May 27, 2009

LinkedIn pitfall

Oh dear -- I just misunderstood how a LinkedIn feature worked and sent 25 invitations to connect with people in my address book, when I meant to send one specific one.

With LinkedIn, you can import your address book and see who you know who is not already a connection. Then you can batch mail invitations to all of them. This is generally a BAD IDEA!

I have people in my e-mail address book who I e-mailed once but hardly know, including a baseball-hall-of-fame broadcaster I was allowed to contact once. I don't think he's going to appreciate an out-of-the-blue generic invite to something he probably knows nothing about.

To use the feature respectfully, you only select people who will know who you are and who are already LinkedIn members. You send your invitations one at a time, and personalize your message. That gives the person you know well a feeling of cooperation. It gives the person you don't know well a context for feeling you will be a useful connection in his or her network.

This blast is not going to enhance my reputation at all. So be careful and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!

May 25, 2009

New networking skills can help you restart your career

Networking through friends and going to conferences are time honored and effective strategies for creating career opportunities. Now the web adds new dimensions to the process, but a lot of folks have been working too hard at their “real jobs” to get acquainted with the online tools they could be using to adapt to our crazy economy. They find their jobs threatened—or gone—and don’t know where to start.

“The tools that are available today are greatly different from the last recession in 2001,” says Tim Noble, principal at search firm The Avery Point Group, which specializes in lean and six sigma jobs and skill sets.

Professional networking sites like LinkedIn represent one way to increase your visibility. When you join the network, thousands of other members can check out your profile, including employers looking to fill jobs with the most talented people they can find.

Noble says tools like LinkedIn work passively in the background for you--not shouting to your current employer that you are job hunting. He says, “Your profile highlights your background, your experience, and what you can offer an employer. Even if you’re not looking for a job, you should have your profile out there. You never know, somebody may come across you in their search for a certain skill set and reach out to you via a Linkedin email. You can say yes or no, but isn’t that a nice position to be in?”

The basic process is simple. You open an account—it’s free—create a profile, find people you know in the network, and invite them to connect.

Some people stop here, their barebones profile competing weakly with thousands of others. Others enthusiastically aim for the numbers and try to get more connections than anyone else.

Smarter folks use networks like LinkedIn to create business relationships. Jim Pfister, LinkedIn member, says,

“I have found that the real secret to success is to join and actively participate in Groups. By commenting on Discussions you get a chance to show off your skills and knowledge, and sooner or later, people will start calling you. I also belong to several professional associations. Just about all of them have started a LinkedIn group, and they've in turn gotten a lot communications going.

Harold Philbrick, an experienced lean manager looking for a job, (and who has since found one) talks about searching the LinkedIn network to open doors. He says,

“When I see a company that is hiring I will try to find someone on LinkedIn who works there and contact them. If the person is in upper management I tell them that I saw the opening and would like to learn more about the opportunity and ask if they'll speak with me. If they do not want to, I ask them to put me in contact with the hiring manager.

“If the person isn’t in upper management, I tell them I'd like to learn more about the company before applying. Sometimes they know the hiring manager, but even if they do not, when I write my cover letter I can say I spoke to someone there and liked what I heard.

This tactic has helped me land a couple of interviews for jobs that I probably would not have been considered for otherwise. I am at the final interview stage with one company where I contacted the VP of the department I would be working in. In the other company, I had a phone interview, and the hiring manager told me he'd like me to come out there.“

It can be intimidating at first to build your profile and start using the other features of the network, but you don’t have to learn it all in a day. Use “people search” to find people you know and look at what they’ve done with their profiles. What could you do to make yours better?

Look at what groups experts in your field have joined. Check out the groups’ pages and see if the activity is robust—get a feeling for how people are demonstrating their knowledge and expertise. Add your two cents’ worth, but not until your profile will show your best side. Anyone interested in your comment will click on your name, and you want them to be impressed with what they find out about you.

The same techniques go for all those who’ve just hung out their new “consultant” shingles. Make it easy for a potential client to check out what you’ve done, and work hard at getting recommendations from people who know what you can do. Become more than just a name on a business card.

Craig Crook, President, TQM Network, Fort Wayne, IN, has a few tips:

• Build your network before you need it.
• Start simple; develop as you go.
• Picture!
• No selling.
• “Customize” your profile link--add to your business card.
• Build authority, credibility, without bragging.
• Build reciprocity by recommending others.
• Keep it fresh with status updates and profile updates.
• Comment on other people’s posts--keep the conversation alive.
• Answer questions in your domain of expertise.

Noble says, “As we exit this recession, folks may get lulled into a sense of security about their jobs and let their profiles or their memberships lapse. That’s the worst thing you can do. One important lesson learned out of this recession is to always have these networking tools working for you in the background. The time to work on your network isn’t when you absolutely need it—you should always be building your network as key part of your ongoing career development.”

