Leadership’s Unsung Heroes

February 26th, 2015
unsung hero

A leader may be appointed by management but true influence and authority may emanate from the rank and file.

Success begins and ends with leadership. Clearly, formal leaders are vital; however, it is important not to overlook the power of influence leaders. These folks are informal leaders who command significant influence in an organization – typically unsung heroes. Who do people follow?

At all of my most successful clients, I find informal leaders. Sometimes they are in a leadership position of some sort but not the “top dog”, and often they have no official power. Yet these influence leaders wield VAST influence on the organization’s success. Typically, they are known for championing the critical yet difficult changes. They seem to genuinely care about the people and the progress. They work hard and set a positive example. They are willing to share credit and accept blame. They aren’t afraid to share feedback and ideas. In essence, they are LEADERS yet have no title (or certainly not one which denotes power).

In my experience, I find these informal leaders can have significantly more influence on success and results than the formal leaders. People will follow those they know, like and trust. You must do what you say you’ll do. If not, people will listen to what you do; not what you say. One of the best ways to successfully navigate change is to get these informal leaders involved in the process upfront. Gain their respect, and the change will occur. Try to dictate the change, and you might as well hang up your briefcase. 

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

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How Students Show Us the HIGH VALUE of Continuous Learning

February 25th, 2015

supply chainOn Friday and Saturday, my APICS Chapter hosted the APICS West Coast Student Case Competition. I happened to lead the Student Case Competition committee as well, and so I was immersed. It was a popular event as we had close to 100 students from universities throughout Southern California, AZ, Northern CA, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Mexico, Hong Kong, etc. The students did a supply chain case study through a simulated computer exercise and presented their findings and learnings to the crowd (as if we were the Board of Directors of the company). It certainly pointed out how much talent there is in our future supply chain and operations leaders!

It also begged the question about whether we’ve kept the student passion for learning. Are you continually learning? If not, we are falling behind! It so happens that APICS professionals (who were also in attendance) are typically above the curve when it comes to learning as the APICS certifications are a key part of the supply chain and operations body of knowledge. Do you have something like this that will make learning a part of your everyday life?

One tip to implement this week:

In today’s complex world, what worked yesterday might not work today – certainly not by next year! It is important to keep up with the latest trends, best practices, ideas, new concepts, industry news, etc. The good news is that there are lots of alternatives for achieving this goal.   

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…”


Are You Planning for Failure?

February 24th, 2015
planning for failure

Your business won’t thrive if you expect the worst. Instead, plan for the best outcome and watch it unfold.

Are you planning for failure? I imagine no one thinks they plan for failure; however, I see it happen more than you’d think. Instead, plan for success, and success will follow.

Have you ever called an important contact and were surprised when he/she answered the phone – and you didn’t know what to say? Don’t despair…we have all been there. This is an example of planning for failure on a small scale. As easy as it is to do with this, unfortunately, I also see countless examples of this in everyday work situations.

For example, if you are planning an important meeting, do you plan for success or failure? Do you expect your sponsor to show up to support you? Plan as though he or she will! Even if he doesn’t, run the meeting as though he did. You’ll be surprised how this type of simple action will contribute to success.

The same holds true if you are planning an event. Do you expect to “fill the house”? Or are you worried if there will be only a handful of people in attendance? Be willing to plan for success. Guarantee food for a full house. Bring the best speakers. Assume you will find a way to achieve success, and you will. What you think will affect whether you plan for success or failure. At my APICS Inland Empire’s first executive panel and networking symposium, we were not sure if we would find enough panelists, fill the audience, etc.  It was scary as we had to commit funds – and, worse yet, we were concerned as to whether we’d lose face if the event wasn’t successful. Instead, we planned for success, and were thrilled that we had 80 people (four times our previously typical program audience) turn up for an amazing panel discussion.

In another example, if you have a recommendation you feel strongly will help your company, will you plan for success to gain approval? Or, will you not ask to meet with the CEO or Board of Directors because you think he/she is too busy or not interested? Think about your idea. Is it worthwhile? If so, plan for success. Be persistent. Bring your peers and manager in the loop. Present why it is a “win” for them – put it in their best interest. Be willing to push for your recommendation, even if you risk hearing “no”. If you do not ask, you will definitely not succeed.

Lastly, in another example, if you know you have a good chance to “win” new business; however, in order to keep it, you have to maintain service levels over 98% which would require spending money not currently approved in your budget, will you? Or will you hold off to try to make both work (win the business and maintain service without spending money), even though the chances are slim? Plan for success. Go to the appropriate people to gain budget approval. Clearly communicate the potential return on investment. Be willing to go to your Board of Directors if required to gain upfront approval. Assume compelling logic will be sufficient. The worse that could happen is that you hear “no”.

It is easy to unintentionally plan for failure. The main way to ensure you plan for success instead of failure is to maintain focused on the end goal. What do you want to achieve? Why? How can you make sure it’s achieved? Develop plans and stick to them. Be persistent. Be bold. Be willing to invest in success. Be willing to ask for help. Plan for success. Success will follow. 

