Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • On Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend The CEO Hour live, with co-hosts Bruce Peters and Diana Palotas.  The CEO Hour airs every Friday between 11am and 1pm on WCEOhq Radio.  The featured guest, February 1, was Laura Vanderkam, a nationally recognized writer, journalist and author.  Whether it is your morning, your weekend or your workday, Laura discussed strategies that help you make the best use of time – your most precious commodity.

    Each of us, periodically, wonders where our time went.  We did things we “had to do” but never seemed to get to the things we wanted to do.   In other cases we felt like puppets on a string with others controlling our time.

    Even though a week has 168 hours, time is a scarce resource and once it is gone, it is gone forever. Laura has written 3 e-books on the subject of time management and shared her insights and those of successful people she has interviewed. Here are my favorites:

    [1] Look backwards at your calendar.  During my career I have keep a time log, but the twist from Laura was to capture the data also by time slot.  That way, for example, you can discover that 2pm to 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty open.  You can then choose to use that time slot in a constructive and purposeful way.

    [2] Have a plan for what you want to do.  Think about carpenters building a house.  They do not show up at a worksite and begin sawing and hammering.  First they look at the blueprints and understand the plan.  The same is true in life – do not just wake up and jump into the day without a plan.  Think about what you want more of and then build a plan around it. Doing nothing is impossible – you will do something.  If there are no plans it will not be as meaningful as you wish it to be.

    [3] Identify your time wasters.  Much of life is a choice.  Time wasters can be things that you think are important but not advancing you towards your goal.  Here are two some examples we discussed:

    1. Chores:  You can get sucked into the never-ending maw of work of be done around the house.  This is an area where you must really think about what you value.    When younger, I had a mental picture of a clean house.  A clean house was ‘spic and span’ and gleaming from top to bottom.  As time pressure started crushing me, I realized that I valued spending time with friends and the laughter of children.  I wanted my tombstone to say, “Marvelous Friend” not “House was Spic and Span”.  So, I adjusted my expectations and in this case it meant accepting a house with some clutter.
    2. Television:  There is most likely one TV program that each of us enjoys.  However,  we can also admit that once we sit down to watch our favorite show we get stuck in the chair and cannot get up for 3 or 4 hours.  So, one hour of enjoyment turns into 3 hours of guilt and self-flagellation.  We ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?”  The key is to watch the show we want and then quickly turn off the TV.

     

    [4] Plan things you really like to do into your free time.  Life cannot be all drudgery; build in some fun.  Studies have shown that anticipation is a significant part of mood boost and happiness.

    [5] Paying in.  To achieve your dreams you need a certain supply of career capital.  Ensure you are doing something every week that ‘pays in’ to your career capital account.  It can be networking, researching and learning new skills or getting out of your comfort zone.  Consider this your life-long garden. You must continually be planting seeds in order for the garden to grow. Keep in mind that some things that you plant may not bear fruit for many years.

    We each have time during our 168 hour week that can be repurposed to something we really want.  Think about who you are and who you want to be.   Think about the words of William H. Johnsen, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”  Make the commitment now to repurpose some of your time.

    Laura Vanderkam website

    http://lauravanderkam.com/category/weekends-2/

    WCEOhq Radio website

    http://www.wceohq-radio.org/#axzz2Jw15DMb9

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  • One Webster’s definition of aspiration is: a strong desire for high achievement.  We each have hopes, dreams and aspirations for ourselves.  We have set our sights on a goal that can take many years to achieve and the path is not always clear.  There are, however, some actions that can increase the likelihood of achieving your aspirations by allowing you to make significant contributions and thereby standing out from the rest of the crowd.

    On my personal journey, I have followed each of these tips.  I still remember, to this day, where I was when I clearly formulated my aspiration.  It took 15 years to gain the experience which resulted in the achievement of my dreams.   The 9 tips listed below are constant and perennial in a business world that is noted for change and following the latest fad.

    1. Get to know as many people as possible.  Early in my career, I made it a point to go to lunch with people in other organizations and in my department at least once a week.  It was easy to get to know them personally over lunch.  In addition, I learned more about the work they did.  Through the years I invariably needed help from people with other skills and knowledge.  Nurturing these relationships made it easy to call upon them when their help was needed.

    2. Know peoples’ names.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I am not good with names.”  That really means, “I do not want to take the time to learn the names.”   A key lesson from one of the 1st training classes I took, the Dale Carnegie Course – How to Win Friends and Influence People, was, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

    3. Don’t talk; act.  Stop and consider for a moment how many people in meetings preface their comments with, “I think we should”, versus, “I will happily own that action item”.  By acting instead of talking you will stand out in the crowd.

