Jump Start the New Year

December 30th, 2014
jump start the new year

As the holidays come to a close work looms depressingly larger for some. Business leaders have to step in to hike motivation levels and bring goals back into focus so that 2015 starts on a strong productive note.

Often, the holiday aftermath can linger on into January; thus providing a slow start to the year. Instead, those companies who thrive will ensure success by kick starting the New Year with power. Since customers are demanding elevated service levels and quicker deliveries, we must rise to the challenge – or accept the likely alternative of lost business.

In my experience as a business consultant who works across multiple industries, geographies and company sizes, I’ve found that executives base a considerable amount of their profit plans on achieving project results. Thus, why leave it to chance? Instead kick off the New Year by focusing on your key objectives and the supporting projects. Take notice!

A few strategies for ensuring success early in the New Year include the following: 1) Renewed enthusiasm 2) Re-engage teams. 3) Ask questions. 4) Orchestrate a quick win. 5) Celebrate success.

1. Renewed enthusiasm: As my HR mentor says, “It begins and ends with leadership”; thus, it starts with you. The top priority is to return to the office with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It has been proven countless times that enthusiasm is contagious and will spread to your project team. No matter how smart or how dedicated your project team, they will perform better with renewed enthusiasm!

For example, learn from my mistakes. I am not a morning person. Before understanding the vital importance of this key point, I might have been half asleep and thinking through fog – and it showed! Worse yet, when I wasn’t yet “into the mode”, I appeared uninterested and boring. No one gains energy from a monotonous tone and stiff presentation style. Of course, I didn’t mean it to come across that way but perception is reality. It was amazing the difference it made when I realized the importance of enthusiasm and did a few exercises (and drank a bit of caffeine) to prepare myself to start strong. Suddenly I was interesting and engaging – with the same stories.

2. Re-engage teams: Start by re-engaging your project teams. Don’t expect your team to continue where they left off. Even if they wanted to jump back in, it’s likely there have been too many distractions during the holidays. Bring the team together. Remind them why the project is valuable. Create urgency for rapid progress. Bring the team up-to-speed with where they left off. Go over the critical path. And last but not least, make sure to re-engage as the project leader.

3. Ask Questions:Asking questions is surprisingly effective. You can stimulate interest with your questions. You can uncover potential roadblocks to address. You can make sure your team understands that you are listening and care. You can massage progress. You can lead. Find out what your team thinks is important to success. You might be surprised. Is timing most important? How about resources? Support of other departments?

Find out which upcoming tasks are most critical. Why? Is everyone aligned? If not, why not? Are there opportunities for continuous improvement? Potential roadblocks? The art of asking questions is to listen more than you’re talking.

4. Orchestrate a quick win: Choose a small, quick win as a project team. What are the upcoming critical path items and milestones? Can any provide a quick win? What will affect the bottom line? Or impact customers positively? Ask your team for ideas for quick wins. Pick one and go with it.

Then, develop or clarify a plan to achieve the quick win. Make sure the leader of each project task understands its importance. Communicate in advance that a critical path task is coming up. Encourage teamwork. Implement measures to track performance and gauge progress to the quick win. Focus additional resources on it if need be. Celebrate BIG.

5. Celebrate success: As silly as it might sound, you must celebrate success. Go out of your way to recognize the small efforts each individual puts into the project. Make sure your team knows that you appreciate them. Notice progress. Reward your high performers. Address your poor performers. There is nothing better for a high performer than to see that you are paying attention and not willing to accept sub-par work. If it was easy, wouldn’t everyone be successful? Of course. That’s why you must be different – willing to address the issues others want to sweep under the carpet. I guarantee your team will suddenly re-engage.

The impact of kicking off your New Year powerfully is immeasurable. Not only can you save time which is a hot commodity in today’s new normal business environment but you also can accelerate bottom line business results. Focus on gaining momentum while going in the right direction and the rest will follow. 

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Customer Service…the Art of Success

December 29th, 2014

supply chainThere have been a few times in the last day where I’m reminded of the value of customer service. There is an art to success. It is not merely the words spoken. Instead, it has to do with whether the person seems to truly care about their customers and explores for areas of common interest.

