Tag Archive: collaborative

Why Inventory Will Matter Again

June 8th, 2019

I was on a bit of a trip down memory lane over the holidays as I reconnected with former colleagues from when I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain at PaperPak, an absorbent products manufacturer for healthcare and food products.  I recently talked about healthcare manufacturing with a group of powerful women (and a few brave men) at the Professional Women in Healthcare event.  When inventory arose as a hot topic, I thought about paper rolls (pictured).

Actually, inventory was a hot topic as we partnered with key customers to develop collaborative forecasting models, implement vendor managed inventory programs to dramatically reduce inventory and free up cash while improving service levels and to maximize storage and efficiencies in our operations, distribution centers and, most importantly, throughout our transportation system (since absorbent products are bulky and freight intensive).

In our view, inventory is circling back in importance and will become a hot topic again as customers expect immediate, customized deliveries with the expectation of easy returns and last-minute changes to orders in production, in the warehouse or in transit. What are you doing to get ahead of this ‘new normal’ assumption?

To throw out a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Get demand further into your supply chain – what are your customers’ customers selling or using of your product?
  • Be collaborative with strange bedfellows – I’ve written several articles recently on this topic as the most successful executives see the value in finding the ‘win-win-win’
  • What talent do you have focused on having the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time? You could double your inventory and decrease service if you don’t know how to navigate these treacherous waters.
  • How sure are you that your demand and supply (labor, skills, machine capacity, buildings/ storage capacity, cash flow) are aligned and will remain aligned?

This topic reminds me of one of my early articles, the Million Dollar Planner. Although that sounds insane, it might be worth thinking about conceptually. If you maximize your customer experience, profitability and cash flow, the return is frequently in excess of a million dollars. Most importantly, what could you do with an extra million dollars? Invest in new products and services to spur growth? Build your infrastructure to enable scalable growth? Build your talent base to create sustainability? The possibilities are limitless.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.



How to Keep Your Team’s Morale Up During Change

December 8th, 2016
team morale

Team morale can take a hit during times of intense change. Motivate your team with a relatable, easy-to-understand vision and keep them informed every step of the way.

Dramatic growth is commonplace. Companies are looking for opportunities to improve margins, accelerate cash flow and cut costs. Only those companies that change will endure. And only those teams that embrace change, and the leaders who engage people around change initiatives will thrive. The others will be left in the dust.

In order to create this type of engagement, leaders must support team morale during change. But if you think about it, why should this be an issue, if the change is presented properly from the outset? Who wouldn’t be excited about positive and interesting new opportunities?

Here are seven key ways to keep your team’s morale up when there’s a change under way.

1. Start with a compelling vision. People don’t fear change. They fear the unknown. Thus, one simple first step in overcoming this hurdle is to provide a vision (e.g., a reason for the change). Start by clearly answering the questions:

  • How will the change help the company succeed?
  • How will it help your customers?

For example, when I was VP of Operations for an adult incontinence manufacturer, we saw our job as helping our parents and grandparents maintain a quality lifestyle in their older years. It certainly provided a sense of purpose and vision to our projects —and this is valuable!

2. Translate the vision. Although lofty visions can be quite valuable, it’s also important to be able to translate those visions into something tangible. You want to be able to show how each department, team and person will relate to that vision, add value and contribute it as well. I’ve found that the most successful leaders take the time to help team members understand how their piece of the puzzle contributes to the bigger picture.

3. Collaborate on the plan. When team members participate in a change, rather than have it dictated to them, they’ll buy into the new way of doing things and feel good about it, too. You can make this happen by collaborating with your project team to build the new plan.

Provide guidelines, ideas and advice in order to spur the process forward. Ask for input and ideas from all team members. Don’t dismiss ideas without explaining why. And don’t just accept ideas to include input if they’re not optimal for the end result. Instead, be willing to take the role of a coach and facilitator.

After partnering on hundreds of projects over the years, I’ve yet to see one fail when it’s approached in a collaborative manner; but I’ve seen many fail when the approach is: “Just do it because I am your manager.”

4. Communicate the plan. A critical step for keeping morale up during a change initiative is communication! Just as people don’t fear change, they fear the unknown; they fear not understanding how they will get to the vision. In essence, the fear lies in no-man’s land —the uncertainty in getting from Point A to the “Promised Land.”

Thus, communicating the plan and allowing ample time for questions and answers is paramount to success. Again, feedback and ideas can still be incorporated if it makes sense. There is no reason to drive around the block three times to get to the same place you could get to by walking next door. In addition to providing information and comfort with the plan, you could pick up on superb ideas that will ensure success.

5. Manage the critical path. As in all projects, the critical path should be the focus. If the critical path stays intact, the project will likely succeed, even if it runs into non-critical path task bumps along the way. On the other hand, if the project team becomes distracted during the bumpy times and loses focus from the critical path, the project will veer off track.

Begin by explaining the importance of the critical path up front, so team members will understand why the focus might not be on their tasks. Make sure everyone knows they have an important piece in achieving the vision, no matter what the role. Ask all task owners to help each other and to succeed together.