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

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Uncommon Common Sense Project Management

February 23rd, 2015
common sense

Increasingly, project management is a matter of getting more accomplished in less time. The simplest way to succeed is by using smart and simple approaches.

Why is everyone searching for the latest and greatest technology and fad when common sense will drive bottom line business results? It seems that it is an exciting conversation piece to talk about potentially intriguing technology or concepts such as agile, and so we all get caught up in it. However, when I look across the hundreds of projects implemented by my clients, the key to success boils down to uncommon common sense.

For example, one of my large manufacturing clients is running multiple projects simultaneously. They have been using lean techniques and bringing in consultants who are gurus in utilizing the latest technologies and processes. Of course, none of this is “bad” as results will occur; however, it doesn’t have the same impact as utilizing uncommon common sense.

In one area, there is an overload of work on specific machines which they can see by looking at the visual signals on the plant floor. If you go to the production board, you can see immediately which items and machines are overloaded because they are highlighted and obviously overflowing. After sifting through loads of system data to review the problem through the best and brightest analytical formulas, it was determined that a select few products were best to move to a new production area for focus on improving output.

Not surprisingly, output increased for those items! However, the items were moved to machines which were already overloaded and overflowing, and so although output increased, the already overloaded items were deprioritized for the select few products and past due temporarily increased. Uncommon common sense would say to review the production board which clearly showed this problem or ask the planner to avoid this significant roadblock on the path to success. It seems obvious in hindsight yet wasn’t obvious to the team in the situation – a perfect example of why common sense is not common!

If we can leverage uncommon common sense, it is likely we’ll surpass our competition. Thus, what do we need to do in order to utilize uncommon common sense? 1) Go back to basics. 2) Ask your team. 3) Think before leaping.

1. Go back to the basics: A common theme for those clients who consistently perform at a higher level than the rest is a respect for the basics. Do you value the basics? If you don’t show it, your team will never focus on them. You get what you value and measure.

In project management, the basics include understanding the objectives of your project (which can sometimes come in the form of a project charter), developing a project plan with cross-functional teams as appropriate, soliciting feedback and being willing to address potential roadblocks, and managing the critical path. It is far from complex; however, it is rarely executed. Make sure you do not divert from the basics.

2. Ask your team: There is nothing more important than involving your project team in the complete process. Make sure they understand the value. Asking the right questions will lead them to this conclusion. Ask for input. Never ask and then beat a project team member up for alerting you to problems and roadblocks. It is almost as bad to ask and ignore. Make sure you request input, value the input and get back to them with whether it will be incorporated and why or why not. Simple common sense courtesy goes a long way to encouraging million dollar ideas which can be easily lost in the shuffle.

3. Think before leaping: One of the keys to success in leveraging uncommon common sense is to take a step back from the daily grind. Remember what is to be accomplished. Think about the options for getting there. Identify the most direct path to success. As Occam’s razor says, the simplest path is often the best one. The bottom line is to think before leaping.

Certainly uncommon common sense will also tell you to not do this alone. Bring your best and brightest together, provide the vision and involve them in the process. Make each person accountable for holding the other team members accountable for thinking of the simplest path to achievable the result before pursuing any path. It will seem radical at first; however, if you stick to it, results will follow.

In today’s new normal business environment, project results are of paramount importance as growth and profitability is cornerstone to success. Why not try uncommon common sense to not only simplify your project team’s lives but also to guarantee success. It boils down to becoming ultra-clear on the objectives, taking the step back and setting aside the appropriate time to determine how to simplify the project plan and path forward to only what is essential to success. Rapid progress and an acceleration of results will be your reward.

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist: 

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Why Ports Delays Could Cost Billions

February 18th, 2015

supply chainWhy a $5 Decision Could Cost Your Company Key Customers and Potentially Millions…

I’ve been receiving an increased number of calls lately about impacts from the ports – some referred potential clients trying to figure out how to survive through the port slowdown to client concerns about components and equipment expected to come through the port to impacts on inventory costs and customer service levels. Although there hasn’t been a strike, the port slowdown has impacted countless manufacturers and distributors.

I heard so much about it that I called my colleague who is an expert at international freight to understand the latest thinking on the topic and whether there is anything you can do if you haven’t planned well all-along. For example, I’ve heard of countless stories of folks being concerned about $5 fees by brokers who offer value-added service…..I wonder who is thinking $5 is relevant when it comes to handling this type of crisis?

He sent me this link with pictures of LOTS of freight waiting in limbo at the ports. I also read an article that said that if the ports are down for 10 days, it could cost over $2 billion a day. Not pocket change!

One tip to implement this week:

Whether you have supplies or products waiting at the port, I’d take this as an opportunity to be strategic in thinking about supply chain design. Do you understand your supply chain and the likely risks? Few do. Gather your executive team and key supply chain leaders and discuss your supply chain design. The first step is to understand your current setup, likely risks, challenges and inherent cost structure.

Although this comes to light with the recent events, it is always a good idea to understand your base (whether supply chain or any topic). I’ve seen TOO many clients skip this critical step to waste many thousands if not millions in profit – and, worse yet, these are fundamental to customer service, lead times and growing your business. 

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…”