One more thing—do a search on your own name, just in case you once started a profile you’ve forgotten about. I see that all the time. You don’t want to have someone go there when you’ve invested so much work in developing the profile you want to show off.

Linkedin Networking groups:

Association for Manufacturing Excellence

Society of Manufacturing Engineers


Note: I wrote this article by posting a question in the Superfactory Group Discussions to ask for people to share their experiences and knowledge.

May 6, 2009

Michigan Lean Consortium Kickoff

The newly-formed Michigan Lean Consortium met at the Macomb University
Center May 5. The meeting was hosted by the Pawley Institute of Lean Thinking of Oakland University.

Debra Setman, Executive Director of Lean/Business Improvement at Johnson & Johnson, welcomed the group and spoke of the consortium’s dedication to helping Michigan organizations use lean thinking to turn around the difficult Michigan economy. Their goals are aligned with Michigan Governor Granholm’s vow that Michigan would be one of the best places in the country to live, learn and earn.

Steven Kurmas, President of Detroit Edison, one of the two largest subsidiaries of DTE Energy, shared the story of how lean principles transformed Detroit Edison.

Having spent more than a year working with Jason Schulist, Director of Continuous Improvement at DTE—including hour-long interviews with Mr. Kurmas and two other C-level executives—on an account of the latest phase of the company’s lean journey for AME’s Target magazine, I can testify that Detroit Edison’s story is the real thing.

Kurmas briefly recounted the company’s 10-year history of fits and starts, focus on tools, drift from employee-centered continuous improvement, with honesty about the failures and lessons learned the company faced along the way. He said that in a company more than 100 years old with an embedded hierarchical legacy culture, that long a journey was probably unavoidable. Throughout the process, a core group of CI and six sigma experts had grown up, and knowledge of tools and terminology had been disseminated in various parts of the organization.

With the help of the Continuous Improvement group, people like Steven Spears, and other lean thinkers, the company’s leaders though about why those efforts had failed to yield widespread and lasting results. They concluded that they had been copying tools instead of understanding work, rewarded workarounds posing as solutions, failed to share knowledge systemically, and failed to develop the capabilities of all. The answers to those mistakes are described beautifully as the four capabilities of the high-velocity company in Steve Spear’s book, Chasing the Rabbit. (Read it!)

Kurmas and some of the other company leaders agreed to go through some weeklong leadership workshops developed through the Toyota Supplier Support Network and the Bluegrass Automotive Manufacturers Association. He and Schulist went off to an airbag manufacturing facility in Utah. As he told me later, it totally changed his perspective and he saw that he needed to be going to where DTE’s work is being done—the gemba—personally leading and teaching employees to be problem solvers.

Leaders need, humility, desire to learn, patience, and a passion for activity, according to Kurmas. How many executives realize that?

2008 was the roll-out of a cascade of leadership workshops all over DTE, involving all levels of responsibility and both administrative and operational functions. The total cost savings for the year--$130 million.

No one needs to be told that the Southeast Michigan economy is a disaster zone. You might think that a utility would be immune to the same revenue losses, but factories that aren’t running don’t use much power, nor do offices with empty desks and lights out. Not only that, but both commercial and residential customers are having trouble paying their bills. I don’t know what Chrysler owes DTE, but I wouldn’t expect that money to be forthcoming anytime soon.

Late last year, DTE took stock of the situation. They had to release a lot of contractors and interns, but made a pledge not to lay off any DTE employees. Let me say that again—they promised there would be no lay offs. At the same time, they set a goal of saving another $150 million through sustained, small, incremental continuous improvements to work processes. Kurmas said that in the first quarter of the year, the total savings stood at $50 million.

The meeting wrapped up with a series of “quickfire” presentations from MLC members Amway, Northwest Michigan College, and J&J.

Organizations that have already joined include J&J, DTE Energy, Amway, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Lean Learning Center, NW Michigan College, the Pawley Institute and the Shingo Prize (through the Right Place).

Most encouragingly, perhaps, was a delegation from the State of Michigan—people who wanted to use lean thinking to help overcome the problems of the loss of revenues. After the MLC meeting, they went off with some of the MLC charter members to explore how they might start doing that.

The doors are now open for companies to join the MLC, and it will be whatever they make it. Organizers are aware that the risk of reinventing the wheel is great, and have already talked to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Association for Manufacturing Excellence, the Shingo prize, the MMTC, MEPs, and so on.

Groups such as the MLC start off with high hopes. Not all survive and of those that survive, not all accomplish anything. I feel good about this one because of the caliber of the people who started it off, the groundwork they laid, and their openness to connections. As valuable as it was to hear from Steve Kurmas, they want to avoid more “meetings” and to go to sites where improvements are being made and talk to the people involved.

Got a suggestion, or want to be involved? Contact Beverly Brown of the Pawley Institute (bbrown at, Debra Setman (DSetman at, or Jason Schulist (schulistj at
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm