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Want Success? Keep Culture Change in Mind.

February 29th, 2016
culture change

When done correctly, culture change brings together the key ingredient for business success — people.

After leaving the work force as a VP of Supply Chain and Operations with a successful track record, I knew I could help executives improve business performance; however, I had no idea how to find clients. Thus, I immersed myself in the keys to success of starting a thriving consulting practice. I discovered that referrals were much more important than a “nice-to-have”; they would make or break success. Fast-forward 11 years, and I have built my business on this tenet – it is a relationship business. At least 95% of my business has resulted from repeat business and referrals.

What do referral sources want? Results. If I can help ensure success, they will bring me back – and tell all of their friends. Thus, although process and systems expertise is required, the key to success goes back to people – culture change, change management, and leadership.

Unfortunately, the best strategy or plan becomes useless if not executed effectively. If your team isn’t on board, you will not succeed. Similarly, if your customers and suppliers aren’t on board, it is not likely you’ll succeed.  Similarly, if you communicate the plan but don’t involve people in the design, ask them for feedback, and give them the chance to try out new ideas, you won’t have long-term success. If you don’t address poor performers, your stars will lose their motivation.

Earlier today, I saw an amazing piece of technology and a substantial upgrade to warehouse operations. It expands capacity for growth, provides efficiency improvements, speeds up the process (shortens lead times) and provides a host of other benefits; however, it will be similar to hiding a new Maserati convertible in your garage if the people don’t come along for the ride. Remember to focus attention on culture change – and people.

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

 

What Is Company Culture?

 

Lost in Culture Change Maze? Here are 4 Strategies for Success!



How Preparation Matters

February 24th, 2016

supply chainLast weekend, the APICS Southwest district held its 10th annual student case competition. We had 25 teams and 108 students from 3 countries with another 11 teams on the wait list (including another country). We had about 50% undergraduate and 50% graduate level students who competed in a supply chain simulation of a juice company — the team with the highest ROI won the technical round. Next, each team presented to the judges who represented the Board of Directors of the company. Just as in real life, each score was 50% — if you have the best idea and cannot present it, you will not prevail!

For the 2nd time in 10 years, the same university took home BOTH the undergraduate and graduate 1st place prize. This time, San Diego State University took home the gold. It just so happened that their academic adviser attended the competition (or actually NOT such a coincidence as he took a proactive interest in his teams), and so I took the opportunity to ask how he did it (why did they both come in first this year). His answer was awfully simple (and aligns with what I’ve seen throughout my career) — preparation and practice.

Are you prepared?

One tip to implement this week:

So, what could we do this week to prepare? In listening to the adviser and reading feedback from the students as to what they learned at the competition, I think it could be quite simple. Start by making sure you are prepared. Have you read up on your topic? Have you practiced? Talking about it is NOT enough; even if you think you might fail, you must try. Start with something that won’t become a disaster if you fail so that it is a safe trial. And work your way up. If you are a leader, provide guidelines and parameters for your employees so that they can try new ideas within a set of guidelines (which makes it safer). And if they fail (even if it is something important), do NOT get upset. You have to use it as a learning experience! The only reason to get upset is if they make the same mistake repeatedly. Instead, celebrate the fact that they took a risk to try something new and use it as a learning opportunity.

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…”

 



Lessons Learned from a Genius Businessman

February 23rd, 2016
businessman

Harry used uncommon common sense to spot opportunities to turn around companies. His wisdom, integrity and generosity will be missed.

My best friend’s dad was as close to a business genius as I’ve stood. He made his employers rich beyond their wildest dreams yet he was happy with this outcome as he enjoyed what he did and lived to 98 including many travels to exotic places — not the ones you might think of but ones he enjoyed. For example, he went to Nicaragua and had many wonderful stories to tell about crocodile farms and uzis. Somehow, he and his wife managed to trust people they probably shouldn’t have, travel to a country not recommended, even by people they met along the way in the country, and come out of it in one piece — and with great stories and excitement.

In his work life, he spent many, many years working for the owner of Sealand, functioning as an investment banker and turnaround CEO. Thus, he’d source great deals and then if they weren’t living up to the expected value, he went in and had a 100% success ratio in ensuring they did. What else can you ask for??!! He could turn around transportation companies to banana growers. Uncommon common sense applies to more than you’d think! One day, I asked him what he thought was most important in turning around these companies, and here are some of the key points that pop to mind:

  1. Observe – Interesting that one of his top points is common sense (oh, wait, I actually think they all were uncommon common sense). He said it was amazing how much he saw in walking a facility that showed opportunities. It reminded me of what has become known as Lean — turns out it doesn’t have to be part of some fancy program; just observe and you’ll uncover gems.
  2. Watch the money – This next tip is unfortunately more common than it seems it should be. Too many companies have someone committing fraud or “on the take”. I certainly would never recommend implementing the cumbersome Sarbanes Oxley if not required by law; however, I would recommend implementing some uncommon common sense approaches to making sure you have the right checks and balances in place. I did a webinar for Financial Times’ ExecSense on this topic a while back, and it is scary how common this can be. My research found that a typical company loses 5% of annual revenue to fraudulent acts. Hard to believe!
  3. Deal with sacred cows – Again, do we really have to be a genius to realize this is a good idea? He said that there are obvious examples of this in family-owned businesses. Perhaps a son or daughter is creating havoc and wasting money but remains in position. Worse than the waste of money, it demotivates the rest of the team. Another example of a sacred cow is a ‘big’ customer we try desperately to keep even though money flies out the door at a faster rate than it flows in the door when this customer calls. There are countless examples. The key is to observe, find the sacred cows and be willing to address them head on.
  4. Persistence I’ve titled what he described as persistence. One of his doozy assignments was to go to Vietnam during the war and turn around a facility (this sounds quite appealing, doesn’t it?). He was the MacGyver of the business world. Leverage underutilized assets. Find new solutions for old problems. Treat people fairly. Don’t give up. He managed to turn the place around — of course.
  5. Integrity – I’m reminded of this quality since he spoke of it near the end. He felt that it was of critical importance. He isn’t alone. When I performed a survey of executives, it came out as a top quality for success.

