Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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May 29, 2013

The 10 Best Days of Your Life

Take a minute think about the ten best days of your life. Why were they so memorable?

Think about three people who had the greatest positive influence on your life and why. You should write these three or better yet, call them and tell them how thankful you are. You may also take another minute and think about your five worst days.

I had a hard time coming up with just ten best days and I would like to think I still have a few of my ten best days left. In every case, my best days were the result of giving or receiving gifts from people as opposed to giving to myself. Yes, my first date with my wife and the birth of our three children make the list. But other best days involve work and friends!

I could not limit my most influential people to three. There were my parents, two high school teachers, a pastor in my youth, an engineering mentor, and a boss mentor among the group of people who had a significant impact on my life. At the time, a few of my worst days were work-related but now, years later, they weren’t really so bad. In fact, as I look back, some of them ended up being a significant positive influence on my life.

What will we remember ten years from now? Will some of these days or these people we work with be our best days or our most influential people? We can’t make influential people or most memorable days for ourselves, but we can for others. To be a better employee (and person) we need to participate in life; be a part of it all. Make a difference! Help someone else. Be a mentor. Be a trainer. Be a positive influence. Share your skill and share your knowledge. Don’t forget to enjoy it!

May 22, 2013

Are You Motivated to Succeed? Or Just Motivated?

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Motivation,Services — Alec @ 1:53 pm

Motivation by definition means we have a reason, incentive or inducement to take a certain action. The word itself motivated does not qualify how much or how highly likely we are to take that action. We might say people are motivated or highly motivated, but that is still very relative.

So, how motivated are you? Rev. Rob (our son) mentioned on Facebook a few days ago that he, “was getting a lot done, but I don’t know what I am doing.” I can relate. One of Yogi Berra’s famous Yogisms is that “when you come to a fork in the road, take it” and we have all heard the quote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Seems like a normal day for most of us.

The point I am trying to make is that it takes more than being just being motivated to get things done. We must be motivated to accomplish a GOAL. If there is significant incentive, reward or inducement to accomplish the GOAL, we may become highly motivated to act. If we can visualize ourselves accomplishing that GOAL and receiving the satisfaction, it may stimulate our focus.

Think of dieting. Many people quit after a few days or weeks on a diet. We have become a society of take 2 aspirin and I must feel better within minutes or else I will take 2 more. We make New Years resolutions and quit them by February 1st or before. That is a good example of motivation without action.

How do you do to stay highly motivated? Let’s talk about tools.      

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

2. Identify what has made you happy and sad in the past

3. Think about your future and how you can use your strengths and what has made you happy in the past to make you happy in the future

4. Identify some long-term goals; 20 years may be a stretch, so just identify 5-year goals

5. Identify some milestones at 1, 2 and 3 years that are steps to your 5-year goal. Little steps in the right direction will help keep up your focus.

6. Identify a few actions you can take this month to accomplish 1-year milestones

7. On the top of your daily Things To Do (TTD) list, write your 1-year goal and draw a Pink highlighter through it.

8. If you use a computer for your TTD list, set up a reoccurring task to repeat every day reminding you of your goal. Or put your 1-year goal on your sleep/screen saver.

9. Use the pink highlighter to highlight to draw attention to each action on your TTD list that is linked to your 1-year goal – there must be at least 1 item on your TTD that relates.

10. Eat your frogs (do the task you dread) first every day and get it out of the way

11. Visualize the success you will enjoy when you complete 1-year goal

Now you have the tools, can you stay motivated to accomplish your goals?

May 13, 2013

Making Good Decisions, Better

Visualize your best employee. Now let’s make some assumption based on this employee. I am guessing that you know 75% – 80% of what your best employee is doing. I am guessing that your best employee knows 75% – 80% what you want him/her to do and that they are doing it 75% – 80% of the time. Lastly, I am assuming that those 75% – 80% are similar but not identical.

Of course, there is also the list the employee wants to work on and that you do not want them to work on!!!

Concerning your best employee, would you agree with the following statements: [1] you have a clear expectation of their job description [2] they have a similarly clear expectation and [3] they usually work on those defined and mutually agreed tasks/goals.

If each of those three statements is 90% accurate, the resultant is 72% harmony. If the three of those statements is 80% accurate, the resultant is only 50% harmony. Big difference right? I think we would agree that having a clear agreement is critical to success.

