Tag Archive: metrics

How to Increase Teamwork to Ensure Project Success

March 17th, 2016

Encouraging strong teamwork paves the way for successful projects completion which contribute to company improvements and growth.

As I work with manufacturing and distribution clients from all industries such as aerospace, building products, and medical products and across a wide range of sizes from a few million to multi-billion dollar companies, I find that project management is one common thread across every client. Since growing the business and improving performance is of paramount importance to compete, new programs, process improvements, and other organizational changes continue to increase in numbers to support this expectation. Thus, project management is increasingly a strategic imperative to success.

We can be more assured we’ll achieve success with our projects if we have strong teamwork. Two minds are better than one tends to come true 99.9% of the time. What one person misses another one catches. What is one team member’s strength is another’s weakness. One person’s relationships supplement the other team members’ relationships. Thus, a team can accomplish at least 10 times what any individual can achieve. It is well worth it to figure out how to increase teamwork success. Several keys to success include:

  1. It starts at the top: As with success overall, it is most easily stimulated from the top. If the project leader and project sponsor foster teamwork, it will occur. As project leader, notice when team member’s work together to brainstorm ideas or when they help each other with tasks. If you notice and communicate the value of these, teamwork will increase.
  2. Communicate the value of teamwork: Again, solid leadership will “win” the day. Set your project up for success by communicating the importance of teamwork. Make sure you provide examples and clearly communicate the importance and how teamwork will tie to the end result and the value to the organization.
  3. Establish common metrics: One of the keys to increasing teamwork is to establish common metrics. If one member can succeed while another fails, teamwork will not occur. The team must understand that they are in “it” together. Make sure your metrics drive the behaviors you want to occur.
  4. Ask teamwork questions: While following up on the critical path and project progress, make sure to ask specific questions related to the importance of teamwork. People do not pay attention to what you pontificate about; they pay attention to what you seem genuinely interested in on a day-to-day basis. Thus, include questions that demonstrate that you value teamwork.
  5. Bring out individual strengths: One value-added way to encourage teamwork is to bring out each person’s strengths. If the team can leverage the collective strengths of its team members, there is no doubt success will follow. Search for the strengths of each member. Highlight them. Encourage people to focus on strengths and deter the parts associated with their weaknesses to teammates with strengths in that area.
  6. Communication skills: Develop your project team. Teamwork can be a learned skill. Help each person understand the best ways to communicate and collaborate to aid teamwork. Provide examples.
  7. Mentoring: As much as we’d like to think that a training class solves all ills, it is just the start. Mentoring is required for success. Dictating teamwork is like dictating to complete calculus homework without any idea of how to complete the problems. Mentoring means “living an example.” Make sure you exemplify the right behaviors. Find other exemplars to refer to as well. Give people an opportunity to test new ideas. Do not beat them up for mistakes; instead provide corrective feedback and make sure they know that you believe in them.
  8. Critical path focus: Typically, the critical path is focused on cross-functional tasks as they are the ones that directly contribute to the project’s timing and success. Emphasize the importance of teamwork as it relates to cross-functional tasks. Undoubtedly, teamwork is bedrock to succeeding in a cross-functional environment. Make sure your team understands this tenet.
  9. Performance feedback: Since project metrics have been set up to track team progress, make sure that performance feedback also aligns. Again, as obvious as it sounds, the team member must receive performance feedback from their manager that aligns with the value of teamwork. They cannot succeed in getting a huge raise if they acted as a lone ranger on a project. If so, teamwork will fail. Follow up with the managers of your team members, and make sure they understand the metrics, their employee’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the project, etc. Make the time to ensure this feedback makes its way into their performance review.
  10. Communicate, communicate and communicate: Just as in real estate where location, location and location are the three most important attributes of a new house, communicate, communicate and communicate are the three most important attributes in achieving any desired objective. If all team members, supporters, sponsors and other related parties understand and value teamwork, it will succeed.

Since executives count on projects to deliver the vast majority of improvements to their company performance, fostering teamwork can greatly increase the chances of delivering a project on-time, on-budget and on-results. Those who follow these 10 strategies will succeed significantly more often than those who don’t. Why take a chance on what’s vital to business success?

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What Is Your Company Culture?

March 1st, 2016
company culture

Being able to define your culture in your workplace is the starting point to being able to make positive changes to the beliefs that govern behavior.

There is quite a bit of talk on culture in organizations; however, if you were asked to define your culture, could you? I think this question would give many executives pause to think.

In today’s work environment, all potential employees will discover what your culture is like when evaluating whether to work at your company. Since information is readily available on social media and in the news, there is no doubt if someone wants to understand your culture, he/she will. What will he/she find out? Is it what you’d expect?

I prefer my consulting mentor’s definition of culture — that set of beliefs that governs behavior. Ponder on this definition, and it becomes quite clear. Rah, rah speeches meant to influence culture are pointless. What really matters with this definition are those beliefs that influence what happens.

For example, I worked with a client who wanted to change from a culture focused on dollars to one focused on the customer. That was a tall order because dollars was ingrained in every person’s mindset. The planning group focused on orders of high dollar value. The production group would produce based on projected dollars shipped for the month. Of course, shipping would backorder customers based on getting the higher dollars out the door regardless of due date. Certainly, dollars were behind the beliefs held by all team members.

In order to successfully change to a customer-focused culture, the leader had to change these underlying beliefs. He started by revising the metrics. He no longer held people accountable for dollars. In fact, he didn’t provide dollars on any reports as they were not important; instead, he provided customer due dates. This really stressed out the masses for the first several weeks! However, by changing the focus to due dates, the culture started to shift.

This leader also held his ground with resistance — from employees, peers and with corporate. No one thought he’d be successful in the beginning since much of this culture was dictated by corporate; however, as he stuck to his guns and supported the culture with daily decisions, the culture soon started to turn. He also had to make an example out of people defying this new culture. One example went a long way as people took notice. The customer was #1.

In this case, the interesting result was that although we expected and experienced a slight decline in sales in the first month since we no longer were going to ship based on dollars as the #1 priority, we increased sales for the quarter. We were so concerned about the quarterly impact that we ran around in circles for years (which is NOT uncommon) when it had zero negative impact for the quarter.

Change the set of beliefs that govern behavior and you’ll change the culture!

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10 Ways to Stay Focused on the Critical Path

February 19th, 2016
focus on the critical path

Maintaining focus on projects in the midst of business volatility is challenging, but preparing a road map with team strategies to concentrate on the critical path will ensure success.

Remaining focused on any one strategy, project or task can prove challenging in today’s new normal. Volatility is the new norm, and so it becomes easy to get caught up in the highs and lows of organizational life. For example, if your company is having a rough month due to volatility, management can begin to panic which causes deviations from the critical path to the latest crisis.

Soon, you are deterred from the project altogether as resources are lean and can only focus on so many places at once. Most major change initiatives, new product launches, cost savings programs, customer collaboration programs and the like are accomplished through projects. Thus, it behooves us to remain committed to the critical path – and ultimate project success.

What can you do to increase your chances of success? Stick to the critical path. It includes the essential tasks that have the ability to delay the entire project and make it veer off the path. Thus, my most successful clients find ways to ensure the focus remains on the critical path. Some of the successful approaches include the following:

  1. It starts at the top: As with success overall, it is most easily deterred from the top. Make sure your executives know the critical path. Often, by taking the step to make it clear to executives, the project has a significantly greater chance of success. For example, if a manager has a conflict with a critical path item, the executives will support the critical path it if they understand the importance.
  2. Communicate the critical path to the project team: Certainly the project team has to fully understand the it. When it comes to fighting the daily battles and focusing attention, the project team is in the thick of it. If they understand the priority of the critical path, the project has a much greater chance of success.
  3. Make it visual: As is popular in Lean circles, make the critical path visual. The more it is apparent to everyone what tasks are a part of the critical path and the progress on those tasks, the more likely they’ll be to gain attention and receive priority. Put them on the walls. Be creative in how you make it visual.
  4. Follow up with task owners prior to starting dates: The project manager should follow up with critical path task owners prior to their task starting. They should ask about resources, potential bottlenecks, etc. I find that critical path task owners know many of the likely issues ahead of time; however, if no one asks, they might not be communicating them. Ask questions in advance.
  5. Remind task owners just prior to start dates: Even if you engage with the task owner to talk through what is upcoming, doesn’t mean they will remember at the “right” time. Typically task owners have multiple jobs and responsibilities. If they aren’t thinking about the critical path at the time, they are likely to delay until the issue or project their boss is asking about is complete. A personal reminder can go a long way!
  6. Critical path transition: When moving from one critical path task to another, think about what would make it a smooth transition. Similar to running a relay race, it is important to have a code worked out in advance and to know each other well enough so that you can make up time or modify based upon the critical path task before or after you. Have you thought about the importance of collaboration?
  7. Critical path post completion follow-up: One way to ensure communications throughout the critical path is to complete a post-task follow-up. What was successful and helped to speed up progress or improve the result? What happened that could be improved? If you gain this type of feedback rapidly, you can incorporate it into later critical path tasks. Why wait until the next project?
  8. Monitor metrics: As with all projects and business, remember to focus on metrics. What core metrics should you measure to get a feel for whether the critical path is on track and whether the project team is achieving the objectives thus far? Put your heads together to identify these metrics and find a way to measure progress. It could be as simple as talking with critical path owners or talking with the recipients of these tasks. Or it could be slightly more complex with numerical metrics. Find something that is meaningful and measure progress.
  9. Critical path milestones: Although it is easy to get caught up in a maze of tasks and to-do lists, don’t take your eyes off of your critical path milestones. Which tasks are more important and signify an output? Keep them in mind and focus on those actions that will contribute specifically towards achieving these milestones.
  10. Final result: Last but not least, remember that you must be getting closer to the end result of the project. Whether you complete 2 or 200 tasks, it won’t matter unless the end result occurs.

