Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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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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  • 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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