Dec 28, 2011

2011 Management Blog Roundup: Business 901

Joe Dager
In an organization's lean transformation, getting sales on board is not always easy. They are used to a tug of war over winning business and fulfilling it and seem to speak a different language. You may be looking around for a new way to present lean that will finally catch their attention.

Joe Dager, author of the Business 901 blog, is the guy who can connect the two worlds. Joe spent one lifetime running a couple of companies that manufactured industrial equipment, so he gets the shop floor issues most lean implementers grapple with. To stay in business and put food on a lot of tables, he also needed to work the revenue side, and seems to have a gift for sales -- he's just the kind of guy you want to be friends with.

A few years ago, Joe started thinking about how lean applies to sales and marketing and now has a budding empire sharing his knowledge in books, podcasts, marketing services, training, and his blog.

What can you gather from reading the Business 901 blog? Joe's one of the Blog Carnival players, so right now you'll see what he recommends you take a look at. I like his picks, and intend to delve into all three of them.

Let's take a look at Joe's own post, Lean sales and marketing works because of leader standard work. Leader standard work seems to be the big thing right now, usually focusing on what an operations manager will do in the plant. Joe looks at how the layers of responsibility in a marketing group can be coordinated with SW, making sure that each has regular sharing with the others, deploying everything from call scripts to campaigns to budgets.

In If less than 1% of companies are successful with lean, why are we doing it? Joe reckons with this assessment from Jeff Liker, one that sounds pretty discouraging when you are putting all your energy into getting your organization to move along the path. Joe sees it another way. What works for the one percent...
...is the same thing for both people and organizations. It is the scientific process of trial and error. You don’t get it right at first, you have to break habits, personal habits as an individual and company cultures as an organization. Successful companies do it a little bit at a time. In Lean, we call this scientific method PDCA. We plan, do it, check the results and adjust. It is a purposeful experimentation.
To me, this is the excitement of Lean, is this empowering aspect that is not easy. You teach people, rather than solve people’s problems for them. And in doing so, they learn how to make better decisions which leads to better performance.
Dr. Michael Balle stated in an interview with me, “Lean gives you an ideal; it’s a commitment to an ideal.”
So take Joe's inspiring tidbits from his blog, add them to his podcast interviews with influential thinkers, and blend with some of his books and slidecasts and you'll begin to see how lean operations can partner with sales, share practices and a philosophy to make a company more competitive and fun to work in.

The complete Management Improvement Carnival list

Dec 27, 2011

2011 Management Blog Roundup: The Lean Thinker

Mark Rosenthal
My second pick for a great blog that might be new to you is The Lean Thinker: Thoughts and insights from the shop floor by Mark Rosenthal.

Mark's got plenty of experience in the trenches, including an 11-year stint in the military getting maintenance operations processes straightened out. He has since led front-line change at Boeing, Genie Industries, and Terex, among other companies known for their strong lean capabilities. I have been fortunate enough to meet Mark and have some thoughtful discussions about what improvement thinking is in the right direction and what is off target.

And he fully qualifies as a thinker, considering many of the post he writes in his blog. A few examples:

'TIS THE SEASON FOR MANAGEMENT BY MEASUREMENT
Mark dissects the folly of thinking that KPIs and incentives are going to lead to real improvement. He points to a couple of credible sources that puncture the idea that incentives do much at all for motivating performance.

THE ANNUAL OPERATING WISH
Adding to his criticism of incentives to reach goals, Mark takes on the whole goal-setting process in the annual plans most companies kick of the year with. First of all, he says, they are inflexible when conditions like demand don't turn out the way you predicted they would. I've asked groups before, "What is the first thing we know about a forecast?" Surprisingly they rarely respond, "They are always wrong." Nice to have Mark's agreement on that.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS
Looking at work and identifying decision points can be a key to improving processes. Mark asserts that because mental bandwidth is finite, having people make decision after decision every day, no matter how small they are, is not a good idea. Indeed, if you look up "brain" and "decision fatigue" you'll find out that it is true -- and when you think about your own day and how tired you are, that's why it can be so hard to decide what to have for dinner.

And while Mark's blog's title implies that he is the lean thinker, he's always ready to have great discussions with lean thinkers like you when you comment on his posts.

The complete Management Improvement Carnival list

Dec 26, 2011

2011 Management Blog Roundup: The Mistake Bank

I don't know about you, but when I make a mistake, I tend to cringe and hope it doesn't get noticed. I have a strong preference for being perfect -- which is a recipe for failure.

If there is one thing I've learned from lean folks, it's that a mistake is something to learn from. In our ideal lean world, surfacing a problem will not bring blame upon me, but will result in some help in fixing and preventing it. But openness to mistakes is not a widespread attitude. Acknowledging and discussing them is not an everyday experience.

John Caddell, however, is changing that climate with his blog, The Mistake Bank. For my first episode of the John Hunter's Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival Blog Roundup this year, I thought I'd share this blog with you.

In The Mistake Bank, John Caddell scans the book, video, and news world for stories people tell about their mistakes. Every few days, he finds an instructive reflection from people who learned important lessons from discovering they had been doing something the wrong way. John usually adds his own experiences or ideas about the excerpt he has given us (with permission, I might say).

One of my favorites is a quick one from Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of the snack food company, Kind. He started with a product, but no idea how the snack industry worked, particularly when it came to sales. But, he says, when he showed up to stores with his samples and was told to get lost, he took advantage of each mistake with his approach to his potential customer. He would not leave the store until the owner would teach him what he was doing wrong.

Another great find was a TED Talk by Kathryn Shulz on the importance of regret  She focuses on the inevitable emotional experience of regret, which can't be erased by our rational thinking about how did it happen and what can I do about it?

With The Mistake Bank, I get an email every few days that gives me the opportunity to spend a few minutes accepting that I have a few mistakes to reckon with, and the encouragement to go ahead and see if I can do something about them. Or I get to see how fallible everyone else is, including great leaders of industry who discover they also have feet of clay.

Nov 27, 2011

Intellectual property can be a liability in China

There are a lot of things wrong with intellectual property law in the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere that similar systems are used. Patents take a long time, litigation is common, and lawyers prosper as much as innovators. In a country like China, however, the political and legal system can be rigged against people with critical knowledge in ways we can hardly imagine. In "Engineer's return to China leads to jail and limbo," today's New York Times reminds us of things we take for granted.

Hu Zhicheng is a naturalized American citizen, an engineer educated at MIT, with 48 patents and deep experience designing catalytic converter systems. Mr. Hu saw an opportunity to help China with its pollution problems if he returned and applied his knowledge there. He went to China in 2004, bringing his family there in 2006 as he went from success to success in manufacturing, eventually becoming president of the company that supplies catalytic converters to half of China's cars.

