Overheard in the Metro October 17, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance.
Tags: anger, behavior, change, confront, tension, workplace
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I was riding in the metro this evening and the conversation of the two guys standing next to me went something like this, “Can you believe how ______ treated our co-worker this morning?” “Oh, that’s nothing, he/she laid into ______ the other day for absolutely no reason” “I guess that’s why they call him/her ‘The Viper’.” “Well, you know he/she has always been like this, even to some of the Vice-Presidents…..”
We all have (or have had) someone like this in our workplace. A source of constant tension and poison that degrades performance and negatively impacts the company’s culture. Yet, no one chooses to do or say anything. Why?
Being me, I asked the guys, “Why has this been allowed to go on”. One of the fellows said, “Well, he/she has been with the company a long time and everyone is scared of him/her.”
Sure, confronting this person would not be at the top of anyone’s list (nor recommended), but you have a duty to yourself and your company to try and figure the problem out. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational. Sometimes people like this have worked themselves in a rut and don’t know how to extricate themselves. Changing their behavior is going to require you to be friendly, accommodating, and genuine. You will need to invest significant time trying to develop a relationship with them. Even if they berate you, stand tall, be professional and work through the anger. In the long run, everyone will benefit and you may develop an ally.
Steve Jobs – What I learned October 6, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Customer Service, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance, Internet, Marketing.
Tags: apple, istevejobs, jobs, seth godin, steve jobs, think different
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Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th, 2011. It’s hard even writing this fact down – the loss is so profound. I remember when I was in training at Apple in 2002, Steve came into the Apple Café and the Director of our program freaked out, warning us NOT to go up to him or talk to him. So we all, myself included, passed on speaking to the fellow who has revolutionized and changed our life.
Crazy isn’t it?
I am an Apple. Having been on the platform since the Apple II (and I may still have it somewhere), I have taken a lot of grief from the naysayers. The detractors said: its a toy, no IT department would adopt it, you could buy three PC’s for the price of one Macintosh, it doesn’t run any good software, blah blah blah. Now look at Apple’s market share and even more importantly, the charged-up, ecstatic, crazy customers that love everything Apple.
It is sad that many people will just get it today that Apple is and will always be something special. Born from a dream by someone who was a college dropout and described as directionless, Steve pursued his dream with fellow entrepreneur, Steve Wozniac. Steve didn’t make computers, he created tools that let us extend our current lifestyles and imagination. Seth Godin made a great point in his blog yesterday when he challenged all of us with the call to action, “What are we going to do with it?” The “It” is this wonderful tool that Steve and the other great folks at Apple have given us.
Now we just need to do like the Nike commercial and “Just do it”!
P.S. if Steve Jobs chose to invent the elevator, it would have a touch screen allowing you to deselect an incorrectly chosen floor AND the door open and close buttons would work! The iElevator would let you select relevant content about the building clients or local events thus helping passengers avoid those unnecessarily awkward elevator stares. The floor would have a small section that vibrates to sooth tired feet. You get the picture. Soon everyone would look forward to riding in an elevator again!
P.S.S. No, I am not an Apple snob – I have a PC and use it – mostly for Excel and VBA. If I were to liken it to a tool, I would call it an allen wrench – very good for very specific tasks. But I don’t carry an allen wrench with me all of the time….. I do, however, carry a MacBook, Ipad, and Iphone 24/7
How not to handle a people problem October 4, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance.
Tags: backstabbing, conversation, gossip, negative
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I spend significant time in Starbucks – love the coffee and the atmosphere. Occasionally, I meet someone who is just off the scale intelligent offering insight and wisdom. Today, wasn’t such a day and I believe you it is significant to speak about. Three folks came in and began a conversation right next to where i was sitting. #1 proceeded to bad mouth a slew of co-workers that he/she had. It appeared that #1 was a manager, quite intelligent in conversation and passionate about his/her work product. I was shocked that #1 spoke so openly about his/her co-workers in a negative manner and in a very public environment. #2 and #3 mostly listened to #1 as he/she droned on and on and on spewing negativity.
The point of this post is to encourage folks to discuss negative and positive issues directly with the person who is the causation of their pain OR not say anything at all and work around or through the problem. I cringed as I listened to #1 thinking why he/she would carry on in such a manner. Perhaps, he/she was unhappy in their career or felt threatened by his/her co-workers. Maybe it was just frustration – I have no way of knowing and I really wanted to ask #1 why? so I could gain some insight.
