Category: Profit through People

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity for Manufacturing, Logistics & CA to Align

July 15th, 2019

Last week, I went to the California Capitol building as a part of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s (IEEP) regional leadership academy. It was interesting to hear how the process works. I also am also representing the IEEP’s Logistics Council as it relates to moving forward with the Brookings report recommendations to create a consortium of logistics and advanced manufacturing excellence in the Inland Empire.

We are positioned ideally to scale up and partner with industry, academia and government/non-profit partners to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of aligning seemingly disparate goals of manufacturing, logistics, California government and the federal government’s interests to achieve a win-win-win-win. Wouldn’t that be a feat!

The idea is simple. The Inland Empire’s predominant high-paying professions include logistics and manufacturing. The IE has been outpacing all of California in job creation due to these industries yet they are not typically supported (to say the least!). Since they are contributing vitally to the IE community and jobs, we have the cards stacked in our favor:

  • IE logistics is #1 in the U.S.
  • IE manufacturing is strong and vast (SoCal is #1 in manufacturing in the U.S.)
  • The IE has access to great talent in the local and surrounding area universities (CSUSB, UCR, Drucker, Harvey Mudd, Cal Poly, Redlands), community colleges (Norco, Chaffey etc.), and partners such as GA Tech
  • And, the IE is in the unique position to leverage advanced technology to increase customer value, improve profit and create clean technologies as a win for the environment, X.

Thus, we are scaling up and collaborating for success.

This opportunity didn’t just fall into the IE’s lap. The leaders saw potential and ‘went for it’. Are you looking for opportunities?

One tip to implement this week:
In our work with clients, it is commonplace for clients to ignore vast opportunities such as this exciting initiative. There are always roadblocks, different interests, money flows to address and lots of other issues that arise. The key question is whether you are looking at each issue as a detriment or if you see the big picture and train your eye to ‘see’ a successful path forward.

Recently, our APICS Inland Empire chapter had the opportunity to provide training and education to Target (thanks to our partnership with the University of LaVerne). When the opportunity arose, we didn’t know how we would scale up and fulfill it successfully. However, we took the leap of faith to create value and had the confidence that we’d figure it out.

At first, we were worried about executing against our commitments.  Yet, it all fell into place. It forced us to be a bit more creative.  So, when the next leap of faith opportunity arose to provide manufacturing and logistics education to high school students to help bridge the gap to a profitable career, we went for it. We continue to evolve as we go but it has allowed us to make a difference in a way we would never had pursued or been involved with previously. Are you taking a leap of faith?



Do You Treat Your People as Critical Assets to Your Success?

June 24th, 2019

As several CEOs lament continually and as Steve Erickson, president of Corona Clipper, Inc. and UK Business Unit Group, said in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. Perhaps it is time to put a bit more thought into our talent.

As a consultant who works with organizations from a few million in annual revenue to multi-billion dollar conglomerates, it is quite clear that talent is an issue across-the-board. It doesn’t matter the industry, the size, or the ownership (private equity, publicly traded or closely-held). Talent is an issue that is top of mind of every executive interested in growth and innovation. The trick is whether you just think about talent or are willing to invest in talent. Which are you?

Certainly, those who invest are far more likely to retain top talent and develop new talent. In zero unemployment markets, there is something to be said about creating your own talent. If you aren’t focused on this topic, it is quite likely the competition will steal your talent away.

There are many ways to invest in talent:

  1. Provide mentor opportunities – If your organization looks for ways to support the growth of employees with mentors, you are bound to be more successful than the norm. In our experience, the best companies realize that people need to learn through practical application and mentoring provides this opportunity.
  2. Invest in leaders to encourage continuous coaching – aAyearly review is quite useless. Who can remember what happened that long ago and understand how to improve or build on a strength? Instead, I found that 90 day one-on-one performance conversations with a limited number of objectives do the trick. Continuous feedback and investment of time can go a long way. But let’s not expect leaders to know how to conduct these sessions if we haven’t invested in them. Remember, it trickles down hill.
  3. Provide training opportunities – Search for training topics that will supplement what your employees should understand. For example, any employee in operations and supply chain should take APICS courses to understand the fundamentals of supply chain and operations management and related principles. If nothing else, it will provide the body of knowledge and associated language.
  4. Provide experiences – In larger companies, there might be job rotations or overseas assignments.  No matter the size, there are cross-training opportunities as well as enabling visits and collaborations with customers, suppliers, systems and technology providers, consultants/experts and other partners.
  5. Allow the freedom for experimentation – To encourage new ideas and innovation, it is important to design programs that educate employees as well as provide a framework to try out new ideas. In our consulting travels, we find that employees who are allowed to test new ideas in a safe zone feel invested in.
  6. Address poor performers – Instead of ignoring your poor performers because it is an unpleasant task or you are worried about repercussions, proactively address them. Work with them to turn them around or move them out of the organization, and you’ll unleash your top talent.

Why not merely increase your engagement by investing in your already-existing talent? According to all the surveys, engagement is at horrific levels in the vast majority of organizations yet engagement is key to driving performance. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out investing in your people is not only common sense but it can do more good for your bottom line than almost anything else. The key is to not treat investment as throwing money at an issue but instead seeing it as a priority. Let us know what ideas you have to engage your most critical assets.

 

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

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Profit Through People

 



Participation is More Fun

June 20th, 2019

During my recent trip to Sicily, Prague and Belgium, I went on several food tours. I have found food tours can be a fun and interesting way to get to know an area, as well as the food that is unique to the area. So, of course, when in Italy, what better than to have a food tour and make your own pizza! We sort of participated in making limoncello which is always a great taste to include on a tour.  And, we definitely made chocolate treats on a chocolate tour in Brussels.

Each time an activity was included, it added a new twist to the food tour. Isn’t that true with work as well? If you want someone to learn a concept, develop an exercise or a way for him/her to participate. Since returning, I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class at the Target distribution center and another class with two students at the University of LaVerne/  We had interesting interactive discussions. The students brought up real world examples to participate and relate the concepts to everyday work scenarios and gain immediate advice on a few issues. Bringing concepts to life with active participation is much more memorable than just talking or droning on about a topic. How can you bring concepts to life at work?

One tip to implement this week:
Think about how to build clarity and build participation into your conversations, presentations and discussions. As Jerry Seinfeld says, “I will spend an hour taking an eight word sentence and editing it down to five.” Similarly, I’ve noticed it might take our team at least that long to distill one key concept into a graphic. It is well worth it if the point is clearly communicated and our recommendation is understood and supported. In this case, think about how to engage your team, audience or client to participate in the solution. Not only will they understand it much better but they also will be aligned with it!

There is an art to developing participation exercises that will engage the audience while achieving your end outcome. I find it much harder than it appears. Ask your favorite speakers, educators and leaders how they do it. Take note when someone does it well. How do they introduce the exercise? How do they engage the team? Do they tie the results to the next topic or business need? Little things go a long way. For example, try making your exercise relevant to the audience. When explaining the importance of bills of material for a clay company, we used play dough to make some simple items (thanks to my colleague Diane Garcia for that great idea!). I’d love to hear your ideas for successful participation.

 



Language & Why Quality Is Lost in Translation

June 14th, 2019

I recently returned from a trip to Europe and it highlighted why language and positioning matters. Of course, when visiting Sicily, Sorrento, Prague and Bruges, different languages and dialects were spoken.  However, my comments about language and positioning relate to English. On a day tour in Prague, we had an extremely knowledgeable guide who wanted to tell us everything she knew. We could understand her English.  However, she was opinionated about where we should stand when listening, whether we could stray to take pictures, and whether we could ask questions if she hadn’t told us what she thought we should know. She didn’t position her language in the interests of her customer, so it really wasn’t as enjoyable as other tours where the guides clearly didn’t have the same level of experience and expertise.

I bring this up – because I still was glad I went on the day trip – however, this same topic has arisen multiple times in business in the last several days. In one project update call, the project manager presented important information. Yet, the way he presented it made it seem like the world might be coming to an end, even though it was FAR from reality and not his intention. It could have had drastic unintended consequences if we hadn’t spoken up to re-position.

In another client meeting, the group was talking about relevant details but all the CEO heard was blah, blah, blah because he wanted the bottom line – what those details meant. Of course, he wanted to know that the details were reviewed but the lengthy and wandering explanations made him feel uncomfortable in the conclusion (perhaps we protest too much) instead of confident. The details were intended to provide evidence to support, yet it backfired similarly to the guide’s endless stream of facts instead of focusing on the highlights that were relevant to the customer. Instead, speaking with confidence and conveying that details were considered (without going into detail), highlighting the bottom line result would have done the trick. I can’t tell you how many valuable superstars in clients are overlooked because they don’t know how to use language and convey their ideas successfully!

One tip to implement this week:
As someone who started out horrendously in presenting and positioning, I can tell you with confidence that it is a learned skill. Start wherever you are and make a new effort to improve. Don’t worry about perfection.  It is DEFINITELY overrated. Just strive for improvement on a daily basis. According to my consulting mentor ,Alan Weiss, if you improve by 1% a day, in 70 days you are twice as good. If you think about it, that is really quick!

Start by positioning what you say in the best interest of your audience,not in the light of what you assume is in their best interest. This alone can be revolutionary!

When I was a VP of Operations, I couldn’t understand why a plant manager, who reported to me,  seemed to believe what she said.  It was obviously untrue.  It’s wasn’t until my best friend in an unrelated field explained that people believe their own perceptions and they don’t have to match reality. I was thinking from my point-of-view instead of hers.

How many times have you used arguments to gain approval, funding or resources/support that you would use vs. those that would appeal to your audience? More than we’d like to admit I’d guess!



The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!