Then he declined to accept a company as a supplier, Hysci Specialized Materials. Retaliation was not long in coming, according to Mr. Hu. Tianjin public security officers arrived in response to an accusation that Hu had stolen trade secrets, though the technology was public information in the U.S. The shady part was that buying from Hysci would make the charges go away. Mr. Hu was jailed for 17 months, at times being made to sleep on the floor of his cell. He was released after prosecutors withdrew the case.

The Hu family was able to leave China when the situation became dire. Now that Mr. Hu is at liberty, whenever he tries to board a plane for the U.S., he is stopped by immigration officials who have unsubstantiated claims that he is wanted for crimes in Tianjin.

Although Thanksgiving in the U.S. is past, perhaps we should be grateful for a business and legal system that is imperfect, but not a threat to life and liberty.

Nov 17, 2011

Hierarchy or wider-archy?

We're used to seeing pyramid organization charts with the CEO at the top and the workers down at the bottom, with varying numbers of levels in between. It's popular now to flip the pyramid and show the leader at the bottom supporting the workers at the top.

But are we stuck with a vertical model in our heads? Even if a cross-functional horizontal set of connections is added, it still has a top and a bottom. And we hardly ever see pyramids in real life.

We have no trouble seeing a map as a flattened out representation of reality, with centers of power and critical channels of communication radiating - waterways, roads, railroads, airways. You can drive a car to just about any gemba.
Copyright Google Maps

 We have no trouble seeing a ceiling or a window with a hub-and-spoke design with the center holding the structure in place.

Some rights reserved by -bl-



Why then do we so rarely see organization charts represented this way?


Nov 6, 2011

My brain told me

Some rights reserved by gruntzooki
"How did you know that?" we asked a 3-year old. His answer? "My brain told me."

Yesterday was one of those weird days where I kept hearing about the brain and how we behave. The fundamental fact is that we have an organ in our head, related to the rest of our body, where our actions, thinking, stories of ourselves, beliefs, relationships, feelings, and temperament come from. It's hard to think of it as a separate entity from our "self."

Emerging neuroscientific and psychological research may be important to our understanding of lean as a culture and management philosophy. So much of the discussion is about why the people driving the management bus don't "get it," about why cultures don't change, and why so few organizations have been able to sustain lean if they even made a try at implementing it. These issues all boil down to why human beings in organizational systems have a hard time moving together to a different way of doing things.

Let's look superficially for a moment at what Dr. Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, tells us about what's going on in the noisy brain. He says there is a constant narrator telling us a story of ourselves and experiences. Anyone who has tried to meditate or has become "lost in thought" knows that. But the stories are often laced with fiction, false memories, and faulty beliefs. (New York Times, "Decoding the Brain's Cacophony")

The manager who doesn't get why lean thinking may be better than traditional thinking is telling himself or herself a story about being rewarded because of doing certain things in certain circumstances despite experiences where those actions don't work well at all. The story may be filled in by believing that the problems are someone else's fault, or because the economy is bad, or the planets are aligned unfavorably. What to do next is part of the story too -- get someone fired or hired, put pressure on someone, buy a new IT system or machine, borrow money. Walking through workplaces and asking what's going on, leading an improvement event, re-examining a value stream rarely fit into the story. Though painful, it's coherent.  The person may tell the story to others and explain the belief of how things should work, or complain about why things aren't working.

Gazzaniga's study of people with brains "split" by surgery to treat epilepsy or by stroke show that when they "see" things with only one eye, they may not be able to "know" that it is there. It doesn't make sense to the part of the brain telling the story. In such cases, the storyteller will make up some explanation that may be completely irrational but will make the story coherent.(The Neurontal Platonist, Journal of Consciousness Studies.)

some rights reserved by
aye_shamus
The self is the hero of the story. I am doing things right. I have the right skills. Things going wrong are not my fault. I'm not here to make friends. I compete with my peers for power or money. My [boss, wife, children, husband, employees, parents...] don't understand me. You know how it goes. You have a similar storyteller in your head.

Doubt about the way to do things doesn't easily enter the story, unless enough ideas have penetrated to compare his or her current predicament to something that might be improved through fundamentally changing behavior about how people and processes should be managed.

That's just one example of why a person may resist new ideas with great force of will, especially if they mean facing the realization that everything you believed about cause and effect are simply not true, and that you don't have the skills to do your job. Humility and our cultural history don't go together.

I think it's important to understand that resistance or opposition come from the very way the brain works. It is not that person's "self" resisting or opposing. You can't blame someone for the way the brain works any more than you can blame someone for having a vascular system that produces high blood pressure. (If only the intervention was as easy as taking a pill.) But maybe you can help that person rewrite the story, become the hero another way without having to believe they are stupid or wrong. Maybe some people can accept that as a revelation. Most people aren't going to want that. Perhaps participating in an event that makes a difference helps write a new story of personal heroism, as a member of a team rather than as a lone ranger.

Would understanding more about the brain help us spread change -- what we call "lean" -- more widely and strategically? Let's think about it.

Nov 3, 2011

Be the product in the process

Pigs with room to move around
When she spoke at the 2011 AME Conference, Temple Grandin did not talk a lot about engineering process flow in the livestock industry, but it would have resonated with the process improvement zealots at AME's conference. 

As a visual thinker and someone who felt that animals a processed experience the same way, she was pained and distressed to see how they were treated as they moved from pasture to meat market. It wasn't that they were destined for death that bothered her. It was the suffering and fear they were experiencing along the way.

She went on to study the process and product through detailed direct observation --go and see, gemba walk). She noticed little things that caused sensory alarm to the animals, and believed that it mattered. This was in part because a symptom of her autism was great sensitivity to sensory input -- light, noise, motion, abrupt change.

The right way to unload cattle
from trucks
As she watched cattle and other animals moving from truck, to disinfecting baths, to that ramp, to the stun gun, she saw every little detail. She was able to walk the process in her mind as though she was the product. She may even have walked through the process as though she were one of the animals.

At one site, the proud American flag waving in the air was spooking the cows, but who knew that it was part of the process as far as the cow was concerned. An unnoticed detail interrupted process flow. Besides slowing down movement through the process, floods of fear hormones in the animal weren’t going to improve the quality of the meat. Neither would bruises sustained by the animals bumping into barriers or being prodded by workers. Unnoticed factors like the flag were introducing defects as well as slowing flow. 
Other factors she noticed included a difference between the animal's reaction to being made to turn a corner or a circular path, whether people were moving around in their peripheral vision, or whether they saw reflections on pools of water. If they could walk into a bath sure-footedly they would remain placid, but balk if they were caused to slip and slide. Shouting disturbed them. 


After decades of persistent work, Temple Grandin has seen her process design principles transform an industry. All because she could imagine herself moving through a process.

