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Start planning now to achieve year-end results with critical projects

August 29th, 2013
Priorities, a must in business

Nothing is more critical to your results than good planning, prioritizing, and follow-up.

While looking toward the end of Q3 and the start of planning for 2014, wouldn’t it be nice to achieve year-end results with critical projects?  As many companies and leaders get lost in the holidays, it is an opportunity for those who stay focused on the key priorities. By no means should you forget the holidays and thanking your people for a good year; however, if you channel your efforts on the critical few, you could not only end the year on a positive note but also accelerate project results in time for year-end.

There are several keys to success in delivering project results; however, one simple yet secret weapon is follow-up.  The best plans are useless without follow through and follow-up. I’ve found it quite amazing the number of highly paid, intelligent leaders that do not value or do not make the time to follow-up. Why spend millions of dollars developing plans if you don’t plan to put in the work to make sure they occur?  So what are a few tips to ensure results occur?  1) Plan.  2) Prioritize.  3) Follow-up.

1.     Plan:  First, develop a simple plan.  What needs to be done?  By who?  When?  What support is required?  It doesn’t have to be fancy or use the latest technology (a scrap piece of paper with action items will likely suffice). This will provide the structure for your follow-up.  In my experience across hundreds of projects in multiple industries and geographies, working a simple list is the 80/20 of success.

2.     Prioritize:  Prioritize your follow-up. It isn’t necessary to follow-up on everything. If there is one common mistake in today’s new normal business environment, it is getting caught in an endless sea of tasks in a survival mode.  Instead of going down that rabbit hole, think about what’s most important.  What can have the largest impact on your project between now and the end of the year? Next, follow up on only those priority tasks; for example, the critical path or the A priorities.  If you follow up on only the tasks that are key, the people related to those tasks will intuitively realize the implied importance and prioritize accordingly.

Additionally, the more you are able to explain why the specific tasks are important, the more the people responsible for the tasks will understand and value them themselves. On the other hand, if you followed up on every task, it would just become a nuisance, and you’d likely be ignored.

3.     Follow-up:  Think function & not form. It doesn’t matter whether you follow-up via email, phone, a fancy software or whatever. What matters is that you follow-up. You will achieve the best results if you change your follow-up style to the person you are following up with.

For example, if you are following up with someone who reads email voraciously but doesn’t typically talk on the phone, send an urgent email. On the other hand, if you are following up with someone who enjoys talking with people (regardless of whether he/she has email), pick up the phone.

When you follow up, make sure to follow up in advance of the due date on critical tasks and critical path items. This gives the person an opportunity to remember and plan for the task. I’ve found that 99% of the people will complete the task with this type of follow-up, whereas, without the follow-up, I might receive a 50% completion ratio, mainly due to conflicting priorities and busy schedules.

It isn’t complex, expensive or requires capital investment to follow-up, it just requires a bit of energy, yet, it yields significant results. Why not close out the year with your project team celebrating a significant “win”?

Additional Reading:

Project Failure: How to  Avoid Top Causes

Best Laid Plans: Turning Strategy Into Action Throughout Your Organization



What is a Systems Pragmatist?

August 27th, 2013
A Systems Pragmatist thinks about and incorporates design every step of the way, and stays several steps ahead of the process.

Systems Pragmatists incorporate design every step of the way, and stay several steps ahead of the process.

Would you select curtains to spice up a house with a rickety foundation? I certainly hope not! Instead, you would resolve your foundation issues before even thinking about nice-to-have’s. So why do we spend countless hours picking out curtains and discussing color choices in businesses when our foundation isn’t stable?

Based on my 20+ years of experience as both a former operations executive and as a global business consultant, I find that more than 50% of my clients prioritize curtains over the rickety foundation – at least for a while. The excitement of implementing the latest lean program or ERP system outweighs blocking and tackling in terms of excitement, career interest etc.; however, it fails miserably. On the other hand, those companies who thrive ensure they design and implement solid processes and systems before even discussing programs that will build upon the base.

