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Results Follow People

June 30th, 2016
growth, results

Results follow people who put together strategies and successfully implement them. Great tools help, but people are critical to improving your bottom line.

Results don’t occur with the latest fads – even with good fads such as lean manufacturing or SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs. Results don’t occur with cool system functionality – certainly, it makes life easier if you have great tools but results won’t occur due to a system. Instead, results follow people. LMA Consulting Group has been in business for over 11 years, and prior to that I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for an absorbent products manufacturer. I’ve yet to see an example of results that didn’t follow the people.

For example, in working with an aerospace manufacturer a few years ago, we had to rapidly improve service levels for our customers. After a quick assessment, we started implementing a plan to resolve the bottleneck operation. In two months, what had not been resolved in a year was dramatically improved with the rollout of our plan. However, the plan wasn’t the 80%; the reason for success went back to the people. Management supported the plan and was involved on a daily basis in the rollout. The executive in charge visibly supported the plan even when inconvenient.  The team met daily to review progress, discuss issues and ensure success.

Down-the-line, the management team changed. The executives left. The emphasis changed to different topics. And service levels fell. Certainly the new process and plan would still work. Results followed the people – out the door. Then, as one would expect, things changed again. People re-focused, and business started improving.

We all fight fires and hopefully put together and execute strategies; however, we must keep in mind that getting distracted on reports, the latest fads 5P Accelerator for results, growth and profitsand the like are useless unless accompanied with leadership. If you are interested in ensuring results follow people, contact us on leveraging our proprietary process, the 5P Accelerator to fast track growth and profits.

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A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

June 29th, 2016

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459

After meeting with my international advisory board in the beginning of June in Sydney, I took the opportunity to tour Australia and New Zealand. One of our favorite spots was Milford Sound, New Zealand. It is undoubtedly one of the most majestic, beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Since it is impossible to do it justice, I’ve included one of the best pictures of a boat ride through the fjords. Can you imagine how I could have communicated this beauty through words alone?

visual

The same is true in business. One simple graph or hand drawing on a white board or flip chart will communicate more than a 1000 words. I cannot tell you how many executive meetings I’ve sat in where a simple chart would have ended an hour-long discussion. And, more importantly, a simple visual will help communicate effectively so that you get the business, get the money (from the Board, CEO, etc.), get the resources, etc. In my experience, the wasted hours and days (and even months) that go into these requests could be dramatically shortened with a powerful yet simple process visual.

One tip to implement this week:

So, what can we do this week to make progress on this topic? Think about something you’d like to communicate that you think will have a significant impact on your company’s success. Start with something in your functional area. For example, one of my clients is focused on whether they start production orders (work orders) on-time. If you start them on-time, it is likely you’ll complete them on-time. So, in their case, we needed to communicate how well we performed with on-time starts yesterday — and preferably the trend for the week and month. Talking about lots of detailed orders is important to improving the metric but wasn’t nearly as impactful as a simple trend graph with an accompanying pie chart of reasons for late starts.

Don’t worry about your artist and graphics skills. Start by thinking about what to communicate. Come up with one picture, graph, or chart that would help communicate it. That is sufficient for this week; however, since speed is the name of the game, once you have decided what will be meaningful, start by drawing it on a piece of paper or ask your team for help. Don’t get bogged down in graphics or Power Points. I’ve seen hand-drawn pictures be sufficient for multi-million dollar ideas.

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…”

 



Inventory as a People Topic

June 28th, 2016
inventory management

Empowering people to make the right decisions in your organization can be the key to getting the right results in a variety of business cases including inventory management.

One of our favorite client stories on the topic of “Profit through People” goes back to one of our first clients. It is hard to choose a favorite in this category as PEOPLE make or break success at every juncture along the way.

In this case, our client needed to get a handle on inventory somewhat rapidly because it could directly affect the sale of the company — and each individual’s career success and chances at long term viability at this company. How could we bring inventory levels down while keeping the high service levels our customers had come to expect? How could we make sure the “right” inventory was in the “right” value-add distribution center at the “right” time? Seems a complex supply chain solution might be required; however, the solution boiled down to 1 tenet — PEOPLE.

We found the “right” people in the organization. In 80%+ of our client cases, they have the “right” people somewhere in the organization already. The key is whether they recognize them. In this case, we were able to readily identify emerging talent throughout the system. Interestingly enough, we found talent where we needed it by simply looking.

Next, we had to “arm” these emerging inventory leaders with the “right” tools – and more importantly, the “right” philosophy. One of the largest successes was in changing the metrics to encourage collaboration and sharing of inventory. Even though each GM was still measured as they used to be measured (since there wasn’t time to change entire systems), we were able to change the overall message. Again, simplicity can “work”.

Last but not least, we had to “get out of the way”. Encourage, empower, engage and get out of the way. Although I don’t know that the executive team articulated this message like this, it is what they followed. People might listen to what you say but they definitely will listen to what you DO. The team was set up for success — and it worked! Inventory was reduced by 30-40% on the core product lines while maintaining high service levels. Thus, less cash was tied up unnecessarily while customers remained happy. Debt was freed up for the sale.