How often do we think of ourselves as a piece of metal moving, waiting in line, or dropping on the floor? Or an invoice being filled in, waiting in digital darkness to be electronically stamped, pushed, cursed at, until finally being paid and payment accepted by the customer? We do become the material in the process when we shop or go to the hospital. When we are made to move through a system that was not designed for flow.

Maybe we can try visualizing ourselves moving through the process we want to improve and see what we learn.

Nov 1, 2011

All kinds of minds

For those who don’t know, Temple Grandin is a gifted engineer and advocate for people who are different. She is also a woman with autism, or perhaps Aspergers, but definitely “on the spectrum” as people are beginning to say. Dr. Grandin gave a keynote talk at the recent AME conference and described how her mind works differently from most other people. She calls it thinking in pictures.

Using her example, when she says the word “steeple,” most of us see a picture of a generalized steeple, something pointy at the top of a church. We might accompany the picture with a verbal sort of description, and may have memories of being in a church with a steeple or watching a movie where someone falls out of a steeple.

In contrast, she says she sees pictures of all the steeples she has seen, not an identification of a category that they belong to. Her mind just works that way.

Which comes to her point -- we need all kinds of minds in our world, and many kinds in our companies.

She sees a problem right in a child’s early years, when schools are increasingly labeling children and channeling them in special ed -- kid who would have been in the classroom in the past. One driver she mentioned is the need for schools to pass assessment tests. They need a set of students who are good at remembering things and performing well on certain kinds of tests. It’s serious. The fate of the school and careers of teachers really do depend upon these scores.

Which kids are on the autism spectrum and which are on the “typical” -- we don’t say “normal” anymore. Well, if a spectrum is a statistical representation of a population, we’re all on it. Each of us is just a little more up the scale or a little more down it. Then there are all the other spectrums (spectra?) we can imagine:

Artistic
Social
Mathematical
Musical
Introspective
Sensitive
Athletic
Energetic
…and so on.

Some children with specialized talents are not well-endowed with those measured on the tests. If they can be excluded from the test-taking population by labeling them, schools and teachers will be assessed as satisfactory or exemplary.

Of course, some children have needs so specialized that they truly need intensive support of a different sort. The topic of mainstreaming -- putting special ed kids in the regular classroom with a support person -- is a big one.

The wrong metrics can drive the wrong behavior -- we know that. Now how can we help the school improvement process develop better ones?

Let’s not stop here. Are our preconceived notions about employees excluding people whose talents might add value we couldn’t get any other way? If we’re now calling human resources “talent management,” where are we looking for talent? How are we rewarding people who are different? (John Robison's book, “Look Me in the Eye,” shows how difficult it is to accept some people in an organization if the organization can’t adapt.) Of course, there is a point where a business cannot function well if behavior diverges too far from what gets the right things done.

Challenge yourself to look at the humans in your organization in a new light. How does your organization fit people who are different? What are you missing when some people can’t thrive? Do you have an opportunity to stretch your boundaries and those of your organizations?

Aug 21, 2011

YouTube shares knowledge and draws customers

We've talked before about using social media for knowledge sharing in a way that enhances your company's value and reputation. There's plenty of information out there about consumer marketing, but what about business marketing -- the right way?

Kelley Dodd
LeanCor, the logistics company, is using social media for both marketing and employee communication. I asked Kelley Dodd, Marketing Specialist, to give us a peek into what they are doing and learning and what it has to do with lean.

KW: I see you recently joined YouTube - what led to LeanCor's decision to do that?

5S at LeanCor on YouTube
KD: We wanted to create a more interactive experience for those engaging with our marketing content. Making things visible is a foundational concept in lean, so it only made sense to showcase our capabilities and tools through video. We just finished a corporate capabilities video, as well as some lean warehousing videos. YouTube provided a user-friendly platform with higher audience reach and exposure.

KW: What are the purposes? What is the role of knowledge sharing? How does it contribute to marketing, if it does?

KD: Because prospective customers are often seeking information about your industry, your business must produce content that is educational and builds trust. You want to provide value which will make visitors more likely to remember your business when seeking your products or services.  Knowledge sharing will add to your credibility and position you as a thought leader in your industry.

KW: How are you connecting customers and potential customers as viewers or subscribers to the YouTube channel?

KD: In regards to YouTube, we are relatively new to the game. Just putting the videos out there has been our first step. In order to increase viewers, I link to our YouTube channel through other marketing outlets such as our website, e-newsletter, Twitter, and LinkedIn group.

KW: It can be hard to get people to do these videos. How do you do that? Do you have any feedback from the guys who were involved that would motivate or challenge lean professionals in other companies to do similar videos?

KD: One of the biggest challenges within our organization is to be on the cutting edge not only of lean, but creativity.  Our goal in our facilities is to create the ultimate visual factory and we had the opportunity to showcase some of our lean tools via the videos.  Another major reason for developing the short clips was to connect internally and share best practices. Not every LeanCor employee can be here on site in our facility and the more lessons, experiences, and tools passed on internally will only strengthen our company.

Another tip is to find creative and different ways to produce the videos. Like producing other content such as blog posts, you want to find an interesting angle that will appeal to your audience. For example, we are going to film student testimonials at the upcoming course, Building a Lean Problem Solver, and the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute. AME takes a similar approach in its attendee testimonial videos used to market the upcoming national conference.

KW: How are videos produced? Professionals? Just other staff members? How do you set up for production?

KD: Our videos are produced in house by our Creative Specialist, Liz Cooke, as well as program managers at our Lean Logistics Center. To set up our video production, we purchased a camera, tripod, and video editing software.  We typically spend a lot of time planning out a video before shooting - writing scripts, drawing storyboards, and creating shot lists.

KW: What help do you provide to the people making the videos?

KD: In addition to group collaboration in the planning phase, our team members also take turns as actors, dolly operators, sound specialists and controlling the teleprompter. Although only one person is necessary to run the camera and edit the footage, it takes a team to help in all areas of video production.



KW: If someone was totally unfamiliar with setting up channels in YouTube, what would you advise them to do?

KD: Setting up and using a YouTube account is easy, and using a few simple guidelines anyone can be successful.
    •    Choose a username that incorporates your company name and/or the products you represent.
    •    Make your first 30 seconds exciting and draw your audience in. People will generally tune out of a web video quickly if they're not engaged.
    •    Keep videos in the 3-5 minute range. If you simply must make it longer, split it up into segments. (I.e. How to implement 5S in the workplace: Part 1, How to implement 5S in the workplace: Part 2)
    •    When uploading your video to YouTube, fill out a concise and informative description. When searching for videos, users will see two things: a video still  and the description. Make it interesting so people will click on your video.
    •    Keywords are your best friend. Keywords are how search engines pick videos to recommend. In addition, after watching a video YouTube will offer suggestions what to watch next, these are based on keywords— so choose words that relate to every facet of your business and you can't have too many. However, don’t choose extraneous keywords that have nothing to do with your video. Your viewer will figure it out quickly and resent the misleading information.

