Tag Archive: teamwork

U.S. Small Business Optimism Climbs to 2nd Highest on Record!

September 12th, 2018

A National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that U.S. small business optimism is close to a record high and is at the highest level in 35 years!  Fueled by tax cuts, deregulation and robust consumer demand, business owners are optimistic about the future.  As a result, unfilled job openings rose to a new record. Not only did 23% expect to create new openings in the next three months but 23% also cited finding qualified workers as the single most important business problem, nearing the highest in 45 years.  Are you appreciating your talent?

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Definitely, we should all look at our talent with a fresh set of eyes.  Before we think about hiring, the key question to answer is “are you appreciating the talent you already have?”.  Your competition will if you don’t. Perhaps go a step further – are you appreciating them as you want to be appreciated or as they want to be appreciated?  

For example, giving someone who wants opportunities to advance his career a small bonus might not be as nearly appreciated as putting thought into the ‘right’ project to further his career.  A single mother might prefer a bit of flexibility in her schedule vs. either of those perks. And there are a surprising number of people who would secretly prefer you to remove non-productive and poor attitude employees out of their way.  It can be the single best thing you can do to keep good people by weeding out the poor performers.

Next, consider whether you’d want to be hired by your company.  Are you working on progressive initiatives? Does it look like a dungeon or a place you are proud to arrive at each day?  Are collaboration and teamwork encouraged? Or is it a dog eat dog world? What does social media say about your company? And, most importantly, people work for people; not companies.  Are your leaders a good representation of your company? Would you work for them?

Would you work for you?

 



Best Practices in Project Teamwork

December 19th, 2016
project teamwork

Since projects lift bottom-line business results, companies depend on these initiatives for growth and profits. Cultivating a strong project team and handing them a clear goal are keys to success.

In working with clients ranging from small businesses to large, complex, global organizations across multiple industries, I’ve yet to run across a client that doesn’t rely heavily on project results to support customers, grow the business and increase profitability. What else could be more important to business success?

Since projects cannot succeed with a sole participant, project teams are essential to success. Therefore, discovering the best ways for project teams to work together will lead to results. After leading and participating in hundreds of major projects and many smaller projects over the last 25 years, I’ve compiled a short list of best practices for project teamwork.

1. Clarity of Goals

As with almost every team, the team will be far more successful if the individual teammates understand the goals. Start with the goal of the project. Why are we doing this? What does it accomplish? What are the expected results of the project? Answering these questions will provide clarity of the overarching goals.

Next, go over the critical path milestone. What is the goal of each milestone? Who needs to do what to make them happen? Following this exercise provides clarity of the project plan and project objectives. All team members are on the same page up front.

2. Resolve Goal Conflicts

Of course, gaining clarity on the goals and critical path alone won’t foster teamwork. The next step is to resolve goal conflicts. I’ve found that as teams go through this process, 80% of the time, some sort of conflict will arise. The main conflicts fall into two categories – resource availability and department conflicts.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, speed is of the essence. Equally troubling, since the recession, organizations are running lean and so time is limited. Thus, conflicts related to resources are commonplace. For example, let’s assume there are 16 hours remaining this week, and one team member has to complete a project task on the critical path that would require 8 hours of time by the end of the week in order to keep the project on-track. Alone, this is not a problem. However, his/her line manager also has a priority task that requires 16 hours of time that must be complete by the end of the week. An inherent conflict exists. The sooner this problem is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

Equally commonplace are inherent conflicts between departments. For example, if a project task requires Purchasing to get volume discounts while a different task requires Planning to reduce inventory which would require more frequent deliveries, even though both team members are available to complete their tasks, there is a conflict between the two. Again, the sooner this is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

3. Reward Project Goals; Not Individual Goals

One of the most common issues that arise is when the individual is rewarded for doing what benefits them instead of the project team. Similar to aligning goals, rewards and recognition need to follow the team. If each person does their part to contribute to getting a milestone accomplished, the entire team should celebrate success. If one person can be rewarded for achieving an individual goal while the team doesn’t meet its goal, a miss-match will occur.

4. Metrics

I’ve found that one of the most important ways to align teams is to have a common set of metrics. What is measured will be achieved. Thus, if the team has a clear set of metrics, everyone will be tracking the same items. Thus, as conflicts arise, the metrics will provide initial direction. Also, the metrics focus teams on what is most important. In my experience, the simple act of selecting and tracking a few metrics can create significant teamwork. The team unites behind improving the metrics.

5. Celebrate Successes

Lastly, celebrating success is an important way to tie it all together. Teams unite when the individuals get to know one another. Celebrating success allows the team to connect in a different way and it creates momentum. Thus, celebrating small wins along the way (such as the achievement of critical path milestones) can go a long way to enhancing teamwork.

Teams with stronger levels of teamwork surpass the results of those with high individual contributors that do not work as effectively together. In my experience, even if the high individual contributors are the best of the best as compared to medium contributors that work well as a team, the team of medium contributors will win that race. Appreciate the value of teams and consider implementing a few of these strategies to accelerate success. Bottom line results will follow.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

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How to Increase Teamwork to Ensure Project Success

March 17th, 2016
teamwork

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?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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Why Marketing Shouldn’t be Overlooked with SIOP

November 18th, 2015

supply chainI’ve been partnering with clients to design and implement SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs the last several years as I’ve found them to be a GREAT way to achieve several results simultaneously: 1) Support growth, 2) Improved service levels/quicker turnaround of deliveries (shorter lead times), 3) Improved margins and efficiencies, 4) Accelerated cash flow; and 5) Improved employee morale and teamwork. Although the technical side plays an important role (figuring out future demand and aligning with manufacturing, staffing, suppliers, etc.), the aspect that generates the best results is that it aligns the executives and functions within the organization (and can even go to customers and suppliers).

We’ve achieved significant results in all sorts of industries and company sizes, and Marketing always plays a key role in the process. One of my innovative clients renamed the process SMIOP (with an added M for Marketing) as they wanted to highlight marketing. I thought that was a great idea. If you don’t have your marketing processes in full force, your demand plan will be lacking and you won’t be synced up with your supply side. Thus, I wanted to share the importance with you.

One tip to implement this week:

Many of you probably think you are not responsible for marketing; however, in the best companies, all employees relate to marketing. What is your brand and perception in the marketplace? Each employee can have an impact on that. Also, how well are you engaging your customers? Do they see you as the experts in your industry? If so, they will be more likely to partner with you. From a SIOP perspective, marketing has invaluable input into the demand plan.

Take a step back and think about how you affect your customer (even via internal customers on the way to the customer)? Start there. What ideas and suggestions do you have? Could you read up on industry news and share it with your supply chain team? It could be invaluable insights. One of my aerospace clients had a GURU when it came to knowing the industry. He was extremely valuable in areas that were related to his position but could be overlooked if his manager didn’t value marketing.

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 Leadership Remains #1 Key to Success

October 22nd, 2015
project leadership

Whether a project is successful or not will depend on many variables but none plays a larger role than leadership.

In thinking about the hundreds of client projects I’ve completed over the last ten years, if I had to pick one key to success, it would be project leadership. For example, I worked with one client on multiple projects simultaneously with several project leaders over the course of many months. The same senior leadership sponsored every project. A few were downright frustrating as we struggled to move an inch a week whereas others leaped forward a mile in the same timeframe. Of course my focus was to accelerate progress on the ones that inched forward; however, significant acceleration could go from an inch to 5 feet; still slow as molasses as compared with moving a mile.

While leading and/or participating with hundreds of projects with manufacturers and distributors across multiple industries, geographies and company sizes, several keys to project leadership success emerged. What successful leaders have in common is worth noting. Thus, it seems discussing top strategies for success would be of value. Instead of limiting it to the top 3, I thought I’d share a longer list that arose during observation.

  1. Vision: As all executives know, having a vision is essential to success. What do you expect your project to accomplish? Why is that of value to the organization? How does it fit with strategy?
  2. Communication: Having a vision does little for success if no one hears about the vision. Communication skills are essential. This is the bedrock for any leadership role. However, it tends to be even more critical on projects as the majority of team members might not report to the project leader for their day job and so communications might be limited.
  3. Energy: It helps to have a project leader with energy. Being excited about what the project can achieve goes a long way to making the team interested in being a part of that objective. Demonstrate excitement through your tone of voice, language, through promotion, etc.
  4. Competence: As effective a communicator you might be, it is still essential to be competent in the subject matter related to the project. There is no need to be an expert; however, you need to have a basic knowledge to be able to lead effectively.
  5. Ability to ask questions: One of the keys to success is the project leader’s ability to ask good questions. I have worked with horrible project leaders who asked “stupid” questions – it was obvious to the team members that they weren’t capable and/or were annoying; thus, no matter what other qualities they had, their project progressed slowly at best. On the other hand, I’ve seen people with zero knowledge of engineering successfully lead a group of engineers by having enough knowledge or logic to ask a few good questions to keep the process moving.
  6. Ability to think of the critical path: One of the most important aspects of project management is to know what is important to the success of the project. Not all tasks are created equal. In today’s busy world, there is rarely time to focus on all tasks to the desired degree; thus, focusing attention on what’s important is critical. The critical path will make it obvious which tasks should be the focus as they will hold up the rest of the project.
  7. Ability to facilitate teamwork: It is important for the project leader to facilitate teamwork. Typically the project team might be from multiple disciplines/functions who might not know each other and who might be in conflict in terms of daily objectives. Thus, the project leader needs to facilitate the common objectives and find strengths to leverage while making all team members feel included in the process.
  8. Ability to push back: The best of managers, when all is proceeding smoothly, can become the worst of leaders if a roadblock arises. It is critical for project leaders to be able to address issues head on in a respectful and proactive manner. This often requires pushing back on executives who might have conflicting interests. Turning it into the best interest of all parties helps the leader push back successfully.
  9. Follow-up: No project is successful if follow-up is lacking. A key part of the process is being proactive about which tasks are coming up and making sure the task owners are ready and potential roadblocks are resolved. Checking in with the project team, sponsors, related/impacted employees and the like is key to success.

Since project leadership proves to be #1 to successfully achieving objectives, it is worth additional focus. Are you assigning whoever is available with some level of competence to your project as resources are scarce or are you carefully considering the options? Since the vast majority of cost improvement, new product introductions and the like are accomplished through projects, it is worth extra focus to ensure project leadership success as these results will impact growth, profit and cash flow.

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