6. Adjust as needed. As simple as it seems, don’t become so focused on your project plan that you lose sight of adjustments that should occur along the way. Since change is the only constant in business today, change will occur. Make sure you consider any changes that relate to your project and adjust accordingly.

7. Feedback. Last but not least, celebrate wins. Focus on strengths but do not ignore weaknesses that will impact success. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, have a conversation with them. One of the main ways to keep morale up is to address roadblocks and issues in an honest and respectful manner. Provide suggestions.

Once again, it’s not change that people resist, but the unknown. Strong leadership and project skills will go a long way toward navigating your team through the bumpy waters and on to success—and keeping morale up along the way!

Originally published @LiquidPlanner, July 20, 2015. http://bit.ly/2hoPOy0

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

Vision Backed by BIG Goals and Leadership

The Value of Clear Communication

 



Eagle Eye Execution

November 5th, 2013
In supply chain management and other industries that require collaboration, eagle eye execution is what you need to make it happen.

In supply chain management and other industries that require collaboration, eagle eye execution is what you need to make it happen.

In my experience as a global business consultant and former VP of Operations, I’ve yet to find a business that failed solely due to a poor strategy; however, I’ve seen many die a slow (and sometimes sudden) death due to poor execution.  Execution is an often overlooked secret to success – it isn’t glamorous or exciting to discuss (at least not in comparison with the latest fads); however, it is the bedrock essential to delivering bottom line business results.

Even though I typically am called into clients to help elevate business performance derived through topics such as supply chain and operations management, my technical expertise on those topics rarely if ever relate to why the preponderance of my business is repeat business; instead, they call me back because I partner with them to ensure results occur.  I’ve often termed this “making it happen” – and recently updated it to “eagle eye execution.”

The following strategies are of upmost importance when it comes to execution: 1) Leadership and Culture, 2) Focus, 3) Exemplars, 4) Follow-up.

1.   Leadership and Culture:  Have you ever seen a successful company with weak leaders?  Doubtful.  I haven’t.  Undoubtedly, solid execution requires exceptional leadership – no exceptions.

What does this entail?  Leaders must start by conveying where the company is headed (vision), why it’s of importance, and how the employee adds value and contributes to the vision.  Additionally, collaborative goals must be established, performance management systems should be in place, immediate feedback (both positive & constructive) is a must, training, development & career paths should be a natural part of the discussion………and the list goes on.  Leaders must ignore the temptation to focus on inputs (# of hours worked, tasks and activities); instead focus on results.  Help employees develop plans, gain resources and overcome roadblocks to achieving the results.  Celebrate success.

Culture shouldn’t be an afterthought unless you’d prefer failure.  What set of beliefs govern behavior?  What does your culture support?  Does your culture appreciate collaboration or individualism?  For example, are you compensated and rewarded for team contributions or individual contributions even if at the expense of the team?  Do leaders say one thing and do another?  Don’t bother executing until your leadership and culture are in sync with your goals.

2.  Focus:  It’s amazing what focus alone can accomplish.  For example, a few of my clients have suffered for years with nagging problems.  Of course, they tried many alternatives to resolve the issue and were frustrated.  After we were able to resolve the problem working together, they often said that although they thought my technical skills would help to resolve the problem, it had little to do with it.  Instead, focus was the secret weapon.

Once focus is placed on a select few root causes, seemingly insurmountable roadblocks disappear.  The interesting thing about this is that it is as simple as it sounds but it is not as easy to implement as it sounds.  Why?  Designing and improving processes and leveraging systems and technology requires focus; however, aligning people takes an exaggerated focus.  How do we align disparate functions and people with conflicting goals and managers with a common focus?  Go back to point #1!

3.  Exemplars:  Another secret ingredient to execution success is to identify exemplars.  Who are the influence leaders in the organization?  Who sets an example that others will follow?  They’ll come from some seemingly strange places – certainly not in positional power oftentimes.  Take a step back and find them – once you watch and observe, you’ll wonder how you missed it before.

Bring the exemplars into the fold.  Ask them to trial the new program or process.  Incorporate their feedback. Ask for their support.  Empower them.  Soon the rest will follow.

4.  Follow-up:  I’m fondly known as a pit terrier when it comes to follow-up.  We can attribute or blame this on my mom!  However, it is a key reason for my success; I cannot count the times I’ve succeeded through determination alone.  If you’re interested in execution success, follow-up isn’t an option.

A few tips from the pit terrier gene pool:

1) Start with a solid plan.

2) Ruthlessly identify priorities.

3) Ask questions about the priorities.

4) Listen to the answers (sounds obvious but isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds).

5) Do not shy away from roadblocks and messy issues.

6) Continually improve your communication & presentation style as it’s essential in handling the messy issues.

7) Be upfront and trustworthy.

8) Track metrics but only focus on noteworthy ones.

10)  Remain vigilant.

Execution is essential in today’s new normal business environment.  Improving business performance can be a constant struggle.  Thus, what could be more important than being known as a rare person or company who consistently delivers results in a collaborative and engaging manner?

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

Strategy Doesn’t Fail in Formulation; It Fails in Execution