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The Importance of Controlled Speed

June 24th, 2016

supply chain

Last week I was in New Zealand, and I went on a wild ride on the Dart River (see below). We went at 100 kph with just 4 inches of water. It was a thrilling ride with amazing scenery in the background, and it got me thinking about the critical importance of speed in today’s workplace. EVERY single one of my clients must grow, improve service levels, reduce lead time, maximize margins, and improve efficiencies — YESTERDAY. Speed of results is of the essence. It has been the focus of my clients since the recession (as cash was the focus during the recession) — in today’s Amazon-impacted workplace, speed will make or break success.

However, if you are going at 100 kph in an uncontrolled fashion, you will end up smashed directly into a boulder in the Dart River. In business, it is no different — you must maintain CONTROL while moving rapidly or success will not follow. This is one of the tenets of my proprietary process for driving supply chain performance TST. Having speed and torque with no traction leads to spinning your wheels. It is often the reason I’m called into a client.

speed

 

One tip to implement this week:

I’ve found the first step is to understand and create urgency around your priorities. Most likely you are doing a task because you want to serve a customer as almost everything we do at work can be traced back to serving customers; no matter the task — if you don’t think what you are doing ties to a customer, contact me. I bet we can tie it to a customer or drop it from your priority list. These customer-centric tasks are critical. This doesn’t mean you have to serve customers blindly but to serve them well while achieving a win-win profit and business growth requires you to work with controlled speed.

Start by finding the why behind your tasks this week. If there isn’t a compelling why, remove the item from your list. Focus only on those with an important why. Explain the why to your team or your manager. Create urgency. Think about the last service you received that not only provided great service but was speedy — wouldn’t you like to repeat that for your customers?

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…”

 



Success or Failure? Collaboration Is Key to Success

June 23rd, 2016
collaboration

Meeting the demands of today’s Amazon-impacted world requires meaningful collaboration within your organization and with supply chain partners.

How important is collaboration to project success? Several years ago, it was important but not critical; however, within the last 5-10 years, it has become a cornerstone to success.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, customers have higher expectations of rapid turnaround, 24/7 accessibility, and increased levels of service. These expectations drive complexity. Additionally, we are in a global economy. Executives are hard-pressed to find a product sourced solely from the country of origin. Most likely, at a minimum, your suppliers’ supplier will be from another country. On the customer side, typically, those who export grow sales more rapidly than those who don’t. The bottom line is that we are more interconnected than ever before; thus, collaboration is critical to success.

Although external collaborators are what we typically think of in a global, Amazon-impacted world, it is often just as important if not more important to consider your internal collaborators. Does your sales team talk with production? Does R&D talk with marketing? Does your Ohio location talk with your California location? Often times, different sites within the same country can be more collaboration-challenged than when coordinating with sites in other countries. How often have we heard the challenges in collaborating across the U.S. yet we seem to be able to coordinate across borders? Quite frequently! It is as if we are speaking a different language even though it might be the culture of the south vs. the hustle of New York or the laid-back nature of California.

No matter whether we are collaborating across functions, sites or countries, these keys to success will give you an advantage:

  1. Provide background– Instead of jumping into a conversation and assuming your internal or external partner knows about the initiative, take the time to provide background information. Make sure they are comfortable with the topic and understand what you want to accomplish, why it is important, etc. If you are on the receiving end, make sure to ask questions. Starting on the same page makes all the difference in the world.
  2. Take a breath– This tip relates just as much to collaboration as it does to everyday communication. Do not run on for several minutes on a tangent without pausing to see if your audience is following along. Don’t assume the lack of questions is good news. Ask for confirmation that you are answering their questions and whether what you are saying makes sense.
  3. Build a framework together– For what reason are you collaborating? Most likely you are working on an initiative together or need help or advice from the other person. Either way, build the framework together. Thus, if you are putting together a project plan, make sure to put it together with a give-and-take perspective. Suggest a place to start. Ask the other person where you should go next. Trade off consistently if you need a way to force yourself to remember to ensure fairness. If you have become more expert at collaboration, mix it up. Start with the first few tasks, if you are strong in those areas, and defer to the other person for the areas they are strong in. Build upon each other’s strengths.
  4. Compare resources– Another way to collaborate is to compare resources. For example, if you are rolling out a product, you could have internal and external resources involved in the project. Compare the resources of different team members vs. your objectives. Most likely, each person will be more successful supplying inputs and resources to the areas of the project within their capabilities and resources. It seems quite obvious; however, it can often be an overlooked key to success. In the new product rollout, the engineering group is likely to have access to resources to optimize the production process whereas the logistics group will have more resources available to optimizing packaging. Match up resources with project plans.
  5. Share successes– Sharing in successes and creating opportunities for quick wins encourages collaboration. It is always a good idea to look for opportunities where you can turn 1 + 1 into 22 instead of 2. Collaboration will achieve 22!

Collaborating has emerged as vital to success for any project or major initiative. We must communicate internally among departments, facilities, and levels of the organization. That alone can put most companies over the edge. However, in today’s Amazon-impacted, global environment, we must collaborate externally as well. Customers, suppliers, supply chain partners and other business partners such as trusted advisors must come together and collaborate with a clear, shared objective to achieve dramatic business results.

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