Operational Excellence

Organizational Behavior
I recently saw a TED talk where a well-known organizational behavior expert pushed my button. As a management consultant, his presentation made a lot of sense…not only for business but also for our complex, modern times. Yves Morieux rightly pointed out (in my opinion) that we are all drowning in complexity. His main contention is that we spend way too much time doing, undoing, redoing in isolation. Even with the marvelous new technologies, we seem to be less productive and much more unhappy with our jobs. Basically, our organizational behavior is broken. Morieux felt the reason why so many workers are becoming disengaged is their frustration with burdens of complexity and the lack of job satisfaction due mainly to the need for a new way of structuring how we do business.   Traditional management theory expounds that companies need structures that clearly define the departmentalization of processes with specific job…
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US department stores - Brick & Mortar Apocalypse
Some of the largest US department stores, like Macy’s and Sears, have each closed down hundreds of stores, and traditional retailers like Payless Shoes have filed for bankruptcy.  Some reporters are saying this is the end of traditional brick-and-mortar retail, but while stores are closing, the amount of total consumer spend is rising. But are we experiencing a brick-and-mortar apocalypse? The answer is definitive: No. As the chart demonstrates, while e-commerce is growing rapidly, Online sales still only represent less than 12% of the total retail sales. There will always be a need for physical retail; however, the future of what physical retail actually looks like is an evolution and morphing guided by how customers prefer to purchase. One of the reasons for the rise of e-commerce popularity is that brick-and-mortar has not seen a significant change in decades. Customers enter a store, Search for an item, Pay, and Leave.…
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Aligning OpEx with Sales
It’s an old cliché that speaks volumes when a company finds it has a lack of initiative alignment: “The Sales Department makes promises to customers that production cannot meet.” The salesperson lives to make a sale by meeting and exceeding a customer’s needs but setting a false expectation can really burn the brand and future sales. As the sales department is normally the most customer-facing and a less controllable process than most of the other parts of a company’s processes, we will discuss alignment from the point of view of the Sales department as the “point of the spear” in most revenue based initiatives. Getting In Line: Sales Alignment Lack of initiative alignment usually happens for a variety of reasons. Even though most of those reasons are obvious, companies still violate the proper process needed for goal alignment and developing productive collaboration between various departments integral to the success of…
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“In just 30 days, profits increased by $50,000.” Management articles are almost always about problems. But, this real-life event showcases how problems can be turned into opportunities. Owners and top-level management can sometimes be held captive by their limited experiences and training. However, there are many enlightened leaders who understand there is always something to learn. Indeed, learning from the mistakes of others is a wise strategy, but too often ego gets in the way. Until there is acceptance of a problem and a resolution to fix the problem can real learning take place. The following is a true story that demonstrates how education can quickly turn a problem into a long-term tool for success. The Business Problem A Chicago, Illinois-based steel fabricator, supplying a global market with wire product displays,  store fixtures, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, and custom wire frameworks, realized their profits were trending negatively. They had tried a…
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Decision-Making Process for Industry 4.0
“Decision-makers must learn to leave egos at the door” In the era of Industry 4.0, technology will play a greater part in optimizing solutions. But do decision-makers have the expertise needed to fully understand the rapidly evolving tech world? If leaders can’t stand up and say: “I don’t understand how that tech solution works” and have the humility to learn new things, then optimal decision making in the era of Industry 4.0 may be in jeopardy. Making a good decision is only validated by the results. However, in an age of constantly growing complexity and the push to be innovative and “out-of-the-box”, there may be too many unexpected variables that can bring about unexpected results. This logical fear plagues decision making. In fact, decision making has become more challenging due to the exponential growth and access to information. Validating information is becoming a serious issue in the Corporate C-suite. Misleading…
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What Is the Cost of Safety?

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What is the cost of Safety
What is the cost of Safety when it’s not the first priority Have you ever wondered if putting money into your organization’s safety policy was worth it? If so, you’re not alone. Many people think they can put safety off, until something happens, and then, they instantly regret their decision. One organization in particular made an investment in improving their safety and truly reaped the benefits. Their safety turnaround resulted in Zero Lost Time Incidents, One million safe hours…then, two million safe hours, An Iowa Safety Council Award, and A National Safety Council Award. Perhaps most importantly, the safety improvement even lead to a feature story on ABC prime time. (more…)
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Transformation is change, and change is hard. People resist change. Even if today’s situation is terrible, change is still uncomfortable and scary – a case of the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. People must become committed to the desired transformation, and this requires communication AND training. Communication lets people understand the vision, the desired outcome of the transformation. Training gives them the skills they will need in order to successfully contribute and therefore become committed. This kickoff training gives people the skills they need to become effective problem solvers, tools based on the “observation, then deduction” method of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes would look for clues at a crime scene, things that were out of place or different. Workers are trained to observe their own operations, to look at conditions when it performs brilliantly and when it performs terribly. They learn tools that search for the Consistent Differences…
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Andy Goldstrom
When I was 30, I was extended an offer to serve as an Account Director at a small, start-up company.  The CEO and Founder created a unique and accountable culture from the day he opened for business.  The offer contained all the requisite language about the responsibilities and rewards, but what was most impactful was the last paragraph before the signature block, which said: “This employment offer is based on Andy’s commitment to USI’s standard Business Practices and Operating Philosophy, including: Making commitments and keeping them Providing total quality in everything you do Being a team player Holding yourself accountable to the USI team and Holding the USI team accountable to you” The company had a strong value proposition, but what was just as important was the culture.  Healthy and competitive peer pressure emanated throughout the organization.  When one person succeeded, the entire team succeeded.  When one person failed, the…
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Bob Flynn
Private equity portfolio companies face aggressive goals when they try to expand their business in short-time frames. With acquisitions thrown into the mix, there is added complexity and risk. The projects to accomplish these growth and integration initiatives require dedicated resources and your best resources who are already spread too thin end up being over-utilized. The best strategy is to find experienced, specialized, interim resources that you can rely on, and have them available on demand. A key area of focus is to have a strong Project Management Office with enough project management talent and project management professionals, and a great process to drive your strategic initiatives. Plan ahead, form these relationships now with strategic staffing and talent companies. Make sure these companies and their team can deliver the breadth and depth of talent required, especially in terms of industry expertise and functional knowledge. Oftentimes, it takes weeks to find…
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Doug Sartain
It’s important to keep your drivers happy and your fleet happy as this infographic about the high cost of employing (and losing) a truck driver shows. Here’s how I help fleets perform and maintain loyalty: Make the driver part of the solution, and not part of the problem. I ask drivers for their input on what the company can do better. When they have an idea, I run with it as long as it does not negatively affect a customer, company policy, cost control, safety etc. I always say, “I will let a driver win a battle as long as the company wins the war”. So even if I do not agree with the idea, I will implement it as long as it is not detrimental. If the idea works, I let everyone know which driver thought of it. You can never take credit for an idea that is not…
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