The People Element

August 28th, 2015
top talent

Locate your best employees, particularly in leadership positions, and invest in them for continued success.

I find that the best process will fail with the wrong people. The best system will not drive results if the wrong people are involved. Yet if exceptional people are involved, even the most mediocre of processes and systems will thrive! People are your #1 asset.

For example, I still vividly remember a project that had a “dream team” of people but the leader was inept. He managed to wipe out all progress continually – and frustrate the people to boot. On the other hand, I also remember several projects that looked somewhat hopeless in terms of delivering results according to the desired aggressive schedule yet they succeeded due to the people. Ask any of your great people whether they’d rather have talent or products, processes or systems? Undoubtedly, they’ll choose the talent.

Who is your talent? Start by making sure you are fully aware of your top talent. Nurture your talent. There is no better investment as you’ll move a mile with your talent’s innovative ideas vs. an inch by dictating “best practice” processes and ignoring your talent’s feedback. Your top talent is your secret to success. Treat it as such!

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It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know

August 26th, 2015


supply chain

As I was debating about what to write about this week, two colleagues walked into my client’s office for help in resolving an issue. Upon leaving, one said “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know”. I thought this phrase rang true.

Clearly, you have to be competent. However, assuming this basic, success hinges on “who you know”. In my client’s case, he was able to listen to his colleagues and provide direction in 5 minutes whereas it could have taken them hours to resolve on their own. Time is of the essence in today’s marketplace – the Amazon Effect is of utmost importance.

Last week, I leveraged a friend and colleague’s connections to help me sift through buying options. I could have done the same thing on my own; however, what took my connection an hour would have taken me at least 5 or 6 times as long. Also, today I’ve been working on an executive SIOP presentation with a key client. My graphics guru has been assisting and doing what would take me 10 hours in 10 minutes – not a bad trade-off!

One tip to implement this week:

Think about who you know. Are you nurturing your relationships? When it comes to delighting customers, gaining new clients, getting a great, new job and the like, it is not what you know that counts; it is more often who you know that matters. I hear frequently from executive recruiters that most jobs are filled before they go on the market. This concept applies across the board – whether related to a job or a customer interaction. Before you send that angry email or call your key customer or complain to your peer, think about what you would do if you knew that this interaction would follow you – because it will! Stop and think about treating others as you’d like to be treated. All else will fall into place.

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…”


Do You Recognize Your Employees?

August 25th, 2015
employee recognition

There are countless ways to thank an employee for their hard work, ideas and motivation. Be sure to make the recognition meaningful to the employee to really make them feel appreciated.

One of the most successful yet NO cost ways to create employee engagement is to recognize them. It can be as simple as saying thank you. Have you said thank you to any of your employees or peers lately? Find a way to say thank you at least once a day. Look for opportunities. Have they gone over and beyond? Have they finished an assignment early? Did they make a suggestion? Were they helpful to another employee?  There are countless opportunities to say thank you.

Another way to recognize employees is to give them meaningful work. Make sure you communicate the value of the work your employees are performing. Look for opportunities to give them a meaningful project – either something important to the company’s success or something the employee is interested in. Tell them you are recognizing their hard work and ideas with a special project. Ask if there is something they are interested in?

Recognize your employees in public. Write about their successful ideas in a company newsletter. Give them a gift card for dinner at a company lunch. Recognize the best with awards once a year. Typically these small gestures go a long way as the employee knows you were thinking of them and are able to share it with their colleagues.

Last but not least, recognize your employees with what is meaningful to them. Find out about your employees. Some might prefer to take off time in the middle of the day to go to their child’s school assembly. Others might prefer the opportunity to take a day off from time to time. Another might prefer to work on a priority project. Another might like to go to an Angels game. If it is meaningful to the person, it will go a long way! 

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Is Agile Common Sense?

August 24th, 2015
agile project management

Agile project management is more than adapting quickly, to succeed find a common sense approach.

There is a buzz about agile project management being the “in” trend. There are workshops, seminars and lots of conversation about agile. However, what does agile mean? According to Webster’s dictionary, it is the ability to think quickly or a quick and well-coordinated movement. I see it as meaning flexible. In the project management world, there are countless discussions geared towards agile. But is it really just common sense?

At one of my clients, we have been working diligently to implement a new ERP system. The company is a young company in a start-up mode. However, it is not the traditional startup. When they ship, they will “go BIG”, largely from day one. Thus, there are nuances that require an ERP system long before the typical company would purchase one. Yet they still have the vast majority of start-up challenges. Certainly cash is tight, information is not known, processes are not well enough defined to know how to set up the system yet the system needs to be in place to support their first key customer. What can we do? Leverage agile!