I hope you will think in advance (just as I will) before opening your mouth and speaking negatively about anyone. Ask yourself, what positive benefit is your conversation going to spark?
What really defines your effectiveness is how you handle problems. September 1, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Procurement.
Tags: adversity, brian tracy, effectiveness, institute of supply management, ism, problem solving, rhonda jones sparks, stephen covey
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A long time ago I was taught that the true measure of leadership was all about how you handled adversity. Project Management and Supply Chain professionals are faced with difficult situations all the time (that is the beauty of the job) and knowing what to do and what not to do is key. After all, everyone acts the way they do for a reason. Most of the time it is “perceptions” that people have either about themselves or others that are the root cause of conflict. And if you get under the hood and discover those perceptions, you will be able to solve most any challenge.
Last night, I attended an Institute for Supply Management (ISM) group had the pleasure of listening to Rhonda Jones Sparks, who spoke to us about leadership development and in particular how to facilitate problem solving and problem ownership. Rhonda has been published with Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) and Brian Tracy (National Sales Trainer and author of Turbo Strategies).
The best takeaway from the presentation that will benefit you and your organization was how Rhonda defined the stages of problem solving. You can find Rhonda at http://www.rjsleadershipcoaching.com
Stage 1: Externalizing – Oftentimes this is the part you see when a co-worker is venting about the job. Externalizing is natural but it offers only temporary relief and it distresses others. Sometimes, people get stuck in this stage and continually live in the past or feel like they have been victimized. Everyone has a choice when faced with a problem. The real problem, however, is not the event that just happened, rather it is our “perception” of the options available to us. It is important to use active listening skills during this stage and not offer any solutions.
When faced with a problem, you have three directions that can be taken:
1) You can influence the situation by doing something to change the circumstances.
2) You can accept the situation by creating an internal change within yourself – a letting go
3) You can remove yourself from the situation entirely.
Stage 2: Personalizing – You make a conscious effort to take ownership of the problem and solve or effect change. This empowering step creates hope and shifts emphasis from problem to solution. Brainstorming possible solutions will help the person weigh the cost of the options.
Stage 3: Personalized Deficit – This is the one obstacle or issue which is keeping an individual from moving forward (the real problem). You ask, “What are you not willing to do right now, that if you did, you’d feel better and begin to move toward a solution?”
Stage 4: Personalized Action: Talk through the issues and create solutions. Make sure to answer who, what, when, where and how.
People who don’t facilitate problem solving have the potential for making your workplace into an unhappy, miserable and toxic environment. So if you see someone getting stuck – maybe they are in denial, have a blind spot or a behind-the-scenes enabler, step up and see what you can do to help!
Yours in procurement,
Steve Gordon specializes in procurement, logistics, cost saving and business process improvement initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575
Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….
“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”
Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.
If you want to learn how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I will do my best to answer your request in a future post.
Solutions Business Consultants
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”
Maximizing your trade show dollar August 12, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Marketing.
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Trade shows and events bring your customers to you and are still regarded by traditional and web 2.0 marketers as an efficient spend. On average, your cost per lead is 45% less and cost per sale is 38% less. With 78% of direct mail being opened over a trash can and a mere 1.2% response rate, companies that solely market using the mail continue to throw money against the wall. And the efficient marketing landscape is continually changing – email now has a 24% opt-in rate but this figure is only 1/3 of the acceptance of text messages. Customers want (and expect) a fast response to their inquiries – and the statistics prove this out – contact requests that are responded to within the first five minutes are 100 times more likely to get in touch with a live person than a thirty minute response delay.
Now imagine that you can leverage each of your trade shows and events to bring in leads and sales over a period of months. This strategy is only being used by a small fraction of exhibitors and you have the potential to ride a huge wave of competitive advantage – the details to follow.
Thinking outside of the Box July 14, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Uncategorized.
Tags: bmw, innovation, insight, older, productivity
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How BMW Deals With an Aging Workforce
(CBS) BMW’s work force is getting older. But as Richard Roth reports, it’s also maybe getting better.
In a world where the route’s always scenic and the road’s always open, automaker BMW was worried it could be losing a race against time.
That’s catching up with the 18,000 workers who build the brand’s luxury cars in Dingolfing, Germany.
Production manager Helmut Mauermann was crunching the numbers, and found that BMW’s workers are getting older.
“No surprise,” Mauermann said. “It’s part of the demographic development of the German country as a whole, or even Europe as a whole.”
Demographers call it the “Silver Tsunami”: a rising tide of grey hair.