For example, I helped my aunt buy a new car today. She had several specific requirements in addition to a specific car (Mazda 3) such as no interest for 3-5 years, no extras, a low price (which she determined could be found on – not that she has ever used a computer…..), color didn’t matter (but it couldn’t be red or blue) and, most importantly, she didn’t want the transaction to take “too long”. The salesman actually did a fabulous job of keeping her engaged in interesting conversation about where she used to live (since they had that in common) while we waited for quite a long while for the person with the final paperwork. I have no doubt that she would have walked out if he hadn’t been as good at customer service! (Which would have meant we’d have to start again tomorrow…)

One tip to implement this week:

The nice thing about customer service is that it doesn’t require money or complex requirements; it’s all about attitude. Instead of thinking about what might have gone wrong so far today, look for the positive. Instead of thinking about “your” day, think about your customer’s or colleague’s day. How can you improve upon it? What could you ask them that would let them know you have been paying attention? How can you engage them in conversation? Then, give it a try. I guarantee that even on your first try you’ll likely be successful. People appreciate genuine effort. And who isn’t interested in someone who is interested in them? 

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…”


The Value of Keeping In Touch

December 23rd, 2014

supply chainAs I’ve been writing holiday cards for weeks now, keeping in touch is on my mind. Why go through all the work to send holiday cards? I think it is a great opportunity to take a minute or two to think about each person as you write his/her card. Perhaps you should be doing a better job of keeping in touch. Or, perhaps you are keeping in touch and want them to know you are thinking of them. If even 5% of your cards make your colleague, family and friends’ day, isn’t it worth it?

I think the value of keeping in touch is obvious from a personal standpoint; however, it might be less obvious from a business standpoint especially as we are all BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. Just think of it this way – who do you call when you need a referral? Who do you call when you want the best service? Those who keep in touch. Of course you must be genuine or don’t bother. Keep in touch and stand out from the crowd.

One tip to implement this week:

Today’s tip is quite easy to implement. It takes no money; no resources and barely any time. Think of one person you would like to keep in touch with and do one of the following: Pick up the phone and give him/her a call. Send a letter. Make a point to find out when he/she can get together, and schedule it. Last but not least, send an email. The most personal approach is always preferred but do NOT wait for the “perfect” situation. I find more people waiting for perfection who miss HUGE opportunities. Pick up your phone….  

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…”


Essential Skills of the Supply Chain Superhero

December 23rd, 2014
supply chain superhero

Surviving and flourishing in today’s business environment increasingly demands more of the supply chain professional, including excelling at soft and technical skills.

In my speech at the APICS 2014 International Conference, I talked about the essential skills of today’s supply chain superhero. Doesn’t it seem like supply chain leaders are expected to be superheroes?

I broke them down into categories to make it easy to remember. First are the soft skills which happen to be equal and often MORE important than the technical skills, according to executives. In this category, I included communication and presentation skills, leadership skills and customer service skills.

Next is the technical skills category. These must become an assumption. They include the skills of planning, project management and business processes. How many people do you have who excel in these areas? Exceptional project managers are hard to find. Last but not least is the category of systems. Here we have computational thinking (which doesn’t mean you have to be a computer whiz), ERP and critical thinking skills.

What are you doing to improve these skills? Do you have a mentor and/or coach to help you build these? And are you looking for these in your current employees and job candidates? 

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What Is Important for ERP Success?

December 18th, 2014
ERP success

The multifaceted task of implementing a successful ERP system starts with selecting the “right” system and having a cohesive, adaptable strategy.

What is important for ERP success?  The most important ingredient to success boils down to implementation; however, it will help set your implementation up for success if you select the “right’ system as well.  Here are a few strategies to ensure success:

1. Just the critical few key requirements. Although it is natural to think that every piece of functionality is critical (or why not include it since you’re spending money on a new system anyway), don’t. Take a step back and focus 80% of your efforts on the 20% that drives your business.

2. People. Nothing else matters if the right people aren’t on the team. It is 99.9% probable that something will go wrong during the system implementation, and if you have the right people in the right positions (on the implementation team, focused on change management, leading the organization, etc.), they will turn these potential boulders into tiny pebbles along the road to success.

3. The process must be led by the business functions, yet the IT project manager is the key. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but it is one of the most important elements to success. The business must lead the process to make sure it is focused on the key elements that will support the business and drive business value/return; however, they typically are not the best equipped to ensure a successful execution. Therefore, finding an IT project manager proficient in bringing it all together (the business needs, project management, the IT elements, etc.) and facilitating the implementation (sometimes behind the scenes in a supporting role) is key to success.

4. Change management. It isn’t necessary to be an expert in change management to be successful. Instead, leadership is the key – communicate proactively, provide as much clarity as possible about the future state, the roadmap to get to the future state, ask questions, and listen.

5. Training and education. It is the only way to make sure the business results are achieved. Don’t just focus on the how-to’s. Remember the whys – we want people to think, ask questions, push back and work as a team to deliver the expected business results.

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