"Green" Workspaces = Healthier Workspaces!

Just this month, Steve Famulari published an important new book entitled Ways of Greening: Using Plants and Gardens for Healthy Work and Living Surroundings. This book focuses on rethinking working and living spaces and understanding how "greening" can make them healthier and their occupants happier. It teaches how to see unique ideas for spaces and some of the materials needed to create the designs. In addition, it gives readers a way to not only understand greening but to understand how to see greening applied to their place. 

When I spoke with Stevie this month, I asked her: "What are some of the ways in which ‘greening’ makes working spaces healthier?" Here is her complete answer:

Work spaces as well as home spaces are where people spend much of their time. These are spaces where people need healthy surroundings to be inspired, be safe, be creative, grow, and move forward toward their dreams and goals. Greening these spaces can help people in this. 

Having a space with at least 10% of the surface space of the room with living thriving plants improves air quality allowing people to be healthier with each breath. There are also studies that have found that being in green spaces improves people’s memory while studying, improves productivity, reduces the amount of time for people to heal, and reduces stress.

Be creative in designing your workspace and allow it to change over time as the interior garden grows and responds to the light and objects in the space. You can design your own green wall to fit your space which includes plants with colors, shapes, and scents that you enjoy. Using scented plants such as lavender or mint can enhance your space. Some scents such as lavender are helpful for relaxing, while others such as mint are helpful for reducing headaches. Scents have a close correlation with memory. A scent can help people recall a memory from their recent past or from a distant past. Using plants with scents while studying or preparing for presentations, and then having the same scent at the presentation can help people recall what they studied or researched for presentations.

By creating designs that are unique to the space, using green walls, and having plants that have bloomed randomly throughout the year, the site you create with your unique living garden changes and grows with colors and forms daily. Seeing change and growth happen naturally on a daily basis in green office surroundings encourages people to accept change in their lives with more ease and grace.

What do you think of Stevie Famulari's perspective on how "greening" affects workspaces and their occupants? Has your company incorporated these types of improvements in their office locations? How have employees reacted?


The Evolution of Product Development -- Has Lean Adjusted?

In October, Cécile Roche and Luc Delamotte published a book entitled The Lean Engineering Travel Guide: The Best Itineraries for Developing New Products and Satisfying Customers. This book explains many Lean Engineering practices in some detail and the best itineraries to develop better products, discussing the underlying intentions and offering advice for implementation. It includes numerous concrete cases that illustrate this part with case material drawn from the authors’ own experiences. In addition, there is a brief guide to where and how to get started.  

When I spoke with Cécile this month, I asked her: "How has Lean adjusted as product development evolves?" Here is her complete answer:

The power of the Lean approach is that it is based on two strong convictions. 

The first is that a company will succeed if it really takes care of the customers, and therefore offers products that will solve their real problems - Do the right thing!

The second is that the company will make money thanks to the ingenuity of its employees, which must be encouraged by the existence of organized thinking spaces. 

By doing this, you avoid the biggest wastes imaginable: products that don't sell, products that you don't know how to produce, maintain, or recycle at the right cost, and all the rework caused by poor choices - Do the right thing, then do it right!

The practices and tools of Lean are all geared towards answering this question: what are we doing to give our staff the means to understand customers properly, and the means to identify the waste caused by our misconceptions? This constant questioning, which always begins with "Do we know what we don't know?” is the best way of ensuring that we are constantly adapting to change.

To encourage this questioning, we must set up a system that can very quickly identify the gaps, knowledge gaps, and trade-offs that need to give rise to creative discussions and train people to solve problems using appropriate methods. It is the Lean system.

Lean is a dynamic approach. It's not about freezing practices in procedures that are excellent one day but already unsuitable the next, but about regularly questioning all changes (in the context, of technology, resources, skills, etc.) to assess their impact. This is what we call the Kaizen spirit. As Allen Ward said, "Instead of learning to surf, conventional organizations try to control the waves! This almost never works."

What do you think of Cécile Roche's thoughts on Lean methodology? Do you feel that Lean continues to benefit the changing face of product development? 


Managing Process Downtime -- What Are the Biggest Mistakes?

In September, Michael Beauregard published a book entitled Process Downtime Reduction: How to Minimize Waste from Breakdowns, Set-Ups, Supply Chain Issues, and Staffing Constraints. This book provides manufacturers the techniques they crucially need to keep their critical manufacturing equipment running correctly and efficiently – which increases production, decreases labor costs, decreases breakdown costs, and ultimately increases the bottom line. 

When I spoke with Michael this month, I asked him: “What are some of the biggest mistakes manufacturers make while trying to manage process downtime?” Here is his complete answer:

That is an excellent question. 

I think the biggest mistake manufacturers make with managing process downtime is that they don’t manage it – instead, they learn to live with it. They make longer runs so that they can amortize the cost of that long product changeover over more parts. They get the order out by working overtime at the end of the month. They buy more equipment than they actually need. Manufacturers are smart – they learn to adapt to survive, but often those adaptations are the fastest way to solve the problem now and not the most efficient.  

Another big mistake is not measuring downtime and where it occurs. As I wrote in Process Downtime Reduction, “Show me the data!” Many companies cannot. They have anecdotal evidence of their downtime. It takes about two hours to complete a changeover. They remember they ran out of bottles once two years ago so they are focusing tremendous efforts and costs to manage inventory at high levels when the numbers actually show that labor is their biggest downtime cause. They do not make a systematic effort to understand the downtime and where it occurs so they attack where they perceive the downtime problems to be and not the issues that cause the greatest amount of downtime. 