Since business processes and systems can become quite complex and cost millions of dollars, it is critical to simplify the design to what’s essential to your organization and focus on the core processes and related functionality that will support your business strategy and deliver bottom line results. This is where the Systems Pragmatist skill set comes into play – in essence, it cuts through the complexity to rapidly define, design and deliver the critical processes and system functionality required to elevate business performance.

Although we could discuss countless tips and techniques for designing and improving business processes and systems, there are a few core essential tenets: 1) Understand your objective. 2) Think design. 3) Execute & integrate with the culture.

1. Understand your objective: One of the worst mistakes my clients make is when they jump to solutions (process improvements, implementing the latest programs and selecting new technologies) before they understand the objective. As cool as the latest e-commerce functionality or S&OP results, it will become a complete waste of time and money if not aligned with the company’s direction and objection.

I have found a differentiation in my clients who leverage processes and systems to a competitive advantage vs. the rest – they think about design in every element of the process. Are you thinking 4 steps ahead in the process? How will it affect your ERP system results? Have you built in flexibility? Agility? Speed? Certainly, in the new normal business environment, those who have access to critical data for rapid decision-making, who accelerate products to market and who deliver faster than the competition will win the business. Have you thought about how to design these capabilities into your processes and systems upfront?

3. Execute and integrate with culture: Last but not least, the best design in the world is useless if it’s un-implementable! Software firms use the terminology of “build” and “run” to mean design a model or process trial and then roll out and utilize effectively. These can be good reminders to make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s and that your process and system functionality work as expected.

An essential element of this phase is to integrate the business process improvements and system enhancements with the culture. Is it an after-thought or do folks think about it similarly to shipping orders (meaning it is part of their routine)? Embed the processes into the daily, weekly, and monthly routines. Consider potential roadblocks and bottlenecks upfront. Ask employees and supply chain partners for input and feedback. Test them out. Think through changes to related areas such as performance management systems.

I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard a horror story associated with a system implementation. There are countless reasons for them: Not enough training. The system didn’t do what we needed it to do. It wasn’t set up to work for the way we do business. We didn’t have enough time. It wasn’t tested thoroughly. And the list goes on. For example, I’m often times brought in by clients to help resolve system snafus that typically result in horrendous customer service issues and down-the-line negative profit impacts. 80% of time, the client feels as though the lack of training is the issue. Although it is always part of the issue, I find that it is 20% of the issue; whereas, design and integration with the daily routine is the 80/20.

Designing and implementing business process improvements and leveraging system functionality to drive business results can require an investment of time and resources. However, you’ll be left in the dust in your broken down Yugo if you don’t prioritize this critical priority. Why not get ahead of the competition by not only creating a solid foundation but also designing it as a strategic advantage to deliver a significant return on investment?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic: Leverage Your ERP System for Bottom Line Business Results



Critical Priority – Retaining Top Talent

August 22nd, 2013
LMA Consulting,  Critical Priority – Retaining Top Talent

Attracting and retaining talent is critical to your success.

I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve heard different Executives/ businesses lament over two polar opposites on the same day:  1) We have to cut back immediately (which typically begins with people) , 2)  We cannot find the appropriate talent to perform a critical role. How can this be?

Unemployment remains high; however, employers also struggle in finding the appropriate talent to fill key roles. According to a May 2009 survey conducted by Oracle, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 51% of the responding companies reported moderate to serious shortages of skilled production workers and 36% reported similar shortages of engineers and scientists. My guess is the numbers are even higher now!

Of course, I have a perspective on this paradox. First, according to Executive Recruiters, it is actually harder to find top talent during a recession because people are less likely to change jobs (and most roles are filled by the 90% employed workforce). Second, the types of skills required for the available jobs require a higher level of specialized technical training than what is typically available. Third, a significant portion of the workforce is considering retirement when laid off (the baby boomers), and there is significant knowledge tied up with them. Thus – our paradox. To potentially make matters worse, there are many top performers who are waiting for the job market to improve to jump ship to better opportunities or to companies who appreciate their skills.

Although a comprehensive effort is required to address this situation effectively so that your company or department is one of the few positioned for success, focusing on retaining top talent is undoubtedly a great place to start. And it’s likely that you are more at risk than you think – so what should you do? 1) Flip the typical situation upside down. 2) Address non-performers. 3) Ensure frequent communications.

