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

Personal Assessments & Personal Development

Filed under: Personal Philosophy,Professional Development,Services — Alec @ 7:29 pm

McPherson Lean Partners has completed over 720 personal assessments during the last 7 years. If you want quick and lasting results that help each individual employee, this is one of the best tools. They really help people introspectively progress as well as work better in a team. We have used them and seen improvement for conflict management, team building, and in our one-on-one coaching.

There are several types of assessments. You probably know them as DISC or Myers Briggs. Assessments usually fall into one of 4 areas:

  1. How you act 
  2. How you think
  3. Why you think and act that way
  4. Emotional stability

Some people use them to hire and fire, but I prefer to use assessment tools for development. 

Call us, we would love to give you and your significant other a free assessment. You may be surprised how much you can learn about them from a personal assessment test!



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!

The Business Benefits of a Small Group

Filed under: Professional Development,Services — Alec @ 7:03 pm

Why use a small group in business? Small groups create space and opportunity to share ideas, to talk and listen, to question and practice. They provide an avenue to build teamwork. Small groups can make a huge difference in the success of a business or organization.

Putting 6 to 10 people with a common focus or goal together can encourage and motivate the participants to a higher level. When we see others on our team who are achieving new levels of success, it inspires us and makes us feel rewarded for our small role in that success.

Small groups help us be accountable because our team members are acting both as a safety net and as coaches/mentors.

Many of McPherson Lean Partners classes are small group sessions. We solve more that your problem, we help you build a team culture for ongoing growth and happy employees.

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.

October 28, 2013

Fail Your Way to Success

I love Dilbert. And I also love Scott Adams’ outlook on success. So when this article appeared in the WSJ on 10/12/13 I had to read it twice. (For your reference

I had a boss 40 years ago at Chevy Flint V8 Engine that told me it was much easier to be infamous than famous, and both people would be equally rewarded. I did not believe him then, but I do believe him now especially in the context of Adams’ article.

I like employees who have a passion for work. It’s great when they have passion to serve the customer, a passion to sell, and a passion to make money. I never had the desire to take the risk and start my own business from scratch. My passion was and still is cars and bicycles. I even wrote a business plan to start a business to make tandem bicycles. But, the business plan showed me that it was high risk, highly competitive and carried a low reward. So I decided against the business.

I enjoyed the part where Adams talks about defeats, what we learn, and luck. In my career I had lots of defeats (a good work to describe them), and lots of successes. I have looked back many times and realized that many of the successes followed defeats. They were the product of necessity and opportunity. I only once left a job on my own for a better job, and that ended up a bad decision. So, half my promotions came from taking risks when seeking a new career opportunity.

Take risks! Calculated risks. Know the potential reward. When opportunity presents itself, reach a little higher. In sales, sell to the rich. Or at least sell to those that can pay. Sell to those that can buy renewals. If you sell door–to-door vacuum cleaners, you don’t get a lot of repeat clients. People won’t buy another vacuum cleaner for years. However, if you sell door-to-door food, they will buy every week. If you are a small business have a passion to serve your customer. Anticipate their future needs and prepare.

“Show me a man who has never failed, and I’ll see a man who has never attempted anything”

— Unknown

August 28, 2013

MasterMind Alliance : Join our upcoming program!

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Professional Development,Services — Alec @ 3:30 pm

Starting in September, I will be co-facilitating the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce MasterMind Alliance groups with my sister-in-law Pinky McPherson, who is also a business consultant that focuses on developing people and talent within organizations. You don’t need to live in the Lowell area to participate, all are welcome!

If you have any questions, please contact Pinky McPherson at 616-446-5076 or
Contact the Lowell Chamber of Commerce at 616-897-9161 or to register.


Who do you turn to when you need to discuss a decision that can impact your business or employees?

Tap into the knowledge and experience of a group of your peers by joining the Lowell Area Chamber MasterMind Alliance. This group of business owners or people in top level business management is committed to listening and lending a fresh perspective to situations you face every day and some you have never encountered until now. All they ask is that you do the same for them in return. This is a chance to help your business, organization, your peers and your community.

