Tag Archive: Communication

Do You Live By Values Daily?

August 29th, 2018

We decided to participate in Executive Forums (an executive peer group) and Global Growth Cycle (a global consulting peer group) in order to stay up-to-date on what our clients need (sometimes even before they know they ‘need’ it).  After all, understanding what is successful as well as investing in our continual learning are important factors in long-term success.  

At a recent meetings of both groups, the importance of values arose.  Do you have values? And, more importantly, do you LIVE by values or are they just pasted on your wall (and ignored)?

Because we felt it was important for LMA Consulting to stand for something, we have codified our values.  As a part of our communication efforts, we are sharing them with our clients, colleagues, subcontractors, advisors and more.  Of course, we always welcome feedback and input.

To kick off, we have four core values that happen to start with ‘P’ (which we enjoy because of the alliteration):

 

PEOPLE

PASSION

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSISTENCE

PERFORMANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

LMA Values

  1. People – As we continually say (and believe), people are our #1 asset.  Our affiliations, LMA Associates, colleagues, clients and advisors fall into this category.  No matter how perfect the process or ideal the technology, it will not “work” without the people.
  2. Passion – It certainly makes life more interesting to enjoy what you do and have a passion for helping clients achieve bottom line results.  We find that success follows applied passion.
  3.  Persistence – No matter the topic in business (or life), persistence has been core to our success.  There is definitely truth to saying ‘persistence trumps talent’. Having both wouldn’t hurt but we’ll take persistence any day!
  4. Performance  – At the end of the day, keeping focused on delivering bottom line business results matters.  In our case, we deliver BOLD customer promises and profits!

Give your values some thought.  Start at square zero. Do you have them?  Do you agree with them? Do you ‘live’ them?  How about your team? Since this is a beneficial predecessor to setting strategy and ensuring results, it is worthwhile.  If you have questions or are thinking about how to get started, contact us .



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

 

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Cross-Functional Success

September 15th, 2016
cross-functional coordination

Cross-functional coordination is vital to business success. Agreement on simple coordination techniques starts with clear and frequent communication.

Although working cross-functionally is a basic tenet in every organization we’ve ever seen, it remains elusive to many. Certainly the topic arises frequently no matter what product or service is offered as coordination is required to conduct business.

For example, we are working with a company to prepare for go-live, and the most challenging aspect lately has been to get every functional area to work in concert with each other within the order fulfillment process. Unfortunately, it requires more than simple coordination, although that alone would be a start in many organizations. In our case, as errors arise (which is a common occurrence as you work through go-live complications and education), the level of coordination must increase. In order to problem-solve across several functions, the level of coordination and communication must increase. As soon as we all get in the same room, the system miraculously starts working again. Obviously, no company has every employee sitting in the same room; therefore, cross-functional coordination is vital to success.

Simple communication and coordination techniques can go a long way. Listen. Ask clarifying questions. Overcommunicate. Typically, varying communication methods can be helpful. Not everyone absorbs the same way and so using different mediums can be helpful. Repeat back and confirm. Be open to suggestions. Think about the most effective communication for the other person; not for you. Start with these simple techniques and you’ll build a base. Then, advanced techniques will be required to go further. For example, aligning goals might be needed to achieve success.

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The Value of Clear Communication

August 31st, 2016

supply chain

In the last two days, several of my clients have experienced the havoc created with miscommunication or just the lack of crystal clear communication. And, this is to say nothing about the fact that 80%+ of potential clients talk about symptoms of this same issue. Why is it so hard?

As a former VP of Operations and Supply Chain, I can attest to the fact that consistent, clear communication is actually much harder than it sounds like it should be! It boils down to a few simple facts: 1) Things change (and we all have our own perceptions). 2) The game of telephone — perhaps I’m getting older but we used to play the game of telephone at my childhood parties. You’d tell the person on your right something, and then they’d tell the next person and so on. By the time the message got to the last person, it was garbled. How often does that happen at our jobs? ALL THE TIME!

telephone

One tip to implement this week:

So, what can we do this week to improve upon the clarity of our communication? Quite a lot. Start by not assuming what we’ve said is clear to the recipient. I cannot tell you how many times a client has complained about a topic, and after digging further and asking questions, everyone was on a different page, even though each person thought he/she communicated the next step.

