since it is your Grandma, how much do we want her to pay for this pull-up? Perhaps we should find a way to make it better yet cost less for her. Now we are talking.

Focuses On the Critical Path

When it comes to projects, it is easy to work hard yet not get far. There are always hundreds of tasks that need to be completed. People to appease. How do we accomplish this with a part-time, cross-functional team of people who report to different leaders? Spend the time upfront to put together the project plan so that you can focus the 80/20 of your energy on just the critical path. Instead of wasting time following up on every task, follow up on just those on the critical path. These are the ones that will keep the most important elements going.

For example, in the cross-functional team that had to redesign the incontinence product so that it would perform better while cost less, there were countless tasks involving not only every department but also customers, suppliers and other partners. Since we had a small team (certainly not adding people, following a near escape from bankruptcy), we had to work smarter; not harder. Thus, we focused in on just the critical path. If these tasks didn’t get accomplished, the rest wouldn’t matter. You had to finish or at least make progress on these tasks in order for the next critical path task to be accomplished successfully. When we used extra resources, we focused them on the critical path. If we invested money, we would focus it on the critical path. The rest would have to sink or swim on its own. The bottom line was to focus on priorities.

Since no executive or project team has extra time, money or resources, we must make good use of what we have to ensure success. And, since leadership is the 80/20 of success, it has proven successful to focus in on creating, nurturing and encouraging winning leadership traits in our project managers. Give these a try and let me know how it goes. 

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

Leadership’s Unsung Heroes

Cross-Functional Success

 



Unscrambling a Challenged System Implementation

September 20th, 2016
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complex systems implementation

When executing a complex system implementation that is difficult, remember to step back occasionally and assess where you are and whether you remain focused on the overall objectives.

From time to time, we receive a call from a client dealing with a challenged ERP implementation. Unfortunately, “challenged” is a nice word for most of these! Of course, by the time the client calls, they have spent a lot of money and are frustrated which isn’t a great starting point because unscrambling the situation is never an easy endeavor — assuming you want to provide service and make money.

Unscrambling these scenarios requires a unique combination of skills:

  1. System thinking – as odd as it sounds, there is NOT a need for experience in the specific system. Certainly, it might add value but the most important skill is system thinking — connecting the dots in terms of how systems work, down-the-line impacts, how they’ll integrate with other process steps etc.
  2. Business process expertise – we find that this is a critical component. There are always several ways to perform a certain role or accomplish a task. Some of the ways will create positive down-the-line impacts while accomplishing your goal and some will work perfectly well for you (and might even be faster) but will create negative down-the-line impacts. The complication is that no documentation will tell you about these. This is where having “been there and done that” with multiple systems and process combinations is required.
  3. Timing/sequencing – even if you have good system thinking and good process expertise, if you don’t “see” the various outcomes with different sequences and timing impacts, you’ll still end up in a jumble.
  4. Project management expertise – unscrambling several moving parts requires a deep project management expertise. Organizing and tracking several moving parts and related impacts (prerequisite steps, concurrent steps, etc.) requires a skill in project management.
  5. Relationships/communication – one would think we are asking for too much when we throw this topic into the mix but it is a key component. Often, there will be some technical capability required to resolve certain aspects. Thus, communicating effectively across applications and technical capabilities is a must. Additionally, your ERP and system partners (or lack thereof) might need to be addressed, improved and/or changed out. After all the frustration already incurred, it is essential to know quality resources.
  6. Training/application understanding – this is an easy one to outsource once you know what is needed. Our clients typically think it is #1 yet it is the least critical aspect. Once the solution is known, it is easy to provide training.

Yes, it is one of those situations where there are no easy solutions. The fix itself could seem simple yet putting together a plan and executing the plan will turn complex. Our best advice is to take a step back and assess your situation. After spending a lot of money (that has become a sunk cost), the key will be to remain focused on what the best long-term solution will be to maintain and grow your business successfully. It will require more money than you hoped but you’ll “right the ship” so that you have a sustainable solution.

As an aside, if you happen to employ resources with many of these skills, hang on to them. Follow the advice of one of my best clients who hired top notch engineers during the recession when he didn’t need them. He now has them and will sail past his competition.

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

How Challenging ERP Can Be! 

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Why Blame Doesn’t Work

September 19th, 2016
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supply chain

I’ve been spending the majority of my time this week with two clients: one is preparing to go live on a new ERP system and the other is working to improve service levels by implementing improved planning and order flow processes. Although these specific objectives are nothing alike, they have much in common. Both have countless numbers of small issues arise on a daily basis — and some quite large ones thrown into the mix. It is just the nature of the beast in manufacturing environments. And so we need to uncover the root cause of the preponderance of the issues instead of playing the blame game!

Unfortunately, many of my clients are hard wired to worry about the blame game and related politics. Imagine how much quicker and better progress could be made if we focused on the root cause. Rarely if ever is that root cause due to a specific person. Instead, the likely categories include (in lean terms): method (process), machines, manpower (resource shortage, skills shortage, etc.), and material. If we think about our issues from this point-of-view, suddenly, we aren’t attacking each other; we are attacking the problem jointly.

And, I’d like to state boldly that it makes no difference if you are in a lean environment or whether you agree with lean principles. It is just common sense to just think of categories of causes unrelated to blaming specific people!

One tip to implement this week:

The good news is that there is VAST progress that can be made in a week. Simply stop blaming people. Instead, think about the root cause. Even if you think it comes back to a person, look for every other potential cause that could help that person be successful. If they had a new process and were trained on the new process, could they perform the job? If they were overloaded, would he/she have made the mistake?

Practice talking in these terms. Instead of complaining about Mary or Steve, how could you re-phrase your concern into a productive conversation? Hold off until you’ve thought about it. At a minimum, I bet you’ll waste less time.

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…”