Category: Organizational Development

Participation is More Fun

June 20th, 2019

During my recent trip to Sicily, Prague and Belgium, I went on several food tours. I have found food tours can be a fun and interesting way to get to know an area, as well as the food that is unique to the area. So, of course, when in Italy, what better than to have a food tour and make your own pizza! We sort of participated in making limoncello which is always a great taste to include on a tour.  And, we definitely made chocolate treats on a chocolate tour in Brussels.

Each time an activity was included, it added a new twist to the food tour. Isn’t that true with work as well? If you want someone to learn a concept, develop an exercise or a way for him/her to participate. Since returning, I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class at the Target distribution center and another class with two students at the University of LaVerne/  We had interesting interactive discussions. The students brought up real world examples to participate and relate the concepts to everyday work scenarios and gain immediate advice on a few issues. Bringing concepts to life with active participation is much more memorable than just talking or droning on about a topic. How can you bring concepts to life at work?

One tip to implement this week:
Think about how to build clarity and build participation into your conversations, presentations and discussions. As Jerry Seinfeld says, “I will spend an hour taking an eight word sentence and editing it down to five.” Similarly, I’ve noticed it might take our team at least that long to distill one key concept into a graphic. It is well worth it if the point is clearly communicated and our recommendation is understood and supported. In this case, think about how to engage your team, audience or client to participate in the solution. Not only will they understand it much better but they also will be aligned with it!

There is an art to developing participation exercises that will engage the audience while achieving your end outcome. I find it much harder than it appears. Ask your favorite speakers, educators and leaders how they do it. Take note when someone does it well. How do they introduce the exercise? How do they engage the team? Do they tie the results to the next topic or business need? Little things go a long way. For example, try making your exercise relevant to the audience. When explaining the importance of bills of material for a clay company, we used play dough to make some simple items (thanks to my colleague Diane Garcia for that great idea!). I’d love to hear your ideas for successful participation.

 



Why Supplier Management is More Important Than You Think

June 17th, 2019

Supplier management has been a theme this week. I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class session about supplier relationship management and SRM software recently. An attendee had a great example of the impact of poor quality.  Her company was sending an entire container load of product back to Asia with defective parts.  This was bound to have negative impacts on the customer. After all, they were already delayed.  Now, they were spending another month on the water to start over again. That led us to discussions on backup suppliers.

Next, I spent quite a bit of time on webinars and calls one day talking about the critical importance of supplier lead time, reliability, safety stock, lot size and how these factors impact our ability to maximize service, profit and cash flow. And, I presented to APICS Ventura on “The Resilient Supply Chain” We had intriguing discussions on the trends of vertical integration, supplier consolidation, allocation of key materials (and how consumer products are gaining priority access with the leftovers being allocated to industrial companies), the impact of tariffs on sourcing, and several more topics.

The bottom line of each of these discussions is that proactive management of suppliers is of ever-increasing importance in today’s Amazon impacted business environment. If you don’t have what you need, when you need it, where you need it, in good quality, and within cost guidelines, you are likely to lose vs. your competition. And, this includes last minute changes! Do you consider your supplier your partner or someone to negotiate with and gain an advantage over?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
It is NOT all about cost. Of course, the hot topic on executives’ minds is how to achieve scaleable growth, so profit and cost are important topics.  Yet, smart executives realize it is quite easy to sacrifice the future by saving pennies in the present. Similar to the mistakes made several years ago when it didn’t matter whether it made cost-sense or not (ie. Boards were demanding outsourcing regardless of the financials), many Boards are demanding supplier concessions without looking at the extended supply chain impacts. Instead, stick up for looking at total cost and taking the value viewpoint! Of course, this means you’ll be focused on costs but it won’t be your sole focus.

We talked about several scenarios where you had to invest financially upfront in order to achieve longer-term success. For example, we talked about keeping a more expensive backup supplier and giving them 20% of the volume. Boards and private equity backers weren’t too happy with the extra cost yet this risk mitigation technique saved the day on more than one occasion. When the material went on allocation, the main supplier struggled or the ports/transportation infrastructure broke down, those who planned for the inevitable bump in the road had uninterrupted supply from the backup supplier and satisfied customers while the competition fell further behind. Are you thinking about your suppliers like a cost or a partner?  You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



Language & Why Quality Is Lost in Translation

June 14th, 2019

I recently returned from a trip to Europe and it highlighted why language and positioning matters. Of course, when visiting Sicily, Sorrento, Prague and Bruges, different languages and dialects were spoken.  However, my comments about language and positioning relate to English. On a day tour in Prague, we had an extremely knowledgeable guide who wanted to tell us everything she knew. We could understand her English.  However, she was opinionated about where we should stand when listening, whether we could stray to take pictures, and whether we could ask questions if she hadn’t told us what she thought we should know. She didn’t position her language in the interests of her customer, so it really wasn’t as enjoyable as other tours where the guides clearly didn’t have the same level of experience and expertise.