In talking with the ERP supplier, agile was suggested as the best approach. Although I’ve had a significant share of success with selecting the right system for clients and helping them to navigate the implementation, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the nuances of agile. When the ERP supplier described them, it sounded like common sense – exactly what should be done in this scenario. In essence, design the system to be flexible and to account for the information as it becomes available. Thus, a few keys to success emerged: 1) Understand the philosophy 2) Deliver in chunks 3) The solution development team.

1. Understand the philosophy: As is typically required for success, it is vital that the leaders and the team understand the philosophy. In order to adjust on the fly and remain agile to solution development, it means that it is less likely you’ll end up with a final product that is as comprehensive a solution as can be delivered with traditional methods. Make sure expectations are aligned.

Since there are decisions that need to be made on the fly, and options to consider with evolving business requirements, it is vital that stakeholders are involved. Collaboration is the cornerstone. All stakeholders should understand this philosophy, their role, how they fit into the puzzle, and the significance of delivering their piece on time.

For example, this was obvious with my agile client. The project team had to be clear and in the loop – more than on a typical project implementation. The company stakeholders needed to provide vital information as it became available and best guess information while reviewing module functionality. The project manager needed to be empowered, skilled, and supported so that the right decisions can be made at the right time with the best information available.

2. Deliver in chunks: As opposed to traditional projects, a key to success with agile is to look for and find reasonable and achievable chunks for implementation. In essence, what group of tasks can be most successful early on with the information and resources available? Will that chunk of the project also support the next chunk? What is the next likely set of tasks that can be defined enough for the second chunk? And so on.

For example, in an agile situation, we were in the process of confirming several aspects of the manufacturing process yet we couldn’t wait to move forward in order to meet a critical customer deadline. Thus, we decided to put the foundational elements in place that we knew to a greater degree of certainty first – the accounting system and items. We could build upon these aspects as information became available for the other parts of the system. In the interim, we would provide education on the system and continue to make progress. By going live with accounting to start, we could test several processes with minimal risk – a win-win. Thus, the second chunk would go more smoothly.

3. The solution development team: The agile method is all about people! Thus, the solution development team must be solid and collaborative. It is not uncommon in implementations to have experts switch in and out of projects; however, this is more challenging with agile projects as they are more dependent on the people and their knowledge. A cross-functional team that works effectively together is the cornerstone to success. Because agile projects rely on strong informal communication, it is important that the team has the right composition, the right skills (including business knowledge) and is the right size for effectiveness.

For example, when working on an agile project, if one team member has a deep understanding of a particular module, they need to collaborate closely with the person who has a deep understanding of the day-to-day process so that the optimal setup is completed. Since knowledge of the business processes is vital, more emphasis should be focused on getting the right skills and people on the team to ensure success.

Agile can be the perfect solution in many circumstances; however, it is also common sense. If you have fully formed requirements and information available as to how the processes are performed and the likely complexities, is there a reason to build non-essential flexibility into the process? Perhaps that would be a waste. Put on your common sense hat, and good decisions will emerge.

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Why Care About Systems Transactions?

August 18th, 2015
importance of systems transactions

Systems transactions are often treated as an afterthought but are critical to building a stable foundation for your business.

As mundane as system transactions seem, I continually find that whether or not they are deemed a priority can make the difference between a successful operation or not. The bottom line is that my clients who make sure they design the optimal process, document the systems transaction steps and ensure the timely and accurate execution of transactions succeed.

If you think of it like building a house, system transactions are part of the foundation. If you have an unstable foundation, no matter how much money you put into your house, it will be unsteady. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this occur a few times. When growing up in Schaumburg, our house was built on an unstable foundation and began to sink. Thank goodness my Mom got the builder to help resolve the problem after much ado. The foundation had to be shored up to resolve the issue which was much harder/costlier to resolve later than it would have been when building. On a lesser scale, the wood floor in my house had HUGE gaps a few months after moving back in (after it was rebuilt due to a fire). Several months later, it took taking the wood floor up and re-leveling the floor with cement and sanding it down to resolve.

Thus, make sure one of your key managers is responsible for transactions. They should not be an afterthought. Instead, design or re-design transactions to optimally and most efficiently leverage the system to track appropriate data. I’ve worked with several clients to accomplish this task. In every case, inventory accuracy improved greatly. This contributed to improved customer service (as they could find what was needed to ship), reduced inventory levels and freed up cash (as they could count on what they had and so didn’t need to keep extra stock just in case), and improved efficiencies (as they could optimize their processes). Emphasize the importance of transaction timing and accuracy. Provide training and make sure priority is clear. For example, it is not enough to say transactions are a priority but de-prioritize if overtime is required to complete them.

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