Case Study of a Project Failure

March 30th, 2011

Please check out and comment on my latest Project Times article, “Case Study of a Project Failure”. I utilized a case study of an project to integrate companies which was challenged to say the least and discussed three key take-aways of lessons learned from project failure:

1. Too many chiefs and no Indians.

2. Lost critical knowledge base.

3. Forgot to ask questions.

Please read, tweet, comment etc. FYI, there is a place to comment at the end of the article on Project Times – link to the article.

Leveraging Your ERP System

March 29th, 2011

Another way to succeed in today’s new normal is with innovation and leveraging already-existing assets. As I thought about leveraging ERP systems for a speech I gave earlier this month, I thought a few tips and questions to ponder might be of value:

1. Improve service: how can you utilize your system to provide exceptional customer service?

2. Reduce lead time: can you surpass your competition by delivering 10% quicker by leveraging functionality?

3. Efficiency: Take a fresh look at everything you do on a daily basis. Look for ways to automate.

4. Accuracy: focus on data integrity and your accuracy will improve. It can lead to improved profitability, cash flow projections and service.

5. Customer partnerships: how can you leverage your system to support customer collaboration? How about product development? Freight partnerships? Customer programs such as VMI?

U.K. manufacturing experienced record-breaking growth in 2010

March 28th, 2011

I saw an article in APICS about U.K.’s manufacturing growth, and it surprised me; thus, I thought it would be an interesting blog article. Manufacturing grew more than it has in 16 years – impressive!

Growing a business can actually be more challenging than downsizing! Of course, it is a more pleasant problem to have; however, it can turn quite unpleasant if the business is unsuccessful in growing WHILE keeping customers happy, maintaining a reasonable cost structure etc.

Although the U.S. will not return to the GO-GO days of the mid 2000’s, it is likely to experience rapid growth at times vs. the recession days of the last few years. Thus, managing growth could be an issue for the U.S. as well.

Start by taking a step back and thinking of how you’ll plan for rapid growth without throwing the baby out with the bathwater (and spending excessive money on something that might not occur). What can you do to remain flexible? What can you do to proactive communicate with customers and potential customers so that you’ll see it coming?

Lessons Learned from Your Worst Leaders

March 28th, 2011

Businesses remain in a quandary. Optimism is up. Sales are lackluster. Unemployment remains high. Customer service expectations continue to rise. Cash remains king. For example, just take today’s Wall Street Journal’s headlines: The private sector added 217,000 jobs; however, layoff announcements increased for the second month in a row. Nothing is simple. How can you get a jump on the competition? There’s no doubt in my mind – it boils down to leadership and execution.

Yet, if leadership and execution were easy, wouldn’t we all be wildly successful already? Thus, it’s worth taking a look at not only the keys to success but also what we can learn from poor examples. How about our worst bosses? Instead of chalking the experience up to one you’d like to forget, think about what you can learn from it. Why not get something positive from a potentially horrible time of your career?

I have the dubious advantage of seeing several examples of less effective leaders from not only working with and for a multitude of leaders while in corporate life but also with my clients. Based on those observations, I’ve picked a few of the top mistakes of the worst leaders: 1) No idea where they are going. 2) Doesn’t know how to get there. 3) The world’s worst communicator.

1) No idea where they are going: The first tenet of leadership is to define strategy – in essence, where are we going? You don’t have to have all the details nailed down; however, you must know where you are headed. Would you get in the car without any idea of where you are going? Or why? Hopefully not – even when I was in a sleep-functioning sort of consciousness one day almost 20 years ago, I knew I was headed to work. I just was headed there several hours too early.

The organization (or department) cannot follow if the leader has no idea where he/she is going. Or, worse, because he is the leader, they will follow. Then, many people are going nowhere. Talk about a recipe for disaster and frustration!

Instead of going down this road, stop and rectify the situation. If you are the CEO, you must stop all other priorities, assemble your team and determine where you are going. Or if you are an executive or department leader other than the CEO, ask! Don’t assume communication should occur. Be proactive. Participate in defining where the company is headed. At a minimum, define the strategy for your area of responsibility.

2) Doesn’t know how to get there: Although there are many examples of leaders not knowing where they are going, there are even more examples of those who have no idea how to get there – or simplifying what it takes to “get there”. This point implies that the leader either isn’t aware that he/she doesn’t know how to get there or isn’t asking/ involving the appropriate people in determining the optimal path and implementation plan. Of course, the worst examples think they know how to get there while it’s obvious to everyone else that they have no clue!