I have read studies that show the best employee will individually:

• Make the best decision 30% – 50% of the time

• Make a good decision 67% of the time

• Make not so good decisions 20%+

• Make no decision the rest of the time

Multiply these out and the best case scenario for a “good” employee – 90% x 90% x 90% x 67% = 49% – gives you a 49% chance that the best decision on tasks and goals you want completed. The more probable result is not as high given 80% x 80% x 80% x 67% = 35%.

All these stats apply to your good employees. As you can imagine, bad employees are worse and can even be negative. Why? Our offices are too far apart. Studies show if your office is more than 25% away from someone, the communications accuracy drops. Email isn’t helping, but the telephone call does. Other leading factors include: We do not have clear succinct job descriptions with 3 to 5 short understandable points (25 words or less); The job descriptions are not measurable; and/or we don’t review them often enough.

If we want to fix the communication issues above, we must continue to do Management & Leadership Training that includes both Communication and Listening Skills development. Not just a one-hour speech, rather a session focused on habit changes, or time-spaced class structured around listening, communicating, decision-making, and team work.

Face-to-face daily Gemba walks reviewing an employees measurables or metrics will help tremendously (if you are not familiar with Gemba walks they are a fundamental part of lean manufacturing and include the action of going to see the actual process, understand the work, ask questions, and learn). Team decision making on critical issues helps employees make the best decision more often, but management and leadership training are the key.

May 8, 2013

Walking the Walk

­­­There is an old quote that goes something like:

Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.

I have always loved that philosophy. When I was the Manufacturing Engineering Director – in the early 80’s at Bendix – we started a program for engineers to spend a day a month on the floor doing an hourly job in their department. My idea. So I obviously signed up.

One of my first assignments was Master Cylinder Assembly. From my recollection, I think we had 36+ assembly lines, 182 different master cylinders and shipped 28,000 a day from the combined 3 shifts. Thankfully, some of them were unassembled, but we still shipped 25,000 assemblies a day. That meant each line had to produce 38+ per hour to meet this quantity, or 1 about every 102 seconds.

I was terrible the first 1 – 2 hours. But I started to get the hang of it until I was moved to another line that was completely opposite of the first. So, my learning curve started over. And then… I was moved again! The problem was that of the 36 lines there was very little standardization. Not due to Master Cylinder design but due to the generation of the assembly line. By the end of the day I was all out of order and putting in shipping plugs prior to being tested (not right)!

To make matters worse the Master Cylinder department was losing money and quality was poor. The result? We formed a “Lean Manufacturing” team to look for cost savings. As a member of the team we did a crude process map and a crude income statement for the department. We found that indirect labor was 400% of direct labor when you included setup time, inspection, machine downtime, etc.

The focus in assembly was to standardize ALL the assembly lines so they were similar. Add many Poke Yokes and interlocks so that each step had to be done in sequence and operations could not be skipped. After watching many operators and set-up people in assembly as well as having them on the Lean Team, we decided to make all tables, assembly fixtures and test stands almost identical with interchangeable fixture details. We also made all the assembly lines counter-clockwise walking.

The result was a 10% increase in uptime as a result of shorter set-up times. But more importantly a 20% increase in pieces per hour. The new test stands improved the product integrity when used with the added tests. Big changes!

Because of this success we had a product that was better quality for lower costs and happier employees.

May 1, 2013

Time, Knowledge & Wisdom

Take a moment think about the three people that had the most influence on your life. Normally these were the people that had some significant role in your life when you were young. I have thought about these people occasionally and even sent them several thank you notes over the last 30 years. Excluding my parents, spouse, and siblings, my three most influential people were [1] a pastor, [2] a high school teacher and [3] my brother-in-law.

At different points in my life they all gave me time, shared their knowledge, provided me with wisdom and had high expectations of me. They shared their experiences with me. What impressed me at the time was that they seemed to be intently interested in my success and were always willing to share. Looking back I realize that they were great listeners and great givers.

Like you, I have had dozens of peers and bosses that have had a significant impact on my life. One boss in Philadelphia helped me tremendously. He stressed People, People and Honesty. His second rule was Honesty, Honesty and People.

Now for the lesson of today’s blog : You can have that same impact on each other by sharing time, knowledge, wisdom, best practices, and most importantly listening! It is a lot more fun sharing and helping each other than working as an island. The greatest gifts, with the most impact, are sharing information and giving one’s time.

I am sure you have had significant people in your life. You might tell them.

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