    4. Do something unusual and lonely.  Getting out of your comfort zone teaches you that you have the personal fortitude to do difficult and daunting things by yourself. It is lonely at the top. You will get any number of opinions but you alone will have to make the decision.  Several years after starting my career in finance, I decided to run the Hamlin Beach Triathlon which consisted of a 13.1 mile run, 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim.  Although I enjoy sports, I had never endeavored to do such a thing at any time in my life.  The training was lonely and there was a lot of it; every day.  It was a test for me.  Did I have the tenacity to put in the sustained effort to reach my goal? On a Saturday in August, I started, finished and knew then that I could confidently face hard challenges head-on.

    5. Never criticize others.  Writing a nasty memo to someone saps everyone’s energy.  Focus on the positive.  The world is a small place and you never know when you will find yourself on a team or reporting to the person you criticized.  We are all human and have all made mistakes at one time or another.

    6. Know your customers.  No matter what position you hold you interact with customers.  In some cases, it will indeed be external paying customers.  However, if you work in HR, Finance or IT you have internal customers.  The same rules apply.  Get to know them.  Know what they want.  Know what problems they are facing.  Then work to ensure you solve their problems and provide your service on-time without errors.

    7. Put the dead fish on the table.  A friend, Lynn Dessert, writes a blog called, “Elephants at Work” and addresses similar topics. http://www.elephantsatwork.com/

    In any organization there are large smelly problems that everyone pretends do not exist.  Pretending does not help because eventually the problem becomes visible. These problems get in the way of finding real, meaningful solutions to operational issues.   You must have the personal strength to acknowledge the elephants and dead fish so that they can be diffused and resolved.

    8. No drama or panic allowed.

    Drama defined: A way of relating to the world in which a person consistently overreacts to or greatly exaggerates the importance of benign events. (Source: The Urban Dictionary)

    Panic defined: Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

    To solve problems in a crisis situation you must think clearly.  Drama and panic heightens emotions and makes it too easy to muddle your thinking.  The best action is to ban drama from the workplace.

    9. Execute flawlessly.  An average concept flawlessly executed will beat a perfect plan executed poorly every time.  Pay attention to the details, keep the plan on time and deliver as promised.

    In the final analysis, you and you alone own your career plan.  Know what you want and understand the technical and leadership skills required for success. Use the 9 tips above every day in your work to stand out from the crowd.  By doing so, you will achieve your dreams and aspirations.

    Call Judy for a complimentary consultation regarding the tough business challenges you are facing.  585.329.3754

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  • “Don’t aspire to make a living.  Aspire to make a difference.”  Denzel Washington

    In my very first job out of college, I vividly remember observing what was going on around me; how leaders treated their staff, how organizational goals were set, how performance appraisals were done and how budgets were put together.   I saw some good things, but mostly I saw opportunities for improvement.  Looking back, this set the stage for how I think about leadership and how I have personally led individuals and organizations.

    There are two prongs to my philosophy:  [1] always put your people and the organization first and [2] continuously look for improved ways to get the work done.

    Putting people first means that you work to help individuals grow and pursue their career aspirations in a way that is meaningful for them.  You should not assume that everyone shares your personal aspirations.  I have had staff report to me from both ends of the spectrum.  Some are extremely content with their current position and do not desire additional responsibility.  On the other hand, some wish to be CEO someday.  The coaching and mentoring you provide should be personalized for each individual.  The good news is that each individual is satisfied with achieving their personal goals.  The folks that wanted to hold the top jobs have gone on to become CEOs and CFOs.  Others have worked at knowing their specialties inside and out.  As a result they are highly valued team members and are sought out for their expertise.

    Putting the organization first means that you and the team objectively set goals for the year and throughout the year all your effort is focused on achieving the goals.  Do not allow yourself to get distracted by things that may be personally interesting but not relevant to the task at hand.

    Both of these things are harder to do than they may seem.   This is why I love the term servant leadership.  A servant is at the bottom of the pyramid supporting their team and organization, not the other way around.

    Critical to the long-term viability of any company is the ability to grow and adapt to the changing business environment. This is why continuous improvement is so vital to success.  As a leader, you have responsibility for some portion of the operations within your company.   Your unending focus on improving the customer experience [internally or externally] and eliminating defects and unnecessary work will create an organization that people are proud to be a part of and will significantly enhance overall performance.

    James Kouzes and Barry Posner say it eloquently in their book, “ A Leader’s Legacy”.   Here is a quote from page 18, “We’ll all be remembered for something.  The question is, for what?  What will others say about you when you’re no longer around?  Each of us live on in the memories we create, in the systems and practices we set in place (or don’t), and in the lives we touch.”

    What do you want your leadership legacy to be and how will you create it?

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  • I just finished reading, “Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right”, by Atul Gawande.  Atul is a MacArthur Fellow and a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The book captures medicine in all of its complex and chaotic glory and at the same time shows how simple checklists can greatly improve the outcome of complex processes and procedures.

    http://gawande.com/the-checklist-manifesto

    In today’s high tech world checklists can seem simplistic and mundane.  However, they can be a powerful tool in situations where a process is not codified in an IT system.

    To illustrate the benefit of a checklist in the business world I would like to share an example from my work in finance.  Most of my career has been in finance and one of the key responsibilities is to provide a CFRR (cash flow rate of return) or NPV (net present value) financial analysis for outlays of significant capital.  It was always interesting to me that these analyses had to be re-done multiple times due to forgotten critical elements.  To solve this problem, I created a business case checklist for the entire finance department (500 people), provided a short training seminar and received support from the controller who reviewed all business cases.  As a result, business cases never had to be re-done due to omission of a key element.

    The finance department supported a very large manufacturing plant.  The financial analysts used the checklist to ensure all elements were considered.  That did not mean that every analysis included all items on the checklist.  It meant that the financial analyst did their due diligence to know if it should be included or not.  The use of a checklist meant that there was now a standard approach to every analysis which would be followed by every analyst.

    Here are some of the elements on the checklist.

    • Capital outlay, including the timing of cash-flows
    • Tax impact
    • Direct Labor
    • Indirect Labor
    • Supplies
    • Maintenance
    • Health, Safety and Environment
    • Changes in working capital:  inventory levels, accounts payable and accounts receivable for example
    • Shipping and Transportation
    • Changes in support organizations such as finance, HR, supply chain and IT
    • Impact on machine utilization
    • Impact on product quality
    • Impact on other manufacturing plants around the world
    • Impact on customers
    • Import duties, export fees

    Looking at this list you can see that we ensured the impact, on all financial statements, was considered.   The checklist included an individual to contact for each area since no one can be an expert in everything.  Knowing who to contact in an organization of over 50,000 people is extremely helpful.

    Would a checklist help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your processes and procedures?

    For a complimentary discussion on how to improve your end-to-end business process or how to increase your profitability, please give me a call.  Judy:  585.329.3754

    Note: By the way, the book was excellent.  I recommend it if you are looking for your next book to read.

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  • Let’s start by acknowledging that it is really hard work.  At one point in my career I was on a leadership team that was created to transform a manufacturing organization of approximately 1,000 people.  A company officer gave us a pep-talk on what was expected:  you have one year to make this business profitable or else it will be totally shutdown.  Then he went on to say, if you feel you do not have the stomach for it….talk to me after the meeting and you will be reassigned.   The officer made his point – this is going to be really, really hard and the company needs you to be fully engaged to make it happen.

    The first task we set for ourselves was to quantitatively understand what we were aiming for; in other words, our crisp and concise goals.  We then made sure everyone in the organization understood what the organization needed to accomplish.

    Next we reviewed every manufacturing step, along with the financials for each step.  We broke all costs down into discrete elements.  We did not simply say that a roll of photographic paper costs $1000*** to manufacture.  Instead we looked at all elements of cost:  direct labor, indirect labor, staff labor, employee benefits, manufacturing supplies, depreciation, equipment maintenance, travel, utilities, and etc..  In addition, we tracked down external benchmarks.  All this data was used to analyze where the opportunities were in the manufacturing flow.  Transparency was the key in everything we did.  All team members got to see all the data.  In doing so we had the maximum brain-power working to solve the problems.

    In parallel to the work above, we also evaluated the organization structure, decision making processes, skills required to do the work and the overall culture.  We found opportunities to streamline the organization structure, speed decision making and enhance employee skills.  We worked diligently to move decision making closest to the individuals doing the work.  We also found that the culture needed to change from a traditional command and control style of management to an empowered workforce or people-centered style of management.

    With the difference between the As-Is state and the To-Be vision understood, we were able to prioritize our work and implement the needed changes.  In the end we reduced the overall product cost by 25% and improved the quality.  The journey took us one year.

    Significant change is possible when you know where you want to go and the entire workforce is engaged in helping to create and implement the solution.

    Do you have business transformation challenges that you would like to address in your organization?  Give me a call for a complimentary session to review the opportunities in your company.  Look forward to talking with you.  Judy: 585.329.3754

    *** $1000 is not the real cost.  It is used for illustration purposes only

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  • I live in the town of Penfield, New York.  Our local school district sends out a monthly newsletter and the cover story for November was common core standards for English, History, Social Studies, Science/Technology and Mathematics.  Having spent most of my career in finance I was struck with the similarity between the core learning standards for mathematics and expectations/skills needed in the workplace.  In fact, I thought it was fabulous to see such a strong linkage.

    I would like to share them with you verbatim and hope that it may rekindle an interest in the mathematical and analytic skills required for a company to be successful in the marketplace and an individual to be successful in their career.

    [1] Making Sense of Problems and Persevering in Solving Them:  Each of us encounter problems every day.  Some are simple and some extremely complex.  We add value to the companies we work for when we know how to approach and solve problems effectively.

    [2] Reasoning Abstractly and Quantitatively:  This is all about getting to know the data and metrics for your work and organization.  After working in an area for a while you get a feel for the numbers.  Even before you put pencil to paper [or now fingers to the keyboard] you know the numbers are wrong.  As a result you can fix a mistake and ensure sound output.

    [3] Constructing Viable Arguments and Critiquing the Reasoning of Others:  In my experience, the problems that most need solving are complex.  It requires hard work to determine the potential (viable) causes.  You also need a team of knowledgeable individuals to have discussions.  In these sessions you will challenge and critique all the ideas to ensure they are valid.  In these lively discussions it is not about right and wrong; it is about exploring all possible options so that you get the best possible solution.

    [4] Modeling with Mathematics:  The bigger the impact of a decision the more important modeling becomes.  Modeling allows you to see the impact of all the variables for a given decision.  This critical information helps you know where to focus your efforts.  For example, if the value of a variable can triple without impacting the outcome and it is highly unlikely that the change will happen then that variable can be ignored.  On the other hand, if the normal variation of a variable is plus or minus 5% and 1% change significantly changes the decision, then this variable is critical to understand and model.

    [5] Using Appropriate Tools Strategically:  The example that comes to mind immediately for me is Lean/Six Sigma.  There are many tools available to assist in eliminating process defects.  An individual needs to learn the tools and then know when to use them.  Using the wrong tool for a given situation will not solve the problem.

    [6]Attending to Precision:  Attention to detail applies to both communication with others and the actual work you do.  When communicating ideas with others you need to be crisp and concise.  Have you ever received a “stream of consciousness” e-mail?   Another word for it is “rambling prose”.  You read it several times and the point still is not clear.  That is certainly a waste of your time.  It also applies to the actual work.  In the world of accounting for example, if you are doing an account reconciliation, you cannot say, “It sort of balances.”  Either it does or it doesn’t.  And if it does not, you need to figure out why and take the appropriate action.

    [7] Looking for and Making Use of Structure:  When you have worked in a field long enough patterns start to emerge.  One that is interesting to me is how at the end of the year, departments increase their capital spending because they have underspent their budgets.   They say, “I do not want to lose my money.”  However, spending money with no purpose but to use up a budget most likely means the money is being wasted.  Your ability to see patterns helps to anticipate problems so that you can take corrective action earlier.

    [8] Looking for and Expressing Regularity in Repeated Reasoning:    When you are familiar enough with your work you should expect certain results. If you do not get them, you should then figure out what went wrong.  There is also an expectation of consistency.  The terminology in lean/six sigma is standard work.  Common and repeatable approaches allow the work to get done effectively and efficiently.  If the work methods change day to day you are injecting variability into a process.  A great example of this is as follows:  an individual in the accounting department had finished their monthly closing activities for that particular day early.  They decided to get a head start of the work for the next day.  Unfortunately, that work had to be done after the SAP system closed for the month which was going to happen at midnight.  Although the individual had good intentions, they did not follow the published closing schedule and as a result caused a lot of extra work for many people, including the IT department.

    I hope that in reading these 8 core standards for mathematics you have seen a similarity with the analytical expectations you have set for your organization.  For me, reading something new refreshes my thoughts on any given subject.   I hope this post has sparked some ideas to help you more clearly articulate the need for strong mathematical and analytical skills in the workplace.

    Please call me for a complimentary discussion of how to improve the written expectations for your organization.  585-329-3754.

    Note:   to read the actual wording for the standards go to the link below (page 6).

    http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_Math%20Standards.pdf

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  • A couple of weeks ago, I assisted a local university with a leadership workshop they were holding.  While visiting the school, I came across a commemorative plaque that, to me, had a profound message regarding humility and giving life and your work the best you have to give.  I liked it enough to want to share it with you.  I was not able to ascertain the author, but it was a memorial to William D. Glasser, Professor of Accounting, by the class of 1977 – 1978.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    “Sometime when you’re feeling important,

    Sometime when your ego’s in bloom,

    Sometime when you take it for granted,

    You’re the best qualified in the room,

    Sometime when you feel that your going

    Would leave an unfillable hole,

    Just follow this simple instruction

    and see how it humbles your soul.

    Take a bucket of water,

    Put your hand in it, up to the wrist,

    Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,

    Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

    You may splash all you please when you enter,

    You may stir up the water galore,

    But stop and you find in a minute

    That it looks quite the same as before,

    The moral in this quaint example

    Is do just the best you can,

    Be proud of yourself, but remember,

    There is no indispensable man . . . .

    including me.”

     

    In memory of

    William D. Gasser

    Professor of Accounting

    1913 – 1977

     

    It was through his dedication and loyalty to the education of others, that we were inspired to travel the road of success.

    The Class of 1977- 1978

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  • My previous post talked about the steps you would follow when attempting to identify process improvement opportunities.  When doing something for the first time do not jump into the hardest stuff immediately.  Try out some of the basic tools first to build your knowledge, confidence and success.  Mastery of any topic is a journey.

    Based on my experience of leading and implementing significant process improvements you need a quality toolbox that contains tools, techniques and concepts.   Below you will find key elements of process improvement work and the list of tools/concepts that will help you get started.  [Note:  there are definitely more tools that are not mentioned.  For a full description, of the tools, refer to the books I have listed at the end of this post.]

    [1] Working with numbers and analyzing data:  You need to be able to count things, identify and track trends, measure relationships, summarize data, recognize the source of variation, present frequency distributions and pinpoint key problems.   These tools provide the ability to analyze the data: tally sheet, histogram, pareto analysis, run chart, scatter plot and control chart.

    [2] Generating Ideas: To improve you need to generate a high volume of new ideas, gather/group the ideas, find relationships, identify root cause, visualize the process, understand the positive and negative impacts of change, weigh your options and rate organization performance.  Here are the tools to use when evaluating ideas: affinity diagram, brainstorming, cause and effect diagram or fishbone diagram, flow chart, value stream map, radar charts, force field analysis, 5 whys and prioritization/voting.

    [3] Working together as teams.  Idea generation and the creation of solutions can only happen with a team.  The process improvement team will need at least one person skilled in facilitation and conducting effective meetings.  Energy is drained from a team that is not focused and efficient.  A good facilitator understands many of the lean/six sigma tools and when/how to use them. They are trusted by the team and support/manage the group’s social and cognitive processes so that the team can put their full energy into the issue at hand.  [Note: Much has been written on conducting effective meetings so I will not duplicate that information here.]

    [4] Concepts of Lean: Tools and techniques are necessary, but so is a belief in the concepts of lean. My favorites are:

    • Genchi Genbutsu:  to best understand an issue go to the place where the work is done.
    • Kaizen: change for the better requires a focus upon continuous improvement
    • Muda: all processes contain waste.  A key element of improvement is the elimination of waste in all of its forms.
    • Poka-yoke: fail-safe your processes to prevent mistakes.

     

    There are many wonderful books where you can gain significantly more insight into the tools, techniques and concepts mentioned above.  Of course, Wikipedia is also a wonderful source of information as well.

    I would value the opportunity to have a confidential and complimentary discussion of your company’s situation.  My phone number is (585) 329-3754.

    References:

    Brassard, M., and Ritter, D., The Memory Jogger II: A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement & Effective Planning. Methuen, MA: GOAL/QPC., 1994. Print

    Crosby, P., Quality is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain. New York, New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1979. Print

    George, M., Lean Six Sigma For Service. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill., 2003. Print

    Ishikawa, K., Guide to Quality Control.  Tokyo, Japan: Asian Productivity Organization., 1984. Print

    Keller, P., and Pyzdek, T., The Six Sigma Handbook. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill., 2010. Print

    Liker, J., The Toyota Way. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill., 2004. Print

    Wikipedia Lean Concepts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Lean_concepts

    Womak, J., and Jones, D., Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.  New York, New York: Simon & Schuster., 1996. Print

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  • During my career I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on and solve very complicated process issues.  My success is based on 8 steps that I follow when faced with a complex situation.

