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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June 3, 2015

Getting Done the To Do’s

What would you do if you had 1 hour more a day? Where would you spend it?

We all talk about time management, but few of us do anything about it. I recently was a guest at talk by my good friend Arnie Rintzler and these are my notes:

The formula for well being — mentally and physically — is time management. Life is not a spectator sport, so learning to manage your time so you can do what you really want to do, is extremely valuable.  

The people we admire and trust the most are usually those who keep their word and promises on time. You must give your word, and recognize that trust is the highest praise. Many of us are so poor at time management that we don’t trust ourselves to give our word i.e. we get done what we focus on in our time calendar.  

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep maybe 56 hours, work 55 hours, eat 14 hours, travel 14 hours, and that leaves 30 + hours to get other things done. If we prioritize and focus we can accomplish great things!

MLP can help you accomplish your life goals. Here are a couple ways to get you started:

  1. Hint: Don’t put C items on your Daily Things to Do list or on your calendar.  
  2. Hint: If I gave you $86,400 dollars every day and you had to spend it — no carry over — how would you spend it? You have 86,400 seconds every day, spend it equally wisely!

December 17, 2014

Success : What does it look like? And how will you achieve it?

What does Success look like? For you personally and in your business?

The end of the year is a great time to reflect, and to think about the plan for next year. In our Kaizen events we always suggest that we spend 40% of the time defining the problem. Thus, this time of year we certainly must finish strong, but also make time for planning the next year. Good planning starts with the question “What do you want for next year?”

Suggested step number 1 is “What do you want the end of year next year to look like?” Take into consideration how many new customers, how many existing customers, how many fired customers, total volume, profit, cash flow, employees, equipment, productivity, and the list goes on! Don’t forget to also envision what you want your personal life to look like: health, mental, family, financial, spiritual, social, etc..

Karen and I have been working on our own Plans for 2015. For our business, we have enough statistics to project how many events, how many sales meetings, and even how many sales calls we need to achieve specific desired revenue. We set up a simple metric chart to track key indicators that help us predict and plan for the future.

I suggest that after you have identified what success will look like, you identify key actions required by you and your employees to make these goals happen. You should also establish how you would measure and track these actions.

We know that success businesses center around People, Planning and Processes. Try to include these three areas in your success and key actions model.

A Test To Help Weigh The Risks

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Motivation,Professional Development — Alec @ 3:42 pm

Every day — in life and business — is a test. And if you like tests as much as I do, you are in luck!

The tests come in many forms, usually: Think, Produce, Value

We have to Produce, but we also must Think and plan some depending on the complexity, value and risk associated with the work to be accomplished.

I am a very big risk taker, but I always want to take into account and estimate the cost or severity of failure. I always want to evaluate the ability to reverse my actions. In other words, it is an easy and inexpensive risk to test a new flavor of tea, but very expensive and hard to reverse risk to buy a new convertible on a whim.

It is essential to understand the impact on the company, boss, employees and goals when considering high value and high severity actions. Corrections are easy on a wrong flavored cup of tea, but not so easy on a $250,000 machine that proves wrong.

And finally, the real score keeper is the customer. How will they accept and evaluate the risks you take and their inevitable success or failure?

In your Plan for 2015 you have already thought about what next year should look like. Now you need to analyze the details and Think:

1. What do you really want to or need to accomplish?
2. What risks are you willing to take? What is the Value of these risks?

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to stop, wake up, and think about your 5-year plan and make sure your 1-year plan fits with the bigger picture.

So, do a little mental reboot, nudge your risk-taking dream machine, and don’t be afraid to think about what you REALLY want.

Need help with your reboot? Call us! We love dreaming about what your company could be. We will help you pass your next big test.

December 9, 2014

To Do Lists : What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

I thought about this morning as I was driving back from a networking meeting with a long-time friend. I was thinking of all the things on my To Do list today, and that I could cross off this networking meeting, but that I also needed to add a couple actions that he suggested.

My daily Things To Do (TTD) list is broken down very clearly into personal and business tasks. I even circle the ones that I feel I MUST do today and I write my affirmations at the top of the page. However — and this is a hefty observation — we must never forget one thing when looking at our to do lists:

Don’t confuse tasks and affirmations with goals.

Goals are the real objective; what do you really want to accomplish? These tasks and affirmations are just great tools to speeding up the process and staying focused. Affirmations give you the power of positive thinking, but they do not accomplish the goal. Tasks may move you toward the goal if you have tasks related to the path. We must do the tasks, we must have affirmations, but we must keep in mind:

Crossing off completed tasks on your To Do list is not your goal.

Simple Steps To Help You Win Big

1. If you want to be a winner, you must try.

2. If you don’t try, the probability of success approaches zero.

3. If you add a goal, and try, are tenacious and persistent, the probability of success approaches 40%.

4. And if you add that you tell someone else your goal and they share the value of the idea, the probability of success approaches more than 50%.

5. If you use the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) model to accomplish your goal to all the above, the probability of success is 60% or greater.

6. If you use Value Stream Map (VSM) and Variation Reduction (VR) to select that goal, the results will fall to the bottom line.

You can’t be a winner just once and be successful. You must repeat this process every day on every significant problem and opportunity. So, if you are consistent and do steps 1-6 every day, the process will become a habit, and you will be a big winner.

June 16, 2014

What’s new at MLP

As a few of you know, for the last 3.5 months and through June, I have been the interim President & CEO of Swiss Tech LLC (ST) in Delevan, Wisconsin.

Thus, I have renewed empathy for all the things you do as a Profit Loss Manager of your company. It has been 6 years since I left Symmetry – doesn’t seem like that long, but I had forgotten all the little issues that seem to spiral out of control and become huge. We at ST had a less than stellar year last year. But things are slowly turning into a very good 3 months of the last 4. And we are a little ahead of plan year-to-date. We have a very good team of people and hopefully we can keep them all happy. When you are working mandatory 55 hours a week, people get edgy.

I would love to tell you about all the changes we have made to improve the financial performance. There have been a lot; Quoting Accuracy, Lead Times and Load Reports Accuracy, Off-loading the Herby (Eli Goldratt constraint), as well as Hiring and Retaining skills. It has all been challenging and fun. Which brings me back to my point of empathy. I have a improved understanding for the things you do every day! And I have a renewed tool kit of things tried and failed / succeeded.

I should be back on track to be “calling on you” soon. End of June or early July, right after my huge “Honey Do” list and a few miles of bicycling to catch up on.

Email me if you want to know what worked. I’d love to hear from you!

January 29, 2014

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Filed under: Motivation,Personal Philosophy,Services — Alec @ 12:58 am

Just what does DMAIC mean? Define, Measure, Analyze, Implement, Control

But what does that REALLY mean? It means you use a process to get it done, solve the problem, improve the process quickly.

A preacher was moving his desk from one office to another by himself. It was of those big old oak desks that do not move easily. He was pushing and pulling, breaking a sweat. The move was going really slowly. His 4-year old son was watching and then he ask if he could help. His dad said, “Sure!” So they both put a shoulder to the desk, grunted, groaned and had very little impact. Finally the 4-year old said, “Just move out of my way and let me do this!” Makes you wonder where he heard that.

There is some truth to the thought “Just get out of the way!” Except, then you have a new problem because no one else learns anything. And worse, sometimes we still don’t get the project done because sometimes we don’t address the root cause.

We think we can do it quicker and better with brute force. But we can’t. Work smarter NOT harder! With a team of people, working smarter, the task is easier and results better. With a little knowledge, a good team, some perseverance, control, focus, and the consideration of stakeholders you can accomplish huge things!

I always recommend you spend 40% of your time defining the problem so you make sure to fix the problem you really want to fix. I also highly recommend you go directly to the location of the problem. Where you go, where you look, how you look, will determine your success. You must go to the root of the issue to fully define the problem. If you go daily to the Mill Department and spend all your time talking to Mill employees…you will have a hard time improving the Lathe Department.

Do yourself a favor and don’t get out of the way. Think smarter; get a team to move the desk.

January 22, 2014

Go Forth and Share!

The night after I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s biography/autobiography Man’s Search for Meaning, I had a dream that I think was inspired by the book. Frankl discusses his personal journey and how he discovered his primary drive in life was not pleasure but rather the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

In my dream, I was standing in front of one of my monthly communications meetings in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Clarksville plant was a greenfield project that Noe Gaytan, Dick Brisson and I started as a corn field and became a 200-employee Antilock Brake plant. The plant and the people I worked with there have been among my favorites throughout my 46 years of manufacturing. Noe, Dick and I helped form the culture and the employees were attentive to my goofy speeches and weekly letters.

Back to my dream – so, I am in front of the group and I shout out, “What is the meaning of life?” They shouted back in unison, “Feed my fishes!” So I shout, “And…?” and they respond back, “Share your bread and fishes!”

Now, I never actually remember saying “Feed my fishes”, but then again this was a dream. I often threw around the phrase “Teach them to fish…” like the old quote ‘give them a fish and feed them for a day, teach them to fish and feed them for a lifetime’. In my dream it may have been related to the Sermon on the Mount that we have been studying in our Bible study group. Or it may have been my subconscious pulling memories of mine remembering the biblical reference to ‘feed my sheep.’

I often did tell my employees to “share your bread and fishes.” I wanted the employees and managers to share skills, knowledge and rewards. I encouraged them to share behavior and the whole cultural improvement process. I still strongly believe in those sentiments. Whether inspired by biblical references and Viktor Frankl’s words on finding the meaning of life, they are solid ideals to live by.

I truly believe there is a great personal reward when you teach someone else to fish – when you share a skill or knowledge – and it helps someone to achieve at least part of their dreams. It was a fun dream to wake up from; truly, the meaning of life for me was always and is still to help others find their meaning in life, just as Frankl wrote. So go forth and share!!

July 24, 2013

People Skills : It’s All in Your Head

When I was writing my book, Food For Thought, I kept editing and rewriting and re-editing. I realized that this was going take me a lifetime to get just right. So I decided to let go of the “perfect” part and publish my ideas in the hopes that some small part will help you in the continuous communications process. Obviously I needed some direction and input so I enlisted the help of a few people – special thanks Stef, Rob (my son), and Karen (my wife) for your contributions!

Why am I telling you all this? There might be a lot of people who should be writing this Food For Thought epistle about People Skills other than me. Since Communications and People Skills are so instrumental in improvement, we have a need for such a discussion. It doesn’t hurt for me to remind myself of this from time to time and share my experiences so that I can continue to improve. We all need a touch of humility, a smidgeon of self-confidence, a ton of listening skills, empathy, and a dash of compassion in our lives!

Last night Karen (my wife) and I were discussing People Skills. I asked, “What were my people skills like when I was twenty-five or thirty? Unfortunately, she didn’t remember (thank goodness). But we both remembered that I laughed a lot and liked people. I am sure I was a typical young engineer who had very little empathy, but as I grew older I had several bosses with excellent interpersonal skills. I tried to observe and copy their people skills.

Ray Hartenstine in Philadelphia was without question always perfectly honest and open with everyone, but very caring and tactful. Bob Ruffin at Bendix (Allied Signal) was a great listener and very empathetic. He could communicate with anyone at any level and seemed to really know everyone’s personal interests. There was Jim Fox at Bendix (Allied Signal) who was my hero at tough love. He coined the phrase TROOP (Total Respect Of Other People) and he lived it. He treated everyone fairly but set tough, high standards. He did not appear to have favorites but was compassionate. How did they do it? Maybe they were born with that inherent ability. However, I believe you can develop your People Skills if you have a true, sincere desire to improve and if you genuinely like people.

My colleague Stef and I discussed how to improve People Skills and the way of life at GE. He stated that often it is not what you read, seminars you attend, or observing your mentor. Most often it is a significant event in your life. I completely agree with him! The loss of a parent or friend, taking care of a grandparent with Alzheimer’s or a special needs child, losing your job or your business ­­– these are all significant events that will profoundly alter your perspective. It will likely influence a change in your Value System and thus your People Skills.

Many people overlook People Skills as an important tool in the workplace. Maybe you have employees that say they don’t want to waste time and energy improving their people skills. My response is that you will be far more successful, your projects far more timely, and your job a lot more fun and rewarding working with people rather than against them. It takes only minutes a day to improve our People Skills because the obstacle is all in our heads! What have you got to lose? If you try, your People Skills can’t get worse.

June 27, 2013

Getting Results : Delivery and Dollars

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Motivation,Professional Development — Alec @ 4:49 pm

Some of the best employees I ever had work for me were the very same employees someone else thought I should let go. This has always been a mystery to me – I don’t know how to explain this other than maybe it is the job, or sometimes the employee versus boss chemistry, could be the boss, might be the employee motivation, or every so often it is just timing. I have also been let go several times in my career. I know there were things I could have done differently, but most of the time it was just either chemistry or the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, I always liked to think it was the boss just making a mistake (LOL). Judge your people for yourself. Don’t always take another’s word for it.

In my opinion, as managers we have a huge impact on what our people produce. This is a product of the power of positive expectation, the willingness to tolerate and even encourage diversity. The power of listening and involving leads to more motivated employees and creates a better work environment for our employees.

What do we want? On-time delivery or Dollars? Obviously, we want both. If I had to state a number of priorities in order, it would be as follows:

  1. Involve, encourage, enrich, listen, train, and fairly compensate our employees.
  2. Customer satisfaction numbers. Service. Quality. On-time Delivery.
  3. The numbers, EBITDA dollars, Cash Dollars, Ship dollars, Order dollars (in that order—percent does not count).

And, of course we want all three!

If we empower and train our people as well as understand the metrics in goals #2 and #3, we will have a winner. Let your people make the daily decisions that improve the numbers.

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