And a third big area is not getting the whole workforce involved. Well, maybe “involved” is the wrong word. They fail to change the culture of the workforce to be looking for wastes in the operation. They load and unload parts without thinking that the machine could have been co-extruding 10 minutes earlier if they hadn’t waited until the core had run out to notify the material handler that another roll of core was needed. 

Do you agree with Michael's thoughts here? How does process downtime affect your organization? What do you do to manage it?


The Toyota Production System -- A Humanitarian Economic System?

In August,  Olivier Larue publsihed a book entitled The Toyota Economic System: How Leaders Create True Prosperity Through Financial Congruency, Dignity of Work, and Environmental Stewardship, which analyzes the purpose and relationship between the different elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and how they add up to an economic system rather than just a production system that brings engineering and managerial solutions to businesses. It argues how TPS can be viewed as a science as opposed to a tool-based technique. 

When I spoke with Olivier this month, I asked him, "Why do you believe that the various components of the Toyota Production System (TPS) constitute a humanitarian economic system rather than just a production system?" Here is his complete response:

Many people associate societal economic progress with the creation of goods. However, from the era of craftsmanship to the advent of mass production, the way we organize work also plays a pivotal role in enhancing living standards.

The Toyota Production System represents the most recent methodology in this realm and possesses the potential to become the third and most advanced production system. It comprises three distinctive elements: the better-known technical element, which focuses on eliminating unevenness, waste, and overburden; the familiar managerial element, which prioritizes human safety and development; and the lesser-known philosophical element, which serves as the guiding principle for both the technical and managerial elements. When all three elements are simultaneously implemented, the benefits derived from adopting TPS are not confined to a company's gains alone. Instead, as with previous production systems, these benefits extend to the broader spectrum of our society. However, this is particularly pronounced with TPS because it is not primarily the result of technological advancements, as was the case with mass production systems. TPS also emerges from the application of human principles guided by a distinct philosophical concept of efficiency that markedly deviates from the efficiency favored by the mass production system.

Rather than fixating on a singular notion of efficiency—individual efficiency—with the belief that it will yield the optimal level of efficiency for all, TPS centers around total and true efficiency through the elimination of waste to remove the trade-offs inherent in optimization. Total efficiency entails resolving issues that hinder all factors or actors from attaining their full benefits. True efficiency entails eliminating costs rather than transferring them elsewhere. Eliminating waste entails increasing the ratio of value-added activity in work. 

The principle of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of waste is not confined to the shop floor, where TPS originated. 

The principle of total efficiency doesn’t stop at a particular line, process, or piece of equipment which should not be boosted independently from the efficiency of preceding or subsequent processes. Total efficiency extends to the broader realm of efficiency management. For instance, it applies in the boardroom, where the pursuit of profit should not come at the expense of cash flow. Profit is undoubtedly essential for competitiveness, but it is equally crucial and substantially more efficient to achieve sufficient cash flow from operations to meet financial obligations promptly. 

The principle of true efficiency is not restricted to the shop floor either, where the aim is to use the minimum number of workers, equipment, and materials required to produce only what is needed. True efficiency also implies not trading one self-worth in the workplace for better comfort at home, or raising the living standards of people in the present at the expense of the future when payments are due later. 

The principle of eliminating waste is not limited to increasing the portion of value-added activity in the work, reducing unevenness and overburden to reduce cost but it also extends to reducing the environmental footprint as a result of all activities, value-added or not. 

Together, the philosophies of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of unevenness, waste, and overburden extend to all the stakeholders of society that contribute to a firm's success. This includes customers, employees, and the ecological environment of our planet. Each benefit supports the other as opposed to itself individually regardless of the cost to others. When all parts of the system reap their full benefits without incurring future costs, it coalesces into an economically humanitarian system. It contrasts with a more primitive economic system based on competition where losers are necessary in order to have winners. 

Of course, this call for a specific course of action necessitates problem-solving, and the unattainable remains beyond our reach. However, what is attainable is not always accomplished unless guided by economic humanitarian principles. As Pastor Tim Keller reminds us of what the critical philosopher Jurgen Habermas said “Science might tell us what is, but it doesn’t tell us what ought to be.” Today, The Toyota Production System offers possibilities beyond what a company can gain from adopting it. It presents an opportunity to eliminate socio-economic and environmental contradictions that have historically compelled economic trade-offs. 

What do you think of Olivier's thoughts regarding the far-reaching effects of the Toyota Production System? Do you feel TPS can be an "economically humanitarian system"?


Human-Centered Design (HCD) -- Does It Benefit the Agile Process?

Just this month, Joe Montalbano and Brad Lehman published a pioneering new book entitled, Human-Centered Agile: A Unified Approach for Better Outcomes, which functions as a guide on how to apply Human-Centered Design (HCD) practices to an Agile product development model that is used widely throughout industry and government, where it is applied primarily to software and technology development efforts. This has been an ongoing industry challenge due to the fact that HCD prioritizes time spent understanding the problems to be solved (time spent in the problem space), while Agile prioritizes a fast hypothesize-and-deliver model (time spent in the solution space). 

I spoke with Joe and Brad this past week and asked them: “How does Human-Centered Design (HCD) benefit the Agile process?” Here is their complete answer:

Is there any more overloaded and misused term than MVP? Theoretically, in Agile the MVP is a vehicle to