KW: You are using lots of other channels. Briefly, what is your approach to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, e-newsletters?

KD: We have a LinkedIn group called The Lean Supply Chain that just reached over 1,000 members. We use this group as a collaborative forum to share news, articles, events, job positions, and best practices. Supply chain professionals post inquiries about workplace topics and to gain insight from other members.

We started the Lean Logistics Blog in January that now averages 2,500 view per month. Posts are written by LeanCor team members and posted every Wednesday. We use Twitter (@LeanLogBlog) to mainly promote the blog.

The Lean Supply Chain Digest is our monthly e-newsletter filled with tips, tricks, news, and events. We recently started a series in the newsletter called The Adventures of Lynn Lean and Tommy Traditional. It’s a running story about two conflicting managers within the same company and their journey of continuous improvement. We just posted the first issue in July’s newsletter and are anxious to see readers’ responses down the road.

We are not active on Facebook, as I do not yet see the value for B2B companies that do not offer product coupons/promotions.

KW: What have you learned? Are you seeing results yet?

KD: I have learned that social media and content marketing takes time and persistence. It takes time to grow a social media following – whether it be blog readers, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn group members. You need to be dedicated to constant content creation, engagement, and keeping current with industry. Social media is here to stay in the business world, and the logistics and supply chain industry is no exception. We have seen major growth in website traffic, database growth, and general network growth.  Our current strategy seems to be working.

For more social media networking tips for leaders, check out my new Lean Reflections page

Aug 5, 2011

test your standard emails

I ordered a lamp last night from a store I have not shopped with before. Order acknowledgements are great for automation, but here is part of what I received:


"In-stock orders ship from our warehouse in Kentucky and typically arrive anywhere in the continental U.S. within 710 business days, while White Glove deliveries typically arrive within 23 weeks from the order date. All orders shipping to Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico may take longer." 


The shock was lessened because I had read the shipping policies on the website before ordering and knew that they meant 7 to 10 days and 2 to 3 weeks.


I don't know what happens between their e-mail generator and my gmail account via Comcast, but apparently some hyphens were dropped. A systems analyst once reminded me that when detailing a value stream for communications, all the databases, programs, hardware, channels, along the way need to be considered. There's a bunch of coding and decoding, bits and bytes, electrons and microwaves between you and me.


There are always oddball email processes, but I'm surprised that one as common as my method of receiving a message hasn't been tested and bullet-proofed.


In the meantime, I sure do hope I don't have to wait two years for my lamp. I think I will check on it if I don't get it a year from now.


TEST, TEST, TEST!

Jul 13, 2011

Andrea Kozek on social media, Part 2

The AME Social Media Council also talked with Andrea Kozek (see Part 1 of my report on our conversation) about trade shows, since we are looking ahead to the AME fall conference in Dallas and deciding on our approach. We know our exhibitors are doing the same thing, and maybe we have some opportunities to collaborate with them. Everyone wants to know how much it will cost and what the ROI will be. Andrea warns that it’s hard to quantify.

What do conference attendees want that social media can deliver? Social media may allow exhibitors to leverage onsite resources by talking to customers in real time, as more people use social networking apps on their phones. Live tweeting is growing.

Hashtags* are becoming extremely important. They organize Tweets about a topic. For the AME conference, it’s #AMEConf2011. If you have a hashtag search in Twitter or an app like Hootsuite, you can meet people or have a conversation online as if you were sitting at the same lunch table. Or you can arrange to sit at the same lunch table. The hashtag should be heavily promoted on the website, in brochures, in email promotion, etc., and used on all your relevant social messages.

We know that people who attend our conference are excited about their experience and place a high value on what they learn and who they meet. We want to spread the excitement through social networking to more people so they want to share the experience this year.

A conference creates a captive audience and social media is one more way to get individuals to seek you out and pay attention. Whether you’re an exhibitor, the conference organizer, or perhaps a workshop leader, Andrea suggests that the secret may be to give the social media users something that other attendees can’t get. Some possibilities?

• VIP seating at a keynote address.
• Dinner coupons at local restaurants. Check with the local business liaison to conference. Unique content available to social media users.
• An exclusive place to go like our planned Social Media Lounge. Andrea suggests requiring a code or password for entry that will be shared socially.
• Form a user group at the conference

For followers not at the conference, there might be live video clips, professionally produced or not. Questions might be relayed to speakers. You can remind people of upcoming keynote and technical sessions, and tweet inspiring ideas and tips. Sharing the experience may bring some of those people to next year’s conference.

I’m grateful to Andrea Kozek for sharing her time and experience with our council. She’s a social media maven to watch, and Brady Corp deserves kudos for devoting resources to experimenting with social media to learn how it can benefit the company. If nothing else, it should be proud of being an early leader in the social media race.

Would you like an invitation to one of our exclusive Social Media Council conference calls? Email me at Karen.m.wilhelm@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do. No promises, however.

Details
Brady Corp www.BradyID.com
Twitter @BradyNASocial
Facebook: Brady North America www.facebook.com/BradyNorthAmerica
Association for Manufacturing Excellence Annual Conference sponsor and exhibitor
Andrea Kozek, Social Media Manager

Vocabulary
*Hashtag - prefixing a keyword with a # sign on Twitter in a tweet.

Jul 11, 2011

Andrea Kozek on social media at Brady North America

I started paying more attention to Brady Corp, manufacturer and distributor of many things for creating a visual workplace, when Brady answered questions I asked on the AMEConnect Facebook site. I also saw retweets* and #FFs** from BradyNASocial in Twitter. There seemed to be a real person behind the logo who made me feel good about the company, who was using the relationship-building approach to social media. Our social media efforts were getting a boost from theirs. This was someone I thought I could learn from.

I sent a Twitter direct message*** and asked if the person behind the messages might be willing to join one of our AME Social Media Council conference calls. Andrea Kozek replied that she’d be happy to. We chatted on the phone and I told her more about the council and AME; she told me more about Brady Corp and her approach to its social media. Andrea has years of experience with PR and social media in industrial companies as well as with coaching executives and celebrities.
I was right about her being someone we could learn from. [This is an example of what I call escalating a social media relationship: Follower/like, to comments, to direct message, to phone meeting, and so on… networking.]

