Tag Archive: cross-functional

The Value of Your Cross-Functional Network

November 10th, 2017

Networking Continues to Benefit
One of the keys emerging from APICS 2017 wasn’t from a session; instead, it was seeing the value of your cross-functional network.  Since I’ve been a member of APICS for over 25 years and actively involved for over 10, I see a wide variety of colleagues while at the conference.  This year was no exception.

Have you taken a step back to think about the value of your network?  There is no doubt about it that my network is my #1 asset!  I bet that is true for the vast majority of the most successful executives.  I know it’s true for the ones I talk with on a frequent basis.  Beyond your network, have you thought about the cross-functional nature of your network?  

The Best of the Best Make Key Connections and Long-Term Relationships
For example, I had interactions with many types of people and networks while at APICS 2017:

  • Clients – it was fabulous seeing Shannon Reininger and catching up with war stories and more!  Shannon is top notch (see us with Shannon’s colleague below).
  • APICS colleagues who are top notch trainers such as Sue Franks and Maryanne Ross – they are always on the leading edge of how to gain the best learning from the APICS materials.  My consulting practice is quite different from these folks’ practices.  So, it is always interesting to learn more about the art of training.
  • APICS colleagues with a specialty with large corporations and interactive training events – Debra Hansford stands out in my mind.   And, she is one crazy Broncos fan! 
  • Student case competition participants – one of APICS Inland Empire’s teams – Harvey Mudd College – represented the West Coast at the global student case competition.  It is interesting to hear their thoughts, as well those from their mentor and professor, Kash Gokli (already pictured in my intro).
  • Consulting colleagues who I collaborate with (and only the BEST) such as Diane Garcia (see below)
  • APICS leaders such as Jerry Gonzalez

               

 

 

 

 

Networks of Diverse Backgrounds Result in Great Connections
Several of these folks are dramatically different – not only in profession but also in terms of age, background, interests and more.  There is something to be learned from almost every situation, every supplier, every customer, every employee, every trusted advisor and more.  Are you looking for these opportunities?  

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Winning Leadership Traits for Project Success

September 22nd, 2016
leadership

The most successful project leaders have passion, vision, and focus — key leadership traits needed to successfully manage cross functional resources.

No matter the topic of your project, it will be more successful if the project leader utilizes winning leadership traits. As our HR mentor used to say, “It begins and ends with people!”

Therefore, leadership is the name of the game, assuming you want to win the game. In project management, this is even more critical because most project teams are groups of cross-functional resources who do not report to the same line manager. Thus, the project leader has to use influence leadership in addition to command and control leadership. Actually, command and control leadership doesn’t even work long-term for those who are “the top dog”; thus, these traits are even more important to learn.

Although there are countless traits that go into being an effective leader, these are the ones I’ve seen the best leaders across our clients employ:

Demonstrates Passion

Even the most exciting of topics can become humdrum if the leader doesn’t show passion. Each project team member is typically working outside of their typical routine. Often, the project leader cannot significantly impact the employee’s pay or bonus. Thus, passion becomes even more important. If the leader is excited about the results that can be achieved, each team member is likely to become excited as well.

For example, when I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain, our CEO was passionate about what we could achieve with new products, reduced costs, new markets and the like. At the time, I was responsible for a cross-functional team in the thick of whether we’d achieve these lofty goals. We had barely avoided bankruptcy and had to work long hours just to keep things going. Without his passion for these topics, it is likely we would have lost motivation as well. We knew there were no bonuses or raises until we got the ship turned around which wouldn’t happen overnight. What kept me from leaving was his passion and excitement about the future – and my contributions to it. Don’t underestimate the importance of passion.

Creates A Vision

Although passion is important, it cannot be successful without going hand in hand with the vision. Executives with passion but without vision are just seen as aimless and not worthy of following. Since leaders should forge the way, this trait is rather essential. Create a vision of where you are going and why.

In my last example, the CEO created a vision of being the best provider of incontinence care. Think about what type of diaper you’d want your Grandma to use. One that was absorbent and made her feel better and almost like she wasn’t wearing a pull-up or diaper or a leaky, inexpensive one. At the same time, since it is your Grandma, how much do we want her to pay for this pull-up? Perhaps we should find a way to make it better yet cost less for her. Now we are talking.

Focuses On the Critical Path

When it comes to projects, it is easy to work hard yet not get far. There are always hundreds of tasks that need to be completed. People to appease. How do we accomplish this with a part-time, cross-functional team of people who report to different leaders? Spend the time upfront to put together the project plan so that you can focus the 80/20 of your energy on just the critical path. Instead of wasting time following up on every task, follow up on just those on the critical path. These are the ones that will keep the most important elements going.

For example, in the cross-functional team that had to redesign the incontinence product so that it would perform better while cost less, there were countless tasks involving not only every department but also customers, suppliers and other partners. Since we had a small team (certainly not adding people, following a near escape from bankruptcy), we had to work smarter; not harder. Thus, we focused in on just the critical path. If these tasks didn’t get accomplished, the rest wouldn’t matter. You had to finish or at least make progress on these tasks in order for the next critical path task to be accomplished successfully. When we used extra resources, we focused them on the critical path. If we invested money, we would focus it on the critical path. The rest would have to sink or swim on its own. The bottom line was to focus on priorities.

Since no executive or project team has extra time, money or resources, we must make good use of what we have to ensure success. And, since leadership is the 80/20 of success, it has proven successful to focus in on creating, nurturing and encouraging winning leadership traits in our project managers. Give these a try and let me know how it goes. 

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Cross-Functional Success

 



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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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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Keeping an ‘Eagle Eye’ on Priorities

February 2nd, 2016
eagle eye on priorities

Assessing and spelling out priorities should always be at the top of your list to gain clarity and ultimate business success.

I’m frequently reminded of how critical priorities can be. Of course, this is why it is one of the pillars in my 5P Accelerator model for fast-tracking results. Do you pay attention to priorities? You should!

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, my clients want — and need — quick results. Fast progress will not occur if you are working on the wrong priorities. It seems apparent; however, it is worth noting as it is such a common occurrence. Here are some recent examples and types of priorities to ponder:

  1. Priority clarity: I’ve been working on an ERP project design and implementation. Priorities are absolutely essential in this case. There are always countless tasks that need to be completed in order to go live. How do you know you are working on those most critical to an on-time, on-budget, on-results implementation? Take the time to wade through priorities to obtain priority clarity.
  2. Skill set priorities: On another ERP project, skillset related priorities are cornerstone to success. In this case, there are limited resources with specific skills. Thus, the priorities related to these specific skills must be elevated in importance. This is similar in concept to focusing on the bottleneck of an operation with the theory of constraints. Elevate the priorities surrounding the scarce resource to ensure success.
  3. Cross-functional priorities: In a SIOP project, the goals of different departments created the need to focus in on cross-functional priorities. Instead of working on whichever priority was most important to the department we happened to be talking with, we had to evaluate the business as a whole and look for cross-functional priorities. Which priorities would provide the largest win overall even if some departments or individuals were negatively impacted? Look for the win-win-win.

The bottom line is that if you are interested in success, you must keep an eye on priorities. Don’t get lost in details; look for the priorities.

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