Volume 14 Number 12 - December 6, 2016


Good jugglers know exactly how many balls they can successfully keep moving. They ignore any more tossed in the air. Many of you have too many balls in the air to do your job well. It's imperative to let some drop to the floor. The question is: which ones? The best answer relies on defined and ranked priorities that link directly to a well-informed strategy.

While most manufacturers have a business strategy of some kind, few have a defined operations strategy to ensure success. Action plans, yes. Capital plans, yes. But strategy that provides context for decision making and builds capabilities required in the future, not so much.

Agility, automation, data, speed, and energy are elements of long term success for every manufacturer. But they are not equally important to all industries, nor all pressing at this moment. The best organizations define strategies for each under the operations strategy umbrella. But that doesn't mean that those, and dozens of other balls, must all be in the air at the same time. The best energy strategy for some may simply be to negotiate prices and monitor usage, while for others it may involve major reductions in usage and conversion to renewable sources. One of those balls is much larger than the other; one can be delegated.

Few companies can manage more than two big balls in the air simultaneously, and it's rare to handle more than five or six total operations balls successfully. Motion does not equal results.

Just as in production, a lot size of one for the top priority is optimal. Then a lot size of one for the second priority, repeated for the third, fourth and fifth. An opaque ranking, or a higher number of priorities, wastes resources and impedes progress. Brain changeover time and costs easily exceed equipment changeover time and costs. Certainly lower level continuous improvement activities can occur without draining executive attention, but the bigger the change the more attention required. That means another ball in the air.

Identify the balls you are trying to juggle. If one doesn't tie directly to strategy, place it in a basket labeled "what was I thinking!" If it is part of the strategy, but can be handled effectively by others, determine where it fits into their priorities. You may assign it a priority number for them, or you may put it in the famous "parking lot" basket. Just don't toss it in the air above their heads and fume when something is dropped. The remainder should each have a clear sequential number.

All of us are more successful juggling one ball at a time. You can strategically choose which ball to focus on now, or you can refuse to say "no" and watch as they all tumble to the ground. Stop juggling. Start strategizing. Finish Strong.®

Watch the introduction video of Manufacturing Greatness. Additionally, my latest book, Start Smart, Finish Strong: Forging Your Path to Operational Excellence and Long-Term Success in the Manufacturing World is available at Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks.

Breakthrough Improvements

The Starting Pistol

John Quincy Adams:
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"If your actions create fear, you are a dictator; if they create boredom, you are a hindrance. Be a leader."

Jan 12, 2017: Cleveland, OH: Wire-Net, an association of manufacturers in NorthEast Ohio, is sponsoring a workshop featuring Rebecca Morgan. This highly interactive session will address ten key steps on the path to long-term success in the manufacturing world. The event is open to all manufacturing executives.

Feb 19-21, 2017: San Diego, CA: If that Internet of Things (IoT) has you scratching your head, here's an opportunity to get your questions answered, ranging from changes in the business model to security to data strategies. Check out the Industry of Things World USA conference, brought to you by TechForge publishing company.

May 23-25, 2017: Phoenix, AZ: Disruptions large and small confront today’s supply chains on a daily basis. The Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference is an opportunity to meet with the best to be exposed to their transformational strategies.

Check out the Events page on our webiste for more information.

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