Americans over 65 will make up more than 16 percent of the population within 10 years. Germany is aging even faster: More than a fifth of the country (21.6%) will be over 65 by the year 2020.
Older workers have more patience and skill that comes from experience, the studies say, but less flexibility, strength and vision – real liabilities on a production line that depends on precision engineering and a lot of hard work to turn out more than 1,200 cars a day.
BMW could force its aging workers to retire, or even fire them. But Mauermann said that’s not the solution.
“That might be the simple way to solve the problem, but we have a social contract within Germany, or at the BMW group, where we say, that’s not the solution we will look for – especially since we don’t have enough younger people to replace [them with], so it wouldn’t work even if we wanted to,” he said.
In what the Harvard Business Review called “an experiment defusing its demographic time bomb,” BMW decided to look ahead.
Management have tinkered with one assembly line in one division of a huge auto plant, and turned it older overnight. They staffed it so that the average age of workers would be 47 – exactly what it’s projected to be seven years from now.
They then asked the workers how to make things better.
When workers said their feet hurt, the company made them special shoes, and put in wooden floors. Some got a place to sit: a hairdresser’s chair, modified for the assembly line.
Rudolph Mohr, 56, has been working here for 35 years. He finally got a chance to stretch – right on the factory floor. “When I go home, I have more energy,” Mohr said.
Some tools were improved, and new computer screens were introduced, with bigger type.
In all, the company says it made 70 small changes in the workplace, to cut the chance of errors and reduce physical strain.
BMW says the project only cost about $50,000, including lost time.
“All these changes are extremely obvious, but you won’t come to these ideas sitting somewhere in an office and then thinking, ‘How can I change the working place of a worker who is half a mile away?'” Mauermann said.
Other things also changed: Productivity went up seven percent. Absenteeism fell below the plant’s average.
And this assembly line’s defect rate dropped to zero.
“It’s so simple, but it seems to work,” Mauermann said.
Not all of auto manufacturing can be re-engineered for an older workforce. But BMW says enough can that it’s testing and refining the experiment in other plants, including in the U.S.
Except managers no longer call it a project to aid the elderly; it’s simply BMW’s fresh new plan to improve productivity.
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Oftentimes those of us in the business process improvement world place extreme emphasis on cost-reduction – and one of those activities is the pressure we are asked to place on suppliers to lower prices. That works well in the short run but can have disastrous effects in the long-term. There is a better way. The upside is that it will save your company money in the long term – the downside is that it takes an investment of time and trust.
Let me illustrate with a story.
One of the first items that we sourced in China was box packaging. Previously, our client was purchasing packaging in the states from two sources – a manufacturer in the US and a broker who was importing boxes from (you guessed it) China. We were determined to figure out a better way. In China, box packaging is mostly done by hand – the only machinery was the printing press for the outside paper and a rotating glue cylinder that the employees would manually coat the box pieces as they assembled them. We quoted out nine manufacturers and chose three suppliers which we labeled A, B and C. The A supplier received about 50% of the business, the B supplier 35% and the C supplier 15%. We did this to mitigate risk and to discover and leverage any process efficiencies.
Rather than hammering on the suppliers to lower prices, we went inside the plants and learned the cost of the raw materials, labor and the process. This research effort resulted in changes made to the manufacturing processes in order to eliminate bottlenecks, needless steps and standardize product output. Quality output improved by more than 12% which made our customers happy and created more profit for our suppliers.
Using a scorecard system for our suppliers, we ranked them on several metrics including initial quality check, on-time shipping, completed orders, value-add, total cost of ownership, and ease of doing business (including making process changes). The percentage of business awarded was adjusted quarterly and served as a catalyst for continuous improvement.
Words of Wisdom from the Author of “The Black Swan” May 14, 2011Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Uncategorized.
Tags: financial, reform, transformation
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Implementing these ideas can transform your entire business.
Taleb’s ten principles for a black swan robust world
Taleb enumerates ten principles for building systems that are robust to Black Swan Events:
What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become Too Big to Fail.
No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains.
People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus.
Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks.
Counter-balance complexity with simplicity.
Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning.
Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence”.
Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.
Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement.
Make an omelette with the broken eggs.
In addition to these ten principles, Taleb also recommends employing both physical and functional redundancy in the design of systems. These two steps can be found in the principles of resilience architecting.
(Reference: Jackson, S. Architecting Resilient Systems: John Wiley & Sons. Hoboken, NJ: 2010.)