So, how can we be clearer? Ask for the other party to confirm what you’ve said. Or summarize what you think you’ve agreed upon in different words. Often one of these two approaches will resolve any miscommunication. You could also summarize the plan in an email; however, it is much better to follow one of the first two options and re-confirm with the email. Don’t make the email lengthy. A few bullet points to confirm key actions/agreements will suffice.

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…”



Project Success Is All About the People

August 18th, 2016
people

Project success starts and ends with people. Give your project a head start with a top leader to guide the cross-functional tasks along the way.

In reviewing project successes and failures, it turns out that project success has little to do with the technical aspect of projects. Instead, it is all about the people.

Within the last year, we’ve been called by clients struggling with issues ranging from poor delivery performance to sagging margins, while other clients want to ensure they are prepared for strong revenue growth. Every one of these clients required some sort of project to deliver the intended results – growth, profits, margins, cash flow, and efficiencies. Company sizes ranged from $7 million to $50 million to $250 million dollar facilities of multi-billion dollar companies. Industries ranged from building products to aerospace to food. Project scopes ranged from SIOP (sales, inventory, and operations planning) to a dramatic improvement in customer service levels to ERP selection to support the company strategy. Yet despite these differences, every project boiled down to people.

It is commonplace to think that project success has everything to do with whether the technical elements “add up” or whether best practice processes are utilized. Although these can be important, they are not the key driver to project success. Instead, it boils down to people.

Recently, we went into a new client to evaluate a group that was perceived to be struggling so that we could straighten out the challenges. Although there is always something to improve, this group alone was not the root cause of the challenges. There definitely were some technical challenges to resolve; however, the 80/20 related to connections and perceptions – in essence, the people element.

In another client, we have been working on an ERP project with multiple parties. It certainly hit some bumps in the road along the way. Some are typical bottlenecks with these sorts of projects, and some were atypical. What is sure is that 100% of the challenges resulted from the people equation, even though it was a technical project. Miscommunication and the lack of communication abound. Thus, our role became one of connector among several diverse roles and people. Again, the people aspect drove the “80/20” of success.

So, what are a few strategies to keep your project in the “green” when it comes to people?

  • Project leader: Since success begins and ends with leadership, start here. Project leadership is always harder than is originally thought and can be a thankless job. Be upfront and stay in front of this danger!
  • Don’t bother creating a team: Radical but true. A true team will sink or swim together. Unless you can affect each individual’s salary, bonus and workload (which is an extreme request in 99.9% of projects as they are cross-functional in nature), don’t expect your group to work as a team with the expectation that everyone has the same goal from their day-to-day manager. Instead, find a way to use these diverse backgrounds to your advantage. Bring the group together on specific tasks, engage individuals in a way that works for their particular situation and day-to-day manager.
  • Communicate the why: No matter what else happens, the number one priority should be to communicate the why behind the project. One way to bring this group of individuals together for a common purpose is to make sure the purpose is crystal clear – and the why behind the project is understood and energizing.
  • Follow up selectively: Since we know that cross-functional project teams run into many conflicting objectives and challenges, it is important not to waste precious energy on non-essential tasks. Focus selectively on what will move the project forward and ensure success – in essence, ignore everything but the critical path.
  • Celebrate successes: Don’t wait for the project to be completed successfully. Instead, look for wins along the way. If success or failure boils down to people, it is wise to think about what will keep people motivated. Ignoring them while they overcome daily obstacles might be commonplace but it won’t equate to success. Catch people doing right.
  • Get rid of poor performers: One of the most important things a leader can do is to address poor performers. It gives your top performers hope that you understand what’s required for success and that you appreciate top talent.

Without people, there are no projects. Since projects can drive substantial results, it is worth figuring out how to stack the odds in your favor. And, the great news is that there is no deep, technical understanding required to lead a project effectively. Instead, your ability to ask good questions and lead people are the keys to success as a project leader. Give us the best leaders with mediocre technical skills any day vs. mediocre leaders with excellent technical skills. Undoubtedly, the project will deliver dramatic improvements to your business instead of continually struggling.

 

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