Since executives consider projects a critical contributor to growing the business and delivering bottom line results, remaining focused on the most important tasks to achieving these end results is vital. Thus, leverage these strategies to keep focused on the critical path and continually search for additional options. Success will follow.

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Have You Performed a Supply Chain Checkup Lately?

January 15th, 2016
supply chain checkup

With so many supply chain components it’s important to periodically perform checkups to ensure that strategy, performance, and goals are aligned.

As supply chains have become complex, it is no longer a “nice-to-have” to perform supply chain checkups. It has become an imperative. Supply chain performance will have a direct impact on whether a company can grow, whether customers are happy (or searching for competitive alternatives), whether profit will increase, and whether cash will be available. Thus, it must move from being an afterthought to a vital component of strategy.

Supply chains have countless components and moving parts. Strategy, culture, people, processes, and systems are all relevant and must be considered in supply chain design. They are cross-functional, cross-organizational and global. Sales and marketing play a key role. Finance must be a strategic partner. Thus, the only possibility of success is to develop a clear strategy, plan and metrics – and then perform a checkup to ensure progress to these plans. And, if you don’t have these in place, stop, take a step back and perform a supply chain checkup to figure out where you stand and put plans in place to develop your strategy, plans and metrics. If you are interested in working with an expert in these areas, give me contact me.

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What’s Driving HUGE Results in Manufacturing & Distribution

December 8th, 2015
manufacturing systems

You can’t take a magic pill to drive HUGE results in your manufacturing or distribution company, but rather look to the tried and true methods that drive business growth and productivity.

As the year winds down, it seems like a great time to “take stock” — what is “hot”? I am not a fan of fads — although many fads such as lean manufacturing are right “on the money” from many respects, there is no magic pill in going down the lean path. That’s true with most other touted manufacturing programs – Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, SIOP, and the like. Instead, what really works?

If I look across my clients which span $5 million dollar family-owned companies to $50 million multi-generation companies to $100 million dollar private equity backed companies to $25-250 million dollar facilities of multi-billion dollar companies, what’s “hot” has much in common. As my mentor from early in my career used to say, he paid attention when I said “HUGE”. I never realized I used that word until he pointed it out to me. Thus, here are those that consistently drive HUGE results:

  1. Blocking & tackling – Seems quite boring; however, it is consistently the most overlooked secret to success. Interestingly, one of my speeches this past year was requested solely for this reason — inventory accuracy never goes out of style! What are you doing to make sure your basics are in place?
  2. Planning – It is surprising how often I am brought in for this topic. Lucky for me, it is a definite strength — and often desperately needed across-the-board. Whether planning relates to demand planning (customer forecasts), master scheduling, detailed planning, kanban systems, planning the constraint, project planning, cross-functional planning, or just referred to as “make sure the right items are in the right places at the right time with minimal inventory, maximum efficiencies, excellent service levels and shortened lead times”, it is hot!
  3. Leverage systems & data – Systems help to automate, reduce errors, improve efficiency, grow the business without adding hard-to-find and expensive resources and better support customer needs. As supply chains have become more complex, it is a “must” to properly leverage systems if you want to grow profitably. Also don’t forget your data. Your system collects more data than imaginable. How can you analyze or utilize this data for success?
  4. Top talent – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the tenets ALL of my clients have in common — the need for top talent. As supply chains have become more complex, global, surrounded by risk, tied down in rules and regulations, and the like, it has become even more important to retain, find, train and develop top talent. I mention them in this order because I cannot tell you how many clients I’ve run across that have a superstar employee that is overlooked. Perhaps they need a tool, or to be turned loose (empowered), given permission to focus on a particular project, or provided training or mentoring in enhanced communication skills or use of language. Provide it, and suddenly your profits skyrocket. Why not take a look around you or hire someone who can help you find these stars in your midst?
  5. Metrics – I’ve also found that my best clients put the “right few” metrics in place. Are you tracking responsiveness, reliability, performance, agility and cost (return on your assets)? Which are important for your business? It is easy to get caught up in measuring useless metrics because we’ve always done it that way or because the boss requested it. But why? Metrics should provide us with a guide of how we are performing vs. what is important to success. Success is not the same across companies — or even industries. What does it mean for you? And can you tell whether you are making progress?

Although this list doesn’t sound sexy, it can be extremely sexy to investors, Boards of Directors and employees on a bonus plan tied to performance.

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