  1. Flip the typical situation upside down. Instead of focusing most of your energy on the issues and non-performers, focus the majority of your effort on your top talent. It sounds easy but is far from easy to implement. Yet this one simple rule can make all the difference in the world!The idea is to focus your efforts on those who drive your department and/or company’s results. What roadblocks are they facing? Do they understand the company’s goals and priorities? How about the value they contribute to achieving these goals? And the value of their leadership? If not, you are missing a huge opportunity – in my experience working across multiple industries and globally, your top performers are the 80/20 of your results. When the situation is vital, who do you go to? Why wouldn’t you focus there?
  2. Address non-performers. One of the best incentives for a top performer (assuming they are paid within reason for the role based on the market) is addressing non-performers (at a minimum, not rewarding nonperformance – yes, surprisingly, it occurs all the time). Interesting and absolutely true. What better proof that performance is valued! And, for a top performer, what better way to validate that the company understands what’s required and is on track to succeed?
  3. Ensure frequent communications. Although this sounds like suggesting motherhood and apple pie, it is often overlooked – and not nearly as easy as it sounds. My most successful clients are those who spend the majority of their time clarifying goals (and why they matter), explaining how each person can contribute to them, and providing continual feedback – positive, constructive, and always immediate.I often hear push back on this process – “we are too busy with critical customers, projects etc.”; however, how will we ever resolve these topics without the focus of our top talent? Surely spending 5-30 minutes on your most valuable resource is doable!

If you are the one to retain top talent as the recovery spreads, you will not only have the opportunity to surpass your competition but you will likely attract other top talent – what could be better to position your department and /or company to be the market leader?



What Does it Take to Have a Real Team?

August 19th, 2013

Build successful teams that are cohesive and self-improving.

It’s rare for significant results to be achieved by individuals in today’s economy; teams have substantially greater success.

What do good ones have in common?

1.   One clear purpose — Typically, a team has one purpose since it’s formed specifically for that purpose. However, is your purpose or reason for being clear? The best teams are crystal clear on where they are going and why.

2.   One objective — A foundational element of a team is that there is an overarching objective -what do you expect to accomplish? If each person has a different objective, you don’t have a team; you have a committee.

3.   One measuring system — Can one person succeed while another fails? If so, you have a committee. Instead, a true team will succeed or fail together with common metrics.

4.   Accountability — Your team should share accountability for achieving your objective. Who is responsible for which action items? The best teams are self-selecting – if someone isn’t holding up their share, it is addressed (often the person improves with peer pressure or self-selects out).

5.   Rewards — Certainly, one of the best aspects of having a team is to celebrate success and to create a feeling that you are “in it together.” Thus, it is critical to celebrate progress and success.

 

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

 



Pay it Forward: What’s Good for the Industry Is Good for Business

August 15th, 2013

Listen here to my recent interview on OC Talk Radio – Critical Mass for Business.

I often get asked where I find the time to write so many articles, present at industry meetings, and post noteworthy items on social media. I really am passionate about what I do, but it is more than that. It truly is a sense of giving back; as Kevin Spacey portrayed in the movie, Pay it Forward.

Our industry depends on the strongest links to continually make improvements and grow our expertise. By sharing our knowledge, we strengthen even the weakest links, to be more productive and thoughtful business partners.

I was recently interviewed for the Critical Mass for Business radio show and was able to share my unique business perspective, as well as how our industry needs to continue to evolve. The interview covered everything from how I got started and what I do, to the changes in our industry and how we’ve had to adapt.

I stay plugged into the latest trends and analyze how they impact supply chain, process improvement, and logistics, with an eagle eye on the bottom line. Remember that sharing your expertise and creating a dialog with peers is an essential component to our evolution. I encourage you to use the many social networking opportunities to make the conversation engaging and wide-reaching. I truly believe that what we give, we get back ten-fold . . . and I hope you continually look for ways to make our industry even better.

Add to your knowledge base with these other resources:

Leveraging Social Networks to Drive Business Results

Profit Through People Newsletter

Lisa Anderson’s Recommended Reading

Lisa Anderson’s Blog

Webinars