Finish Strong® Podcast Series The journey to excellence is not a simple one, nor does it follow a straight line. This podcast series addresses issues important to manufactures worldwide. Becky's insights include commentary on global, strategic, and tactical issues, as well as observations on current challenges and opportunities in manufacturing businesses. Feel free to suggest topics of interest to you; no doubt Becky will have something to say that will make you think.

Lessons From Children Bowling

Think about bowling. The American kind. Where we, hopefully, roll the ball down the lane to knock over a set of 10 pins.

As children, the bowling alley manager would kindly place bumpers in the alleys on each side of the lane to keep our balls from all falling in there and never hitting a pin. As we get better, the bumpers could be removed. We still put the ball in the alley every now and then, but at least most of our balls hit a pin — or several!

The lessons from children’s bowling are rich.

We want them to try without massive frustration. As they get better and better, we remove the bumpers. If they backslide, we can again use the bumpers.

You’ve given your team mission, vision, and core values. You’ve defined the strategy. And now it’s time for them to execute that strategy. But how do you ensure they can be successful as they learn? Of course, by using bumpers.

Bumpers for your strategy define what is in, and what is out, and provide a viable logic test for every attempt to execute the strategy. Is what we’re doing within the bumpers? Are we forgetting about the guidelines and using company resources to pursue every great idea we have — even those well outside the bumpers?

Even the highest performing organizations need bumpers. They define the outside limits of alignment. We do not need to march single file to the goal, but we also can’t wonder aimlessly that general direction and expect success.

This podcast suggests how you can capture those “in the alley” ideas for later consideration, if you choose to, but focuses on how and why the bumpers are important.

Why Strategy Must Lead Product

It’s easy to become enamored with a product concept. The concept of the possible is exciting. But if you want to make a difference, or profitably provide your product to the world, a strategy must come first.

What problem does it address? What potential does it create? Who cares, and how fast will they care? How will you source it, produce it, and get it to market? How will the part of the world you intend to sell it to even find out about it?

There are very few cases of “build it and they will come.” And most of those get the attention of better financed and staffed organizations. What is your plan?

Of course passion about your product idea is important. If you don’t care why would anyone else? But passion alone leads to frustration when no one seems to know or care how great it is.

I know an existing manufacturer sitting on an outstanding product because, despite investing years and millions of dollars, it has not figured out how to make it for a price anyone would be willing to pay. The proof of concept was completed over five years ago. And here they sit, frustrated, watching a potentially huge advantage slip away because they won’t partner with companies that could solve their problem.

Falling in love with a product is fun; getting it to market requires a strategy.

The Why, When, Where, and How Much of Data Collection

Industry 4.0 is all about the wise capture, analytics, and use of data. Typically companies seek to improve the speed and quality of decision-making, often automating the implementation of rules-based decisions, in their IIoT efforts.

Digital transformation uses data for those, and even more forward looking scenarios that currently are impossible or very time consuming to consider.

As always, the first and most important question is “why?” Why do we want to begin collecting and using more data? Again, better and faster decision making is often the answer.

Actually implementing decisions automatically requires that various data sources can connect with one another and initiate action of some kind. Providing information to improve product capabilities or reliability is a different set of data and different processes.

The what, when, and where of data collection depends on the problem you are addressing.

Your steps into Industry 4.0 will require comfort with data analytics at some level. The basics you can likely handle with existing staff even at a smaller company, but without an intro to statistics level of understanding even that can be dicey.

Yes, algorithms exist that can do the math, but who will determine which algorithm is appropriate? Your engineers will have some basic statistical understanding, but remember they study math much more than statistics.

To begin, first answer the business question of why? Once the high-level why is understood, prioritize based on low level potential as you learn. And again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

For example, collecting data on whether or not a machine is running is easy, but who would do what when based on that data? Correlation of data is often important. Measuring the temperature variation of the fluids in a machine can be useful, but is more useful when correlated with production data, machine speed, or other variables that help you understand if the temperature variation matters.

Every manufacturer has long been collecting data, much of it of poor quality and useless. You can’t afford to continue accepting those weaknesses. As you begin a pilot, draft data governance rules and responsibilities. Just as you’ll learn from the pilot, you’ll learn from the draft of data governance. And remember: More is NOT necessarily better.

Once you’ve begun a pilot, enforce assessment, learning, and then move on. Improve that pilot, or better yet, expand that experiment.

Pilot purgatory is no better than ignoring Industry 4.0 completely.

To Automate, Or Not To Automate

Industry 4.0 is the topic of conversation in manufacturing today. But most of us have not yet figured out all we can and should do with Industry 3.0. What’s the difference, and do we need to wait?

Simply put, Industry 3.0 refers to automation, and Industry 4.0 refers to data — the collection, analysis and improved, faster decision-making it can enable.

But does anyone really care what we call it?

Likely your manufacturing business can benefit from both, even today.

In deciding what to automate in your manufacturing business, I suggest four initial areas of focus. Those are safety, speed, precision, and leveraging human capabilities. In this podcast I discuss those four, and how to think about why you would consider each.

In my next podcast, I will discuss Industry 4.0 — how to think about data in propelling your business forward.

Are You Today’s Buggy Whip?

An enduring business must offer more than today’s product and serve more than today’s industries. Products come and go, as do industries. Just ask the buggy whip manufacturers. Outside of a few religious sects, the product and the industry are dead.

If they had seen themselves as “guidance and speed control” experts, demand would be sky high today for their expertise. They wouldn’t be working with leather and they likely wouldn’t be relying on local sales.

You may think a mission of grand proportions and a value statement of equally grand proportions is silly. What is silly is going out of business because you think too small.

Let’s say you design, make and sell catalytic converters to the automobile industry. Your future is short term and dreary. Every major manufacturer is emphasizing conversion to electric vehicles, which do not need your product. You’ve known that is coming for years, and today it is in your face.

Yes, improving efficiencies offered near term value over the past decades, but it doesn’t position a business to endure. I hope you saw yourself as more than your product and more than your industry long ago. If so, your future can be very bright.

If you simply want to ride your horse until it dies, you can. It’s likely sicker than you realize.

Caught Between Now and Then

Today’s operational crises often interfere with the strategic thinking of leaders. We can’t let that happen, except in the most unusual of circumstances.

Expediting orders is not the job of the C-level executive, nor of the VP-level. Nor even of the site manager. If the orders are late due to a systemic problem within the organization, of course those roles must be aware, and must allocate resources to identify the problem and eliminate it for the future.

The urgent is easy to see; the important often doesn’t appear with flashing lights. As leaders we must know and define the important. That certainly includes clear strategic thinking with our eyes scanning the future while identifying current ripples that could become tidal waves.

Prioritization is not easy, but every great leader is exceptionally good at it. Identifying the top priority for your business does not imply that nothing else gets done; only that the top priority is not sacrificed to accomplish those other important considerations.

Look at your schedule. Do you have time blocked — often a few days all together — to clear your mind of today’s emergencies and to think deeply about the future of your organization? Most of us don’t. We think strategically when time allows.

The obvious question is: what is your personal top priority as the lead executive?

Start with that question, then ensure your calendar supports the answer. Don’t leave the most important to chance.

Want to Increase Alignment Within Your Organization?

Do your operations folk trust the sales team to provide a high quality forecast, one that can and should be used for operational planning? Does the sales team generate a sales forecast for which it wants to be held accountable? Or does one side second guess the second with finance left to pick up the pieces?

Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) is a supply chain tool that has been around for decades, but too few manufacturers use it well even today. If your business wants to increase alignment within and with outside customers and suppliers, S&OP is a great tool to do just that.

The process is solid in theory, and implementation in your organization can be challenging. Understand the how and why of the process and your implementation becomes easier and faster. The goal is one set of numbers that the entire organization accepts and acts upon. No more second guessing.

An effective S&OP process leads to improved performance in every area of the business.

If you are unfamiliar with the process, I encourage you to read an old book by two friends of mine, Bob Stahl and Tom Wallace: S&OP, the How-to Handbook. If you are familiar with the concept, but don’t know how to get started or how to make it actually work effectively in your business, reach out.

Rebecca Morgan

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc

[email protected]

CEO Fear Limits Success

A recent LA times article shared survey results that found the vast majority of CEOs are in fear of losing their jobs in 2022. In public companies CEOs get replaced every few years. Most are paid enough to not worry about it, but most also want a new CEO role to prove their worth.

Over 90% of those same survey respondents also shared that they must overhaul their corporate model within 3 years. As an example, GE is splitting into three different businesses under the leadership of a new CEO. In this case the new CEO is a very capable person who truly understands the value of people and splitting up the company is undoing the conglomeration activities that made Jack Welch famous — a smart move for the business. A huge cultural shift for the business and a huge change impacting a significant number of companies.

As CEOs sit in fear, knowing they must lead significant changes within their organizations, what can we expect from all those beneath them on the organizational chart who have to actually make the changes?

Many employees are in fear of losing their jobs, even within a company that very rarely fires anyone. That fear, coupled with CEO fear, can freeze an organization. We can expect significant disruption within companies and industries with few accomplishing any measure of success. If a company does not perform well with ambiguity, there is no chance of success.

Massive change efforts are needed, which requires different thinking and will involve more failure events than most companies are used to accepting. Those failure events are a test of leadership.

Who should the employee trust, and how much personal skin should they put in the game?

My response: Trust yourself, and put skin in the game to improve the value of your work as you make it more enjoyable. Is that a risk for the employee living paycheck to paycheck? I don’t see any more risk than that of keeping her head down doing as she is told.

Every company, private or public, must soon create a new model and develop new value and skills while marching through ambiguity. Any employee that can share an experience of dealing well with ambiguity, even in a failed effort, has value. Any employee that can share experiences of initiating improvements in his own work and the processes impacted has value. Any employee who can only share coming to work and doing as he’s told will have value to companies on a fast track to elimination; no one else.

Work is how we provide value to the world in exchange for money. The more value you bring, the more money you can obtain in exchange. Think, challenge, try, learn, fail sometimes, and keep thinking, challenging, trying and learning. There is no better way to build the value you bring, recognize and reach your personal potential, and improve everything you touch.

Just because many CEOs live in fear of losing their jobs does not mean non-C-Suiters should live the same way. Just as I am, each of you is an unfinished human with much more to offer the world by offering it to yourself.

Empathize with the CEO. You too may have felt fear of getting fired. The good news is there are so many more opportunities for you to continue your path of development and accomplishment than he is willing to consider. CEOs are not generally bad people. They are just highly visible and scrutinized. If it is a leader you want to follow, do that. If not, do something else.

And importantly, have fun along the way.

Please! Please Become Disciplined!

If your costs are higher than you want, speed is no where near where it should be, and you all too frequently live in a world of déjà vu lack of discipline is likely a significant self -induced obstacle to success for you. You can’t blame anyone else for this; it reflects leadership.

Trying to avoid micromanagement? Follow up, confirmation of priorities and expectations, and asking if help is needed are three actions that reflect discipline, not micromanagement. Given, that is, that they are done at the right time and frequency and are in no way used to attack.

PDCA is a very simple process that is 75 years old. Many of you claim it, but few of you live it. Most are guilty of a little Plan, some Do, no Check, and Act only when someone feels like making a change. If you want to be the leader of a successful mid-size manufacturing company, focus yourself and your organization on living PDCA in the way it was intended. You’ll be amazed at reductions in cost, increases in speed, and the lack of déjà vu.

Your New Business Model

Is there a business anywhere that has not been impacted by the changes of the last few years? I can’t think of one. Is there any business anywhere that will return to its 2019 “normal?” I can’t think of one.

Regardless of industry, business models are changing. Many were hit over ten years ago; most in the past 3-5. If the primary business model in your industry has not yet changed, it will soon.

In this podcast Rebecca Morgan explains what a business model is, provides examples of several from the recent past, and provides the questions a leader must consider in evaluating potential business models that better fit the value and financial needs of all.