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... 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:

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.

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.

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.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm