Archives

The Power of Networks

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I’ve always seen the power of networks; however, there is a heightened sense of urgency surrounding the topic for those executives who would like to thrive in today’s new normal business environment. In just the last month, I’ve witnessed countless examples of the critical importance of networks. You’ve run out of materials and need urgent attention. You need to find an exceptional leader ASAP. You have a technical challenge and don’t know where to start. The answer = the power of your network. What is a network? For a recent presentation I gave on leveraging social networks to drive operational…
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How Do You Elevate Business Performance with Lean I.T.?

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We hear a lot about lean, Toyota Production System and the like; however, I rarely hear about Lean I.T. A friend and colleague, Vicki Jeter, is exceptional at designing and implementing lean for I.T. which boils down to providing value in the eyes of the customer, driving out non-value added work, and leveraging systems to achieve bottom line results. We’ve worked together on several projects, and I’ve adopted several of her strategies for success as IT is core to elevating business performance. A few keys include: Provide value – forget about the latest and greatest technical gadgets and software fads; instead,…
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Hidden Opportunities for Process Improvement

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Take any business process. I have no doubt there will be hidden opportunities for process improvement. When is the last time you looked at your processes? You could follow a program such as lean manufacturing, the Toyota Production System, Total Quality Management and the like. Continuous process improvement builds in change as part of the corporate culture. Or, you can just take a fresh look at your processes. You’ll be surprised by what a review could uncover. A few methods to help uncover hidden opportunities include the following: 1. Ask the people performing the process – Outrageously simple? Possibly; however, in my…
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E-Commerce is No Longer an Option

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Are you offering e-commerce options for your customers? If not, you’ll be left in the dust! It is no longer an option for companies if success is an objective. E-commerce eliminates time and distance as barriers – who can afford not to offer customers a way to get “what they want when they want it”? Better yet, it is often at better margins to boot! For example, according to Modern Distribution Management’s 2013 State of E-commerce in Distribution, the number of distributors whose e-commerce revenue comprises 5-10% of total revenue has grown by 50% since last year. Substantial! E-commerce has…
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Outsourcing, In-sourcing, Near-sourcing?

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For many years, companies outsourced as a natural course of activity. Unfortunately, often times, they didn’t even perform an analysis of the total benefit; instead, everyone else was outsourcing and so CEOs, Board of Directors and the like expected it to occur. Now, I host executive discussions and the topic arises in reverse. Let’s bring back manufacturing to the U.S. Even Walmart is promoting their investment into U.S. manufacturing…. Of course, I advocate looking at the facts. It is not so easy to move factories, equipment and people all around. Take stock of what you are doing and consider the following factors: 1.…
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Want to Improve Your Business But Not Sure Where to Start?

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Volatility is here to stay! Even though we continue to drudge along in the lackluster recovery, excitement remains – earthquakes, nuclear disasters, global conflicts in Libya, oil prices skyrocketing again, etc. Thus, if there is anything business leaders know about the current economy, it is that dramatic change will continue – and they must find a way to succeed in this environment. Yet amidst all the chaos, it’s tough to find a clear path to success. I often hear from my clients and contacts, “I know I need to improve my business, department or personal career; however, I have no…
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Watching Metrics Trends

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One of the keys to success for any business is to watch metrics trends. In my experience, if a client watches key trends, they tend to be more successful than most. If they don’t, they struggle. Fortunately and unfortunately, it is as simple as that. One of the first questions I ask when I work with a manufacturing or distribution client relates to metrics. Which do they track? Why? What does the trend look like? I often find clients who track all sorts of metrics; however, I rarely find clients who not only track trends but watch the trends. It seems…
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Why Are Communications So Difficult?

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In my almost 25-year career in manufacturing and distribution, I’ve yet to see a company with “perfect” communications. I’ve seen a few stars (unfortunately the 20% of the 80/20 equation, if that!), MANY poor communicators and several “so-so” communicators throughout the years. On the other hand, I’ve seen the significant bottom line impact communications can have on business performance. Why are communications so difficult? My assessment is that communication begins and ends with leadership and often isn’t an area of focus. Let’s take a manager, director or even CEO of a mid-market manufacturing company. How many do you know who are exceptional communicators? What does…
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Sustainability – Who Knew That It’s Common Sense?

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Sustainability is gaining traction in today’s cutting edge discussions. Whenever a topic pops up in multiple places suddenly, I take notice. I’ve read multiple articles in trade publications and magazines, attended a keynote at an international trade conference devoted to the subject and even read how my alma mater has developed a leading program in sustainability (of course!). So, what’s all the fuss? Several years ago, when the subject first started coming up in conversations, I wondered how this topic made business financial sense. Then, after a bit more research, I discovered I’d been working sustainability aggressively for many years…
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Synthesize for Results

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In my recent speech to a project management special interest group in Silicon Valley, a few participants raised some intriguing questions about how to ensure your project is on track.  As it’s a timeless topic yet vital to success, it seemed appropriate to discuss a few key strategies to tracking project progress. There’s no doubt that those companies who successfully execute projects will be in a dramatically superior position to their competitors.  In today’s new normal business environment, there is no margin for error; you must deliver project results on time, on budget and with exceptional customer service.  So, what…
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