Harry was a guru and knew more about almost any topic at 98 vs. anyone I know. He’ll be missed. We will help ensure your wisdom carries on!    

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

Leadership Qualities 

Develop a Talent Edge 

 



10 Ways to Stay Focused on the Critical Path

February 19th, 2016
focus on the critical path

Maintaining focus on projects in the midst of business volatility is challenging, but preparing a road map with team strategies to concentrate on the critical path will ensure success.

Remaining focused on any one strategy, project or task can prove challenging in today’s new normal. Volatility is the new norm, and so it becomes easy to get caught up in the highs and lows of organizational life. For example, if your company is having a rough month due to volatility, management can begin to panic which causes deviations from the critical path to the latest crisis.

Soon, you are deterred from the project altogether as resources are lean and can only focus on so many places at once. Most major change initiatives, new product launches, cost savings programs, customer collaboration programs and the like are accomplished through projects. Thus, it behooves us to remain committed to the critical path – and ultimate project success.

What can you do to increase your chances of success? Stick to the critical path. It includes the essential tasks that have the ability to delay the entire project and make it veer off the path. Thus, my most successful clients find ways to ensure the focus remains on the critical path. Some of the successful approaches include the following:

  1. It starts at the top: As with success overall, it is most easily deterred from the top. Make sure your executives know the critical path. Often, by taking the step to make it clear to executives, the project has a significantly greater chance of success. For example, if a manager has a conflict with a critical path item, the executives will support the critical path it if they understand the importance.
  2. Communicate the critical path to the project team: Certainly the project team has to fully understand the it. When it comes to fighting the daily battles and focusing attention, the project team is in the thick of it. If they understand the priority of the critical path, the project has a much greater chance of success.
  3. Make it visual: As is popular in Lean circles, make the critical path visual. The more it is apparent to everyone what tasks are a part of the critical path and the progress on those tasks, the more likely they’ll be to gain attention and receive priority. Put them on the walls. Be creative in how you make it visual.
  4. Follow up with task owners prior to starting dates: The project manager should follow up with critical path task owners prior to their task starting. They should ask about resources, potential bottlenecks, etc. I find that critical path task owners know many of the likely issues ahead of time; however, if no one asks, they might not be communicating them. Ask questions in advance.
  5. Remind task owners just prior to start dates: Even if you engage with the task owner to talk through what is upcoming, doesn’t mean they will remember at the “right” time. Typically task owners have multiple jobs and responsibilities. If they aren’t thinking about the critical path at the time, they are likely to delay until the issue or project their boss is asking about is complete. A personal reminder can go a long way!
  6. Critical path transition: When moving from one critical path task to another, think about what would make it a smooth transition. Similar to running a relay race, it is important to have a code worked out in advance and to know each other well enough so that you can make up time or modify based upon the critical path task before or after you. Have you thought about the importance of collaboration?
  7. Critical path post completion follow-up: One way to ensure communications throughout the critical path is to complete a post-task follow-up. What was successful and helped to speed up progress or improve the result? What happened that could be improved? If you gain this type of feedback rapidly, you can incorporate it into later critical path tasks. Why wait until the next project?
  8. Monitor metrics: As with all projects and business, remember to focus on metrics. What core metrics should you measure to get a feel for whether the critical path is on track and whether the project team is achieving the objectives thus far? Put your heads together to identify these metrics and find a way to measure progress. It could be as simple as talking with critical path owners or talking with the recipients of these tasks. Or it could be slightly more complex with numerical metrics. Find something that is meaningful and measure progress.
  9. Critical path milestones: Although it is easy to get caught up in a maze of tasks and to-do lists, don’t take your eyes off of your critical path milestones. Which tasks are more important and signify an output? Keep them in mind and focus on those actions that will contribute specifically towards achieving these milestones.
  10. Final result: Last but not least, remember that you must be getting closer to the end result of the project. Whether you complete 2 or 200 tasks, it won’t matter unless the end result occurs.

Since executives consider projects a critical contributor to growing the business and delivering bottom line results, remaining focused on the most important tasks to achieving these end results is vital. Thus, leverage these strategies to keep focused on the critical path and continually search for additional options. Success will follow.

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

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Why Talent is #1 to Success

February 17th, 2016

supply chainLast week I attended a meeting of the top 1% of consultants globally. With this sort of talent in one room, I listened carefully. One of the speakers focuses on small- to medium-sized businesses in North America ($5 million to $250 million). He said that the top areas he finds “in need of focus” include strategy, the management team and resources (ERP, working capital, etc.).

Since I focus on both small-medium and large, multi-billion dollar, global companies, I wanted to see what the top 1% of consultants thought about the list for the large companies as well. Interestingly, the one item both had in common was talent/management team.

How do you prioritize talent in your organization, your department or within your team of peers? From a personal perspective, how do you prioritize what you focus on in order to create an accelerated, growing career path?

One tip to implement this week:

If talent is the only item in common on both lists, it is undoubtedly true we should think further about talent. What is one item you can do this week to move the topic of talent forward, if even by an inch? Can you take a few minutes to mentor a colleague? Can you sign up for a class/training program? Can you request information from your manager about where the company is headed and what you should read to better understand your industry, customer and/or supplier needs? Have you thought about succession planning, career paths and/or professional development programs? Pick one and take one step forward. Don’t worry about which one. Just pick any step to get moving in the right direction.

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…”