I bring this up – because I still was glad I went on the day trip – however, this same topic has arisen multiple times in business in the last several days. In one project update call, the project manager presented important information. Yet, the way he presented it made it seem like the world might be coming to an end, even though it was FAR from reality and not his intention. It could have had drastic unintended consequences if we hadn’t spoken up to re-position.

In another client meeting, the group was talking about relevant details but all the CEO heard was blah, blah, blah because he wanted the bottom line – what those details meant. Of course, he wanted to know that the details were reviewed but the lengthy and wandering explanations made him feel uncomfortable in the conclusion (perhaps we protest too much) instead of confident. The details were intended to provide evidence to support, yet it backfired similarly to the guide’s endless stream of facts instead of focusing on the highlights that were relevant to the customer. Instead, speaking with confidence and conveying that details were considered (without going into detail), highlighting the bottom line result would have done the trick. I can’t tell you how many valuable superstars in clients are overlooked because they don’t know how to use language and convey their ideas successfully!

One tip to implement this week:
As someone who started out horrendously in presenting and positioning, I can tell you with confidence that it is a learned skill. Start wherever you are and make a new effort to improve. Don’t worry about perfection.  It is DEFINITELY overrated. Just strive for improvement on a daily basis. According to my consulting mentor ,Alan Weiss, if you improve by 1% a day, in 70 days you are twice as good. If you think about it, that is really quick!

Start by positioning what you say in the best interest of your audience,not in the light of what you assume is in their best interest. This alone can be revolutionary!

When I was a VP of Operations, I couldn’t understand why a plant manager, who reported to me,  seemed to believe what she said.  It was obviously untrue.  It’s wasn’t until my best friend in an unrelated field explained that people believe their own perceptions and they don’t have to match reality. I was thinking from my point-of-view instead of hers.

How many times have you used arguments to gain approval, funding or resources/support that you would use vs. those that would appeal to your audience? More than we’d like to admit I’d guess!



The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!



We Are All Salespeople

May 13th, 2019

Do you think of yourself as a salesperson? For most of us, the answer is probably ‘no’; however, every successful executive, manager, professional and person is a salesperson.  

Last week, I participated in a consulting conference, and our Society for the Advancement of Consulting ambassadors (pictured here) filled the role of salesperson to spread the word on the value of SAC. We had a great time and many value-added discussions. I find the key to ‘selling’ is actually providing value; not selling people products and services they do not need!

When I think back, I have always been in sales even though I thought I had no idea whatsoever about sales at the time. The way I got my first job was talking about the value of a senior project and how it was applicable to performing a planning role. I had NO idea that this was actually selling but it is how I successfully landed a great job out of college. Early in my career, I found system settings that would make our Coca-Cola facility’s process better, and I had to sell IT and others on why they should support this change. Later at a plastic injection molder, I had to sell management on why we should focus on certain inventory initiatives.

Lastly, as a VP of Operations of an absorbent products manufacturer, I absolutely spent 90% of my time selling my team on how they were valuable to the vision, suppliers on how they could have a part on creating a win-win, customers on how we could create collaborative vendor management inventory initiatives that would increase their service and profit (which would also improve our revenue growth, inventory and efficiencies), the Board of Directors on why we should focus efforts on material projects to drive profitable growth (even though they wanted me to focus on reducing labor costs instead) and the list goes on. In consulting, 80% of project success (partnering with the client to make sure results occur) relates to selling and positioning. After all, doesn’t it all stem from successfully navigating change?

Think about your career and daily job responsibilities. I bet you are selling every day as well!

One tip to implement this week:

The key to success in sales is to provide value. As I read in a book by my consulting mentor when I decided to start consulting, selling consulting services is simply finding ways to provide value to clients by helping them to increase the value of their businesses. Somehow, increasing the value of businesses sounded FAR simpler to me than selling people on hiring me as a consultant (after all, who budgets to hire a consultant?), and so I went for it (and am celebrating my 14th year anniversary in May).

Of course, it isn’t exactly that simple; however, it is absolutely true. The crux of all sales is in providing value. Think about when you purchase products and services. Why do you purchase? I used to think I was quite logical and not influenced by typical sales techniques; however, it is human nature that logic makes us think and emotions make us act. Although I am never tempted by clothes (except as I know I need to look decent to be successful), I realized I spent quite a bit of money on education to be successful in my consulting practice. Clearly, I saw the value and ‘went for it’. How can you show value more often in your job, your company, and of your products and services?