WHEN: 2nd Tuesdays of the Month
September through June, 2013 – 2014

TIME: Choice of Alliance Group
Early Morning 7:30 am – 9 am
Lunch 11:30 am – 1 pm

WHERE: Flat River Outreach Ministry Board Room
11535 E Fulton, Lowell MI

WHY:  A Rewarding Program That Leads To Great Business Decisions!


1. Share Best Practices: Make well-informed business decisions based on the experiences of the group

2. Resolve Challenges: Have a group of trusted peers to openly and honestly share difficult and sensitive issues and learn what actions they took to overcome similar challenges

3. Leadership Development: Self Improvement both formally an informally

4. Enhanced Business Experience: Develop a unique synergy with group members, who often become confidants, to more fully enjoy the experience of being a business owner, CEO, Site Manager or Executive Director

5. Business Growth: Connect with your group to find the information and resources you need to manage change.

6. Valued Network / Advisors: Trusted individuals who serve as a sounding board, provide fellowship and an empathic ear, and are a phone call away

HOW DOES IS WORK ? You will be placed into a group:
• 7 to 12 men and women just like you, with non-competing businesses
• Become trusted advisors, coaches, counsel, trainers, and friends
• Assist each others business to go to the next level through the discussion, challenging questions and shared ideas
• Meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, September through June
• Structured meetings with some flexibility
• Participants give and receive coaching
• Participants help others manage their commitments
• Professionalism is an expectation and Confidentiality is a requirement
• Investments will be invoiced bi-annually
• Facilitators will guide the culture and structure of the meetings

$1100 per year for Chamber Members
$1300 for non-members
(A light breakfast or lunch will be provided)

Hope you will join us and I wish you success in the days ahead!

July 31, 2013

What is 5S?

We probably have discussed this before, but 5S is the foundation for all Lean and Kaizen events. What is 5S? In layman’s terms it is Personal, Professional and Process organization. Personal organization includes things to help you stay on task and keep track of your projects like your Things to Do (TTD) list, your computer hard drive and folders, and your email folders. As my Dutch Grandmother Nellie used to say, “A place for everything and everything in its place”. If you think you have a 5S program in place, you should be able to answer the following two questions affirmatively:

1. Can find anything you use on a daily or weekly basis in 15 seconds?

2. Do you have weekly 5S audits and post results with action items?

If you said no to either, you do not have a 5S program. Here are a few ways to function like a 5S program:

SORT : 5S starts with getting rid of anything you do not use. Or at least placing these items in a location out of the way, in storage where it does not confuse and hide the stuff you use daily. In other words, sort out all the non-essentials

SET : Organize what you have left. In other words set in order what you use daily or weekly. If you did a good job of getting rid of all the non-essentials, you should not have much left to organize. This is where we need “a place for everything…” mentality. Make your system visual or at least labeled clearly.

SHINE : Clean up everything! Shine your machine, tools, desk, drawers, cabinets, etc.

STANDARDIZE : Establish rules or guidelines to maintain the first three steps (sort, set, shine) How and when to Sort? Are you setting aside a specifically scheduled time to follow your process. Ask yourself Who? What? Ie. Rules for Set might include Who is responsible for each part of the organizing and the steps in order; like how to replace lost tools. Who will do it and what are the steps to follow in order for the replacement to occur; or Who will clean? And what order would you like the cleaning to happen? These steps should be typed and posted in the area. They should be used for audits.

SUSTAIN : Also referred to as Audits. Implement a weekly walk around and compare procedure to the posted processes to insure all of the above are being done. Reference metrics and actions as you walk through. Use Gemba boards. Get the site manager involved so that everyone is familiar with the processes and how they are working.

Success in 5S sets the discipline for all future continuous improvement.

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.

July 12, 2013

Personality Profiles : Who We Are Today and Who We Want to Be

On my recent trip to the UK I was reading about and listening to a television show about the personality profiles of managers. One of the discussions was about entrepreneurs and the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs and successful senior execs.