Instead of falling victim to this pitfall, discuss the strategy, ask questions, listen, and ensure to involve the appropriate people in developing and implementing the plans of how to get there. One of the most common mistakes I see if when leaders bail on how to get there. After all, it might not be perceived to be as interesting – and it can be hard work.

On the other hand, the leaders who consistently deliver bottom line results stay committed and tied into how to get there. They do not dictate; instead, they stay focused, ask questions, influence, incorporate feedback, encourage progress, push back and communicate. They also don’t stay tied to a losing strategy or implementation plan because it’s defined. They’ll address the hard facts upfront. And they never kill the messenger.

3) The world’s worst communicator: I’m sure we’ve all seen this leader! Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve found it doesn’t require charisma to be a successful communicator. Instead, the critical differentiator of an effective communicator boils down to integrity and trust. People will quickly forgive a leader for communication mishaps (which are bound to occur) if they trust them and know they want the best for the company and the people. It can be as simple as that.

Another secret to communication success lies in asking questions and listening. Being informed enough (about people, processes, systems, culture etc.) to ask good questions is not nearly as easy as it sounds. However, as important as asking questions can be to success, don’t get carried away. Asking the wrong questions at the wrong time (or even the right questions at the wrong time) can be disastrous. If people lose faith in you, you have a mountain to climb – your competitors will pass you by while you huff and puff up the mountain.

Those companies who found a way to thrive during the recession and are focused on leveraging the recovery have one element in common – solid leadership. I’ve found that it can sometimes be easier to learn from mistakes than successes – what can you learn from your worst leader?

Value Stream Mapping Webinar @ March 23rd

March 7th, 2011

Join APICS-IE for a free webinar on “Value Stream Mapping”: Not Just for the Factory Floor

• Have you ever wondered what is “Value Stream Mapping” and what it is used for?
• Have you been exposed to VSM, but are still wondering whether the benefits are worth the effort?
• Are you having difficulty getting approvals for your process improvement projects?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then this meeting is for you. We are fortunate to have Andy Pattantyus, an experienced Lean practitioner/consultant to bring us a practical presentation on Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and Process Mapping.

Everybody working at a company thinks they know their processes. In fact, nobody truly understands any process, at least not 100%, and as a result, it is difficult to justify improvement projects. Mapping a process is the simplest and quickest method for identifying waste. The proper use of VSM enables the identification and prioritization of improvement projects known as “Point Kaizen”. VSM is not just for the factory floor. Normally, materials cannot move until the information flows. Office and administrative processes are often more wasteful than the manufacturing processes, and can really benefit from Process Mapping and redesign. High level VSM helps management determine what to work on by revealing the untapped potential of the organization. Detailed VSM helps implementation teams design the actual workflow and human interfaces.

This presentation describes the methods of process mapping material flow on the plant floor, as well as information flow in the back office. The attendee will be taken through the entire process, including:
 What actual Value Stream Maps look like
 How to do Value Stream Mapping, interactively and quickly
 How to make Process Mapping fun!
 Appropriate level of detail for a Process Map
 Different methods of process mapping, and when to use them
 When to use computer tools

If approached properly, Process Mapping is easy!

Getting into the VSM habit, systematically applying process mapping tools year after year, is difficult!

This presentation is geared towards management, operations professionals and industrial engineers who are striving to use VSM as a management tool to:
• eliminate the waste from existing processes.
• design new processes
• Improve the bottom line

Speaker: Andy Pattantyus, founder, owner and President of Strategic Modularity, Inc., (SMI) is passionate about helping clients set goals, prepare plans and eliminate waste, thus allowing companies reach their greatest potential. After managing development projects as a Senior Engineering Manager at Eveready Battery Co. Inc. and as a Director at Quallion LLC., Andy felt the need to branch out. His 30 years of experience in designing/integrating modular production systems and flexible processes, developing new products, processes and machinery, provided him with a wide base of knowledge on how to eliminate process inefficiencies. Andy solves business problems by combining technical innovation with strategy, system design, facility design, human resource management, project management and accounting. A streamlined and efficient business perspective, with a strong mix of technical skills, enables Andy and his team to improve a company’s health. In Andy’s roles, achieving results always required significant planning before execution. Andy holds 6 patents, a B.S. and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech as well as an MBA from Case Western Reserve University .

Register here: click here