On our call, Andrea talked about social media as a way to develop relationships with customers and potential customers, not to push promotion on them. She cites a few of her principles:

  Pursue online visibility
  Avoid “shiny objects” (because it’s hot or popular doesn’t mean it’s the right fit)
  Be selective about channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc….)
  Become a trusted business advisor to your audience

She says she’s found that people in manufacturing are somewhat slower to engage in social media. (We found that 30% of AME’s members don’t use any social sites at all.) Two obstacles for both internal users and customers are access to a computer during the day, in some companies, blocking of channels. Smart phones are changing the game, however.
What Andrea is aiming for is more people from her company representing it online, because that reflects favorably on Brady. That echoes my point that leaders in any organization should bite the bullet and get into the conversation, any conversation.
Increasing and sustaining meaningful activity also tends to increase page rankings on search engines, if that’s one of the goals you are pursuing.
Brady is now taking the temperature of the most-used and some up-and-coming social networking tools, Andrea told us, trying to see what happens. Here’s how it looks now:


·      Twitter: observe people, share a little bit of knowledge, gather opinions
·      Facebook: Fewer people join (“Like”) their Facebook page, but the number is growing. Facebook has helped employees learn about what’s going on in other parts of the company.
·      LinkedIn: Focused on people rather than companies. Collaboration with key individuals at Brady with expertise in using their products to build profiles and to understand how to use relationships to advance the company’s interests.
Andrea Kozek's 
LinkedIn profile
·      YouTube: Brady is looking for link building and information sharing. The focus is on adding value, with videos on how to do a better job with lean and solve specific problems with items Brady sells. The emphasis is on “how to” rather than selling the products.


        Flickr: Image searches on the web are growing, which is why this photo sharing site is growing as well. Brady is creating galleries showing examples of visual workplaces, something that many of us want to see and get ideas from. 

The company wants to get information on trends, competitors, or leads. To do this, a company must give people the time and ability to monitor channels to pick up on issues rapidly. 


Next post: Social media, conferences, and trade shows.

 Vocabulary
*Retweet - Prefixing someone’s message with RT to forward it to your followers to share something especially appropriate or interesting. It helps them by expanding the number of people who become aware of them.
**#FF - “Follow Friday” On Fridays, people use the #FF hashtag before a list of twitterers (@AMEConnect for example) you think are notable. Helps them and you

Jul 7, 2011

What's in a name? Success or failure

Do you call it lean, operational excellence, or continuous improvement? Does it matter?

Yes, it does. You will live with your choice for a long time, and it had better connect with your "market" positively. If you don't think about what resonates with the people you need on board, you will have already picked an uphill battle.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

Jun 12, 2011

Small successes in manufacturing showing up

My daily sweep of manufacturing news brought in quite a few signs of  strength in smaller companies in the U.S. Many of you know that I feel we need manufacturing everywhere in the world for the greatest potential for prosperity. At the same time, I'm especially happy to see good things happening to my neighbors.

A hearty appetite: The local food and beverage industry grows despite the recession
Lane County, Oregon -- where my sister Diane lives, by the way, is holding onto jobs because of innovative food manufacturers, seeing opportunities in changing consumer needs such as lactose-free frozen desserts and chocolate.

Bloom's price and reliability questioned: Fuel-cell maker promises up to 1,500 jobs
I have lots of family in Delaware. It was a blow when Chrysler shuttered its plant in Newark but Bloom Energy has promised they will add back 1,500 jobs to make fuel cell boxes. Realistically, we know that jobs like that take a long time to materialize, and sometimes fail to appear at all. This article shares good news, tempered with some skepticism.

Indiana an island of growth
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, has studied the data and feels good about Indiana. He says, "In the two years since the recession, the U.S. economy has lost 2 percent of its manufacturing employment. Indiana has not merely bucked the job loss trend, but added 4.6 percent more jobs in manufacturing. This is astonishing because the sectors of manufacturing that Indiana is most concentrated in have continued to lag nationally." And, yes, I have cousins living outside Indianapolis.

DE wants energy industry jobs;
CT has them
Made in Torrington: The face of the city's manufacturing community
Since the 18th century, Connecticut has been a manufacturing center. While its history-making machine tool industry has been slammed in the last couple of decades, don't count the New Englanders out.  Local companies are turning out furniture, chains, fuel cells, wind turbines, brushless motors and industrial adhesives. Rick Thomason's interviews with leaders of these companies show why manufacturing is an exciting business.

(when you click the following link, scroll down the page a ways to see the whole article...)
Pasco business fosters reputation for innovation
It's not all about the advanced energy industry. I like this story of one guy in Washington State starting with one machine in a garage, and now running a company making thousands of hydraulic jacks a year.

Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers
One reason why better business isn't pushing up job numbers is that manufacturers are finding lots of reasons to make capital investments with that extra cash we've been hearing about. Some people point to the mismatch between workers and job requirements I've discussed before, and some point to really good deals on automation and software. It's good news for someone (maybe elsewhere in the world) manufacturing that equipment or writing that software, not as much here where people are hurting. [As an aside, Mr. Dunkelberg's statement about having no unemployed farmers is just silly. We had them and still do ... where does he think industrial workers have come from ever since the first agricultural equipment was put to work?]

How will you live your manufacturing story this week? How will you make your company worth writing about tomorrow?

Jun 10, 2011

Blaming lean for closing sausage factories

A food producer and restaurant chain released its financial statement yesterday explaining a couple of items that cut into profits. Here is a quote:

"$2.8 million in restructuring charges [mostly severance payments] related to lean manufacturing productivity initiatives in the food products segment during the second quarter, including the discontinuation of fresh sausage operations at two facilities."

Leaving aside joking about lean sausage and lean manufacturing, it's obvious that lean initiatives in remaining facilities will face more employee resistance. Workers have seen what will happen if their facilities get too productive.

Is this a case of a difference in understanding between the manufacturing function, human resources function, and finance? Or the company's complete lack of understanding of what lean is about?

Jun 8, 2011

President Obama Shines Spotlight on Skills for America's Future

visit to GE 01/2011
http://scottwykoff.wbal.com/2011_01_01_archive.html
As I wrote a few days ago a manufacturing workforce shortfall is already hampering recovery of some companies. Among the solutions is the Manufacturing Skills Certification, a portable credential which brings standardization of curriculum and measurement to training. Much of what follows comes from a White House press release, and you may hear it on the radio or see it in the news.

Seeing the light
Jan 2011 visit to Orion Energy Systems
Today at Northern Virginia Community College, President Obama will announce expansion of Skills for America’s Future, based on industry partnerships with community colleges, with a nation-wide emphasis on workforce development, job training, and job placements.

The President's speech says, “Last year, we launched Skills for America’s Future to bring together companies and community colleges around a simple idea: making it easier for workers to gain new skills will make America more competitive in the global economy.  Today, we are announcing a number of partnerships that will help us make this a reality, by opening doors to new jobs for workers, and helping employers find the trained people they need to compete against companies around the world.”