At one of the many job interviews I went on in the last thirty years I was trying to outsmart my interviewer on a series of those blasted Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessments. The only result I got was that I outsmarted myself. I answered questions based on what I thought my personality profile should be or what I wanted it to be. I also took a Mensa test about the same time and found out that I am not that smart. In fact, I think I am getting dumber as I get older!

Over the last thirty-five years I think that some of my personality profiles have changed because of new things I have learned or habits I have implemented. Hopefully I am becoming more tolerant and a better listener. It makes me think that we all need to decide what our “real” personality profile is. Sort of like the old adage of dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Think about how you can adapt like this in the workplace and how can it make you successful? Now sell it! Maybe you have already figured this out? In that case you are ahead of me.

I used to tell headhunters that I was a team player, a people-person, data-driven, results-oriented, used tough love, and so on. The article suggested that successful entrepreneurs are driven, never accept failure, obsessive, rule-breakers (can’t accept paradigms), and risk-takers who think out of the box and love change. I thought, “Wow, that is ALMOST me.” I want to be a people-person, a team leader, and not a micro manager. But I think I am an obsessive-compulsive data person, a huge risk-taker, who loves change almost to the point of loving change for the sake of change. I hate rules, policies, procedures, and the corporate mandates that slow change (almost to the point of cheating on corporate procedures or rewriting them, but not to the point of breaking any “major” laws), and I love to be around hard-working people; I can’t tolerate slackers. I am driven, almost anal about finding a way to win. I love contests and incentives almost to a passion.

The article also suggested that successful entrepreneurs have huge egos, are extremely self-confident, terrible team players and love seventy-hour weeks. None of which fit my profile (LOL). Only because I don’t like to work seventy-hour weeks anymore….I know my average is only about fifty-five to sixty (like I said, I am an obsessive-compulsive data person so I track this meticulously).

I sometimes think that headhunters want to hear that you are a mean SOB who gets results. Companies say they want people-people, team players, etc., but they really want results at almost any cost. So, feel out the role and the interviewer but make sure you know who you want to be in that interview for that particular job. Knowing who you are and who you want to be never hurts. If you have never taken a Personality Profile, don’t be afraid to give me a call and try one out.

June 19, 2013

Leadership Skills : How to Improve

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Professional Development,Services — Alec @ 5:43 pm

How many of you think you are excellent leaders? How many can show evidence of being an excellent leader?

Being an excellent leader is like a bicycle racer who rarely has a flat tire. A small slow leak can be very costly in a race because it leads to lost speed and eventually a need to change the tire. A puncture is a quick flat and it too will cost the racer precious immediate time to change a tire. The worst situation would be a blow out that costs not only time but also can be dangerous to the racer if they lose control of the bicycle.

In leadership a small error in judgment can cost sales, profit and time and a major error may cause serious injury to the company.

Bicycle flats can be reduced by planning ahead and maintenance. Repeated errors or flats will cost you the race. The racer on the pro circuit may have a support team, but ultimately the racer is responsible. The concept is the same in business. Leadership errors can be reduced by thinking ahead, planning, listening, reviews, and goal alignment. Errors by the support team, whether known or unknown by the Leadership, become the fault of the CEO.

You can reduce your risk of bicycle flats by buying the right tires, doing research and hiring the right support team. Knowing your craft such as inflating the tires to the right pressure, training properly and communication will be essential to preventing errors. It helps if you miss broken glass and potholes on the course, stay focused on direction and are able to adjust your course quickly. These same thoughts apply to being a good leader; know your craft, do your research, train properly, communicate effectively, pay attention, and stay focused so you can adjust your course if needed.

Racing tires usually lose a few pounds of air every day and wear a little every day with use, especially the rear tire. In business, your team may lose a little productivity or focus on a goal. They may skip a step, or not listen well. In order to keep your performance level high, it is necessary for the CEO to observe his/her environment and adapt the plan frequently to keep on course.

Evidence of being a good Bicyclist is winning the race. Evidence of good Leadership is finishing higher than last year.

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