    [1] Have the knowledge and skills to pursue the problem.   First, be sure you have generic “lean/six sigma” skills. [My post next week will address what the key skills are and how to get them.] These skills are vital and transferrable from project to project.  Second, read existing process documentation.  Third, talk to people who do the work; leaders, experts and anyone else you believe can provide pertinent perspectives and insights regarding the overall process.

    [2] Create a business process flow chart or value stream map.  Using a white board, large piece of paper, Excel, Visio or any other flow chart software, create a complete business process flow chart. In one case, the company I was assisting had a very well written and thorough brochure which included terms and conditions.  By reading it cover to cover, I was able to accurately create a flow chart of the business process flow.  If you are the individual charged with leading the change, creating the flow chart yourself gives you unparalleled insight into the process.

    [3] Corroborate the business process flow chart with others.  Once created, review the chart with the people doing the work.  Almost always, you will find a few things that need to be adjusted.

    [4] Identify where problems occur in the process.  In a facilitated discussion with staff, using the flow chart, identify where problems in the process occur.  Every time I have led such a session, numerous problems were identified.  Then prioritize the list to determine what the most pressing issues are.

    [5] Understand current written work instructions, policies and procedures.  During this step you may find inconsistencies that must be rectified.

    [6] Identify root cause for the top issues.  Uncovering the issues is just the first step.  Now you and the team have to dig into the detail [peel the onion] to determine what the true root cause is.  You must do this for all the key issues.  In this step it is absolutely critical to get the data.

    [7] Develop potential solutions.  With the root cause of an issue clearly understood, the team can create potential solutions.  It is important to have several to choose from because the perfect solution may be too costly to implement.   The team should then select what they believe to be the optimal solution.  Gain approval as needed.

    [8] Implement and monitor the solution.  Once the green-light is given, plan out the implementation.  A robust project plan will ensure success.  [Note: trying to implement a change without a project plan is a recipe for failure.] Be sure to create the appropriate process metrics so that the team can track how well the process is doing after the changes are implemented.  Nothing is ever perfect.  It is likely that the team may need to make some slight modifications.

    You can see how this becomes a continuous cycle of improvement.  Select the most pressing process issue.  Fix it.  Then select the next process issue.  Fix it.  Repeat this again and again.

    Call me if you would like to discuss the 8 steps in more detail:  585-329-3754.  I love discussing operational excellence and continuous improvement.

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  • What is operational excellence?  I think Swati Ranganathan’s definition states it well, “Operational excellence is executing in an efficient and effective manner across the value chain with a focus on delivering value to customers.”  Appropriate metrics will assist you to monitor your progress and successes.

    If you are not sure how to start on your journey of operational excellence, here are 6 steps you can take as a leader to get started.

    [1] Review your work flow and processes.  Lean work flow and processes mean that you have minimized waste of all types.  Teams are then positioned to focus their efforts on adding value.

    [2] Ensure fluid communication flows.  To produce exceptional results you need to have the appropriate and most current information to do your work.  Assess how your current communication flow works.  Undoubtedly you will find a way to improve the timeliness, effectiveness and completeness of your organizational communication.  Then implement the appropriate changes.

    [3] Create a culture that values continuous improvement.  Very few processes exist that cannot benefit from improvement.  No one should rest on their laurels and accept the status quo.  Staff should be encouraged and reinforced for seeking out process improvements.  A very effective way to accomplish this is to include it in individual’s personal goals.

    [4] Leverage and value diversity of thought and experience.   Solutions to problems are a result of creativity and thinking outside the box.  A team with diverse experience and thinking will be able to innovate more quickly than other teams.

    [5] Think like a customer.  A customer can be internal or external to your company.  The best solutions come when you “pretend” you are a customer and think about the problem from their perspective.  This approach helps to minimize re-work.

    [6] Look at and listen to the data.  You must spend the time to define the standards and measures of goodness/excellence.   Data is impartial.  When you measure the result then everyone knows what actions need to be taken.

    Operational excellence is critical to the success of any business.  If you are not sure how effective and efficient your work flow and processes are follow these 6 steps and address any improvement opportunities you discover.

    If you would like to discuss how to use these steps in your organization, please call me at 585-329-3754.  I would be most happy to have a conversation with you.

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