The President's remarks boost the importance of manufacturing, in words that will sound familiar to many readers of Lean Reflections:

While the manufacturing sector has faced real challenges in recent years, it continues to be the lifeblood of the American economy. The manufacturing sector currently employs over 11 million Americans, and by itself it would be one of the 10th largest economies in the world. Manufacturing is also critical for our continued innovation; manufacturing companies account for two-thirds of private sector research and development and roughly 90% of all registered patents.  Most importantly, manufacturing has long provided good-paying jobs for millions of families and serves as the anchor employer in communities across America.
For that reason, our ability to win the future will depend in large part on our ability to train the most productive manufacturing workers in the world. This effort is especially important at a time when 2.7 million manufacturing employees are 55 years of age or older and likely to leave the labor force in the next 10 years.

One of the challenges in today’s manufacturing sector is the lack of a standardized credentialing system that manufacturing firms recognize as useful preparation for their unfilled jobs.  Students can spend time and money on training of little value while employers are unsure which credentials should influence hiring and promotions.

The Manufacturing Skills Certification System, developed with manufacturing firms at the table, is portable and valued by a range of employers. Partners include the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturing firms, the Gates Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation, ACT, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Welding Society, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills, and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council. The last-named have been developing and improving their certifications and bodies of knowledge for decades and its high time that work is recognized.

The manufacturing credentials and pathways will be available in community colleges in 30 states as a for-credit program of study.

People on the Skills for America's Future board, include Greg Brown, chairman and CEO, Motorola Solutions; William D. Green, chairman, Accenture; Penny Pritzker, chairman and CEO, Pritzker Realty Group (Chair); Brad Keywell, co-founder and director of Groupon, Inc.; Nick Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on Incorporated; David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications; Ellen Alberding, president, The Joyce Foundation; and Walter Bumphus, president and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges. Learn more about Skills for America’s future at www.skillsforamericasfuture.org.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) will jump in and promote a curriculum based on NAM’s advanced manufacturing skills certification system. The 60 centers will educate local manufacturers about the value of the skills certification system so they use it in recruitment and hiring efforts. The MEP also feed back skill needs of manufacturers in their local areas and industries.

High schools: Global manufacturer Air Products is partnering with SkillsUSA to encourage 3,500 member high schools and 200 colleges to adopt these credentials.

Finally, the excitement and opportunity of manufacturing for students will be reinfoced by “Discover Your Skills,” a Discovery Communications initiative designed to raise awareness of career opportunities including PSAs, on-air talent, their media properties and Discovery Education.

Jobs for America’s Graduates’ is adopting a five-year goal of helping 30,000 high-risk youth obtain professional credentials for careers that include manufacturing.  Archer Daniels Midland Company is JAG’s National Business Partner.

All-important mentorships will help 5,000 young people with the aid of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the SME Education Foundation and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and the National Academy Foundation.

The Department of Labor has already released an updated advanced manufacturing competency model outlining necessary the skills identified by industry groups.


Speeches can be just air, and programs can start with high hopes and fade into obscurity. Let's hope that these take root and support the learning we need in industry, and provide models for more.

Buried inside some of the skills and credentials we would hope to find plenty of problem-solving and continuous improvement skills. They have been proclaimed as needs even where lean thinking has not taken hold.


In addition, if you are a leader in a manufacturing company and near one of the community colleges taking part in the high-profile programs, it is a perfect time for you to get together with their manufacturing departments and contribute with internships and the revival of apprenticeship programs. If you are not there at the end of the pipeline, none of the training will do much to solve manufacturing's problems. Being involved will also help you influence programs tailored to your industry if it is not traditional metalworking, which gets most of the attention.

Jun 2, 2011

Inventory - need I say more?

Threadless is a T-shirt design, production, and marketing community sort of company. I found a photo on their blog but you'll have to research the company yourself if you want to know more. Obviously they have just learned something about inventory:

Here's what they say:

Threadless inventory complete - hidden tees revealed
"We've spent the last few days exploring the rarely seen depths of the Threadless warehouse. In our exploration we discovered tees long since thought gone. Here's your chance to score these tees if your brave and clever enough to find them. Good luck to you all and beware the cursed tee of Warehouse Manager Eddie Gobbo."
 Although they discovered a problem, they did act quickly with a way to unload the excess in exchange for cash.

May 30, 2011

Manufacturing workforce shortfall

A visit to local sheet metal fabricating firm Corry Contracting Inc., showed them the CAD software the firm was using. I don't mean to write an ad for a specific product, but one company deserves kudos. Doug Kafferlin, president of the company, tapped the Siemens Global Opportunities in Product Lifecycle Management (GO PLM™) for help. GO PLM is an example of a program that can entrance students who live for video games and let them experience the challenge of designing and manufacturing a real object.  It gives schools free software, including SolidEdge. By developing advanced CAD skills, said Corry contracting estimator Paul Kraft, “Corry students will be among the first to lead us into the next generation of mechanical design and implementation.”
2010 Winner - Thomas Hall
Southwood High School
Students in the technology program at St. Francis High School in St. Francis, MN,build an entire V-twin chopper from the ground up. With help from local businesses that offer parts and accessories, tool grinding services, and lessons on bodywork, painting, and metalforming, students feel the excitement of manufacturing a finished product while they gain skills local employers need.

GO PLM also sponsors a student design contest. A few winners:


2011 Winner - Alan Day
Brigham Young University
Unfortunately, there are far too few cases like these to fill the manufacturing workforce needs of today. And as experienced workers retire and knowledge walks out the door, the future is an even greater concern.

Research backs up the anecdotal evidence. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) surveys manufacturers regularly about workforce issues, and its 2009 report, People and Profitability: A Time for Change, [this updates the oft-quoted pre-recession 2005 report]  said employers are most worried about two general categories:

    51 percent reported moderate to serious shortages of skilled production workers (machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, and technicians) today, and the vast majority see increased shortages ahead.
    36 percent reported moderate to serious shortages of engineers and scientists today, and again, the vast majority see increased shortages looming.

Interestingly, when NAM compared more profitable firms to those that were less successful, differences in talent management attitudes emerged. Sixty-one percent of the most profitable firms, compared to only 43 percent of the least profitable, said a highly-skilled, flexible workforce was among their top three priorities for the future.

Manpower conducts an annual global survey of employers. In the 2010 Talent Shortage Survey, skilled trades tops the list of the top ten workforce categories that employers in the United States and Canada are having problems finding. Technicians ranked second, and engineers ranked eighth. These same job categories are among the most difficult to fill all around the world.

Advanced technical skills are hard enough to find. Worse, employers consistently report that applicants for job openings lack even the most basic skills. One contract drug maker in Cleveland said it received 3600 job applications for 100 job openings, yet could hire only 47 that fit their needs. The problem — too many fail basic reading and math tests.

Working on Solutions

To address the problem, NAM and the testing company ACT have developed a two-part system: an assessment tool called WorkKeys paired with a National Career Readiness Certificate, both relating to real-world workplace skills reported by employers and manufacturing associations as critical to job success. These are basic knowledge and thinking skills like problem solving, critical thinking, reading and applying work-related text, using math for work-related problems, and using graphical information.

When the National Career Readiness Certificate is required of applicants, employers do not waste time evaluating potential hires who do not meet the threshold. The WorkKeys assessment helps individuals understand what skills they need to improve, and the National Career Readiness Certificate gives them a goal. The system also aligns with high school and community college curriculum development and outcome goals.

The American Welding Society (AWS), the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) understand the workplace skills their members need and are partners in the program. They are also helping to develop other technical skill assessments and certificates.

Many professional and trade organizations offer resources to schools and scholarships to students to help meet workforce demand. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) helps educators interest children and young adults in engineering and technical careers and prepare them for that future. AME Alliance Partners APICS, ASQ, IIE, and SME have robust programs for educators and students, as do the AWS, SAE, and ASME. Associations also offer members lifelong learning opportunities and professional certifications to maintain and update their skills.

The leadership qualities required to support workforce development both within and outside their companies, as well as to drive lean transformations, are being addressed by the AME Institute, which is partnering with Arizona State University to create an intensive program called “Leadership Development for the Innovative Enterprise.”

Partnerships

In addition to students, unemployed and incumbent workers must be helped to update their skills and supply the talent manufacturers need. People devastated by the loss of jobs want to work, but just don’t have the right skills for today’s jobs. Economic development organizations, community colleges, and grant-making agencies in some states are realizing that the quality of the local workforce can make or break their ability to compete for new manufacturing investment in their communities. They go so far as to foot the bill for recruiting, screening, and training job-ready workers for new plants being built.

Local job loss is exacerbated by uncompetitive companies that shrink instead of grow. The same partnerships that up-skill the unemployed often support local manufacturers by helping them train their workers in basic skills, advanced manufacturing technologies, and continuous improvement. So-called incumbent worker grant funding for retraining is available from states, but smaller manufacturers need the grant writers, grant managers, and affordable training that good local partnerships can provide.

Much has been said about the root causes of the manufacturing skills crisis; there is no single solution. There are contributions that one person or one company can make, however. Lean leaders are problem solvers, team builders, and strategists, and Target will be sharing resources, ideas, and examples in the coming months to help our readers develop countermeasures for snags in the manufacturing talent supply chain.

Is our government listening? President Obama has said, “When it comes to workforce development, one of the most important things that we’ve all learned is how important it is to get businesses in early with the universities and the community colleges — a hugely under-utilized resource — to develop the actual training program so that young people have confidence if they go through this training program, they’ve got a job; businesses have confidence that if they hire these young people who went through the training program, they are trained for those jobs.”

Readers know how daunting it is to convince local schools, businesses, and families to get the picture. No need for another rant on that subject. I thought I'd do a bit of fact-checking for those of you who are raising your voices to spread the workforce message.

A version of this  article I wrote was previously published in Target magazine, from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

May 26, 2011

Companies doing a good job with lean

Attribution Some rights reserved by apdk
With real lean seeming like a matter of high hopes and subsequent disillusionment, it's good to hear from some folks in the trenches about what they see that is encouraging. I asked for recommendations of companies excelling at lean from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence LinkedIn group, and thought I'd share the tips with you.
Jeff: You may consider contacting MSI Mold Builders of Cedar Rapids, IA. I can likely give you several more - from both the US and Canada. Most of the shops that have survived have been very innovative with using the latest technologies available to them.

Tucker: we have several here in Illinois. Let me know if you want to talk.

Ron: The ZF Lemforder Axle Plant in Tuscaloosa is a close to a Toyota plant that I have seen. They are also a Shingo Prize winner.

Joe: If you would like to feature a small company I believe that Systems2Win in Nashville, TN is great example. Their take and practice of PDCA is excellent. It is embedded in their culture and practice exactly what they preach. Also Praxair and Sonoco are other companies that are getting along in their journey and have had some remarkable success.

Tom: We are working with the one of the last drapery and decorative window hardware manufacturers in the United States. They have fully embraced the methodology and are finding great success.

Fermín: I worked several years for Milliken and they were very focused in lean manufacturing in all the plants I visited in the States and in Europe.

Jeri: Another one would be Andersen Windows, Menominee WI Assembly facility. They are well on their way and the culture is quite evident.

Thanks to everyone who nominated a company. E-mail me at karen.m.wilhelm@gmail.com if you would like introductions.

Mar 25, 2011

Lean assessment basics

I spent a “Learning Friday” morning with some colleagues from the Michigan Lean Consortium at a session about lean assessments led by Debra Setman of Johnson & Johnson. Debra’s been involved lean assessments for 20 years at hospitals, manufacturing companies, IT organizations and J&J, and had a brisk, interactive, and fact-based introduction to them.

Debra says she doesn’t even like to call these 2 ½ day visits “audits” or “assessments.” They are coaching opportunities for the visiting team and learning experiences for the site being visited. The key is to have valid and consistent criteria that can be used to characterize a level of lean … what should we call it? Implementation? thinking? … for the purpose of sharing recommendations and recognizing strengths.

J&J uses a maturity model, starting with Stability, Flow, Pull, and Integration stages (as defined by J&J) of a number of categories of lean practice and thinking. For “Site Leadership Attitude,” for example, the evidence of a site’s stage of maturity is:

Stability: Excited and proactive about lean in the lean pilot area (LPA)
Flow: Excited and proactive about lean throughout the site value stream
Pull: Excited and proactive about lean throughout the value stream and at the key external partners
Integration: Excited and proactively involved with lean throughout the extended value stream. Servant-leader mentality exists throughout.

Debra emphasized that your organization could have different categories and definitions, depending on your company’s goals and understanding of lean. In fact, as requested beforehand, several people brought their own examples of assessments. Mike Taubitz from Lean Journey LLC had a simple Yes/No inventory checklist. Murray Sittsamer of The Luminous Group shared a fairly quick and easy scoresheet on a “worst practice” to “best practice” scale for a number of lean hallmarks.

It’s easy to get the criteria underlying several recognized awards-related assessments:

The Shingo Prize


The Manufacturing Awards of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence

The Baldrige Award is more oriented to classic quality objectives than lean, but many companies like using it for evaluation.  It has versions for education and healthcare.

For assessing your personal lean maturity level, you can review the AME/SME/Shingo Prize Lean Certification criteria that have been adopted by NIST and by many companies. There are a lot of related documents on the SME website: www.sme.org/leancert. (Go to the two lower boxes in the right-hand column for the links.)

What’s the value for the company of going through an assessment? Michael Bremer asked that question on the AME LinkedIn group -- you can add your thoughts to if you go to “AME just sent out a call for applications for its Manufacturing Excellence Award -- What do you think are some of the benefits a company gets when it applies for the award?

Not giving you the usual lengthy article about the presentation today -- if you want more information contact me at Karen.m.wilhelm …. At …. Gmail.com or dsetman … at …. its.jnj.com.

Mar 1, 2011

LinkedIn marketing secrets and strategies

Marketing events through LinkedIn groups

A problem AME Region leaders talk about is how to improve attendance at workshops and seminars. (Most other professional and training organizations are struggling with the same thing, so substitute the name of your group wherever I've used "AME.")

LinkedIn groups and communities...
...Make it personal...
attract, don't drive, people...
...through relationships and trust...
gradually...
...influence a network of professional connections...
allowing them to...
...pull what they need.

Let's explore using LinkedIn groups to lift workshop activity. Before you start, get all the details about the event, the marketing messages, and registration process onto a website. That's your anchor for what comes later. Test it -- often.

Most of us have heard that to sell something you need to show WIIFM: "What's in it for me?" Social marketing adds emotion -- WIIWM:  "Who's in it with me?" Groups are all about who's in it with me, so consider emotion in your discussion of an event.

Some thought starters for you:

Where's the pain, and does this workshop help people remove its cause?
What do you strongly believe in, and how does the workshop relate?
What's going on now -- are you talking to the speaker about what's going to happen in the workshop? Tell us about it. Ask for ideas.
Move the discussion to the group page by asking the speaker to get into the mix.
And build networking into the event. Let people registering know about the group, for advance workshop-related discussions, and talk about it at the event to encourage post-event discussion about what people did and what they learned.

As a leader in AME, you should be part of the AME LinkedIn group, and support a regional subgroup, if you have one. The group includes people who are dues-paying AME members, and many more who are not who but have chosen to affiliate themselves with us. They may know a lot or a little about AME, lean, Toyota, jargon, etc. They are likely to be in manufacturing, but many are in other industries. We have thousands of people here who can be influenced to see that AME is a network of people engaged in the pursuit of perfection and ready to listen, chat, and help. We need to see the smiling faces of AME leaders and hear what you have to say. When you are recognized as a real person who believes in AME, your invitation to an event means a lot.

Discussions
The value of a group grows when members ask questions, share experiences, get help with problems, and help one another on the discussion page.

If you were at a party of business meeting, you might drop a hint that you were involved in an upcoming workshop, but you wouldn't ask someone to read a brochure and get out their checkbook. Framing a discussion as a straight-out marketing message is just as out of place. Even twisting a marketing pitch into a question and adding a link is cheesy - a link pulls the reader away from the page and defeats the purpose of discussion.

So what would be a good question?

Greg framed one nicely: "Chad from ATTC Mfg is preparing a Jishuken event at the upcoming AME workshop at ATTC in Tell City, IN. Would anyone like to share their Jishuken best practices?"

What I liked:
1. Greg talked about Chad, not himself, and gave Chad credit for his work.
2. He asked an open-ended question, with real curiosity.
3. He left time to add details later in the discussion.

What I wished:
1. I couldn't remember what Jishuken meant, so asked Greg if he'd like to expand on it in a follow up comment.
2. Chad, other region leaders, and other folks participating in the event would come to the page and start discussing it among themselves. This would take some behind-the-scenes orchestration, but would bring others into the act. Even if it didn't, the workshop would start off with people who were better acquainted and primed to start learning and sharing. It would also be cool to have people stay with the discussion after the workshop. How could Greg encourage them to do that?
 3. That there were more members in the Great Lakes subgroup. If the discussion had been placed in the 3,200-member AME group, the chances for involvement would be greater. That tells us that we either have a lot of work to do in growing our regional groups. It's a learning process.

In her question a few weeks ago, Ellen Sieminski moved up the "pull" value stream by asking the group about workshops they would like to see at the October AME Conference. She got eight good suggestions for designing the product to fit the needs of the customers.

A significant few
Should she be disappointed that there are only eight responses? The rule of thumb of community behavior is the 90-9-1 rule -- or perhaps the Pareto distribution -- if roughly 10% of the group's members are visiting (or lurking), that's 300 people. If one tenth participates somehow, that's 30. Too few? It's 30 more than would be acting if we did nothing. Those eight people we heard from have been nudged a little to attend now that they have read the question and chimed in with their ideas.

Member email updates
Questions that appear in the groups will appear as email updates members have opted to receive. Those who don't hang out regularly on the group will have a chance to see the message. Some percent of those will open and read the email, some fraction of those will click to the discussion, and some fraction of those will take another action while they are on the group page.

Announcements
We don't have to depend on members making the effort to visit the group page on LinkedIn. The group admin can send an announcement to the members as often as once a week. For a group like AME's, with a natural reason to promote AME events, I think it's OK to be more direct in an announcement email. If the admin is an AME leader, it's an opportunity for him or her to show commitment to the organization and say why the event is noteworthy. We've underutilized announcements. Leaders, we could develop a strategic schedule of them.

LinkedIn also offers a couple of other tools: Events and Ads. We'll take them up in a future post.

Feb 28, 2011

Don't discount email as a social media tool

Social media attracts workshop attendees

I got into a conversation with Greg Bruns, AME Great Lakes Region President, about how social media fits into the need to promote region events, when I got this email he sent to members:

Hello -

Event Alert!

Greg Bruns (Yours Truly) has queued up a excellent "Making the Abnormal Visual" workshop at ATTC Mfg (Tell City, IN).

There are a few seats remaining for the event.

http://www.ame.org/events/making-abnormal-visual-hosted-attc-manufacturing

Just announced! Folks who are planning to arrive the night before will be invited
to a dinner (with drinks) at no additional charge (Hosted by Perry County Development Corp.and ATTC Mfg).
Plan is to have an "Open Mic" night to share best practices.

Also, attached is the electronic flyer for your review.

Thanks in advance ...

Regards,

Greg Bruns
AME Great Lakes President

I replied to Greg and asked how the approach was working -- after all, e-mail is the social medium we're all most comfortable with. He replied:

One hour after I sent out the email, received response from a few and sold several seats to the event (On Saturday!).
Few weeks ago the sales for the Bimbo Bakery tour needed a boost. Along with everything else our team was doing, I sent the email blast, it sold out.
Received a few emails recently from the member base that they appreciated the fact that the
AME regional president took the time to send them a personal invite.

What I am finding out from the member base is that they care about AME and will participate if they
know that the president cares and that the president participates.

Cool stuff... So much fun...


Greg

Greg makes some important points:

  • It worked in two different cases
  • Members appreciated hearing from a real person
  • The message is personal and informal, not marketing-speak
  • Greg's position as President was a factor
  • Members care if they see the leaders care
  • Members participate if they see the leader participates
  • Greg had fun doing it

We're going to talk later this week about how to add LinkedIn to the process. I say "add" because it's not more effective than the e-mail -- there is no "one best way." It just accomplishes different things. More on that tomorrow.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm