Volume 12 Number 12 - December 9, 2014


To unambiguously improve operations an organization must:

  1. understand the problem or opportunity,
  2. define the goal of making the next change,
  3. identify and analyze options,
  4. plan the change that is expected to best accomplish the goal,
  5. fully implement the change,
  6. follow up to assess the actual impact of the change vs the expected impact,
  7. learn by examining those differences,
  8. verify change still in place as designed (modify procedures as needed),
  9. go back to the first step with the new learning.

Do you think that any of those steps is simply too difficult for your organization to do? Of course not. However, ......

Walking through 100's of factories over the years I've observed the majority of mid-level operations act as if continuous improvement means executing some of the 3rd and 4th bullets, a little bit of the 5th and then move on. Most want to be more effective, but they just don't have the committed discipline required. I suspect confusion of action and results is at play. But so is a ridiculous waste of time and resources.

Those same people often live what I call "shipwreck excellence:" flotsam and jetsam from prior efforts visible but irrelevant as the ship, unburdened by such things, floats aimlessly.

The primary distinctions between great operations and mediocre ones are the respect for employees (don't waste their lives) and disciplined leadership to execute every one of these steps for every change made. It may sound slow and boring, but it is really fast and effective as your team develops the relevant thinking skills.

Be excellent, not shipwreck excellent. You, and your employees, will have a much better chance of reaching your destination.


Honored to let you know that IndustryWeek asked me to contribute an Operations Xpert column to its IdeaXchange web-based series. My first 2 columns are available and you can expect a new one every 7–10 days.

This is in addition to my monthly Operations column for the 43 markets of American City Business Journals.

Both are also available on my website, along with my INC Magazine and other published articles. Podcasts, videos, regular blog postings and 134 consecutive monthly e–newsletters also provide value to Operations leaders.

You can always disagree with me, but it's getting harder to say you don't know how I think! And that thinking continues to evolve, so stay tuned.

The Starting Pistol

John Wooden:
"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it”

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
""...and for a win, the game must be finished. Starting things without finishing them is quitting, and no great team does that. "

February 18-19, 2015: Ft Lauderdale FL: Lean Frontiers is presenting its first Kata Summit, providing information and networking on both the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata. If you are not familiar with Kata methodology, this provides a great opportunity to learn how it can help your company.

March 5-6, 2015: Austin TX: The 11th Annual APICS 6 Packed Conference is featuring Becky Morgan, speaking on "Why Lean Doesn't Stick." The two day conference includes 5 tracks, keynotes, and networking opportunities.

March 11-13, 2015: Atlanta, GA: Dr. Alan Weiss will be joined by Dr. Martin Seligman and 9 expert others in this 2.5 day highly interactive Million Dollar Consulting Convention. If you want to learn from the best, this is a great opportunity to improve your consulting skills. If you're not working continually on self-development, how can you expect companies to trust you for expert advice?

April 8-10, 2015: Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence (COE) is presenting the Leading Through Excellence Summit. Workshops, tours, and interactive breakout sessions. Early-bird discounts are available.

April 19 - 23, 2015: Jacksonville, FL: The Additive Manufacturers Users Group (AMUG) conference includes presentations, hands-on learning, and vendors addressing 12 different additive technologies, ranging from 3D Printing to Fused Deposition Modeling to Selective Laser Melting. You know these technologies will impact your business. Consider learning a lot all in one place.

May 18-21, 2015: Long Beach, CA: If April doesn't work for you, check out the SME RAPID conference in May to learn about additive manufacturing processes. Both AMUG and RAPID conferences have been delivered for many years. Compare the two conference offerings and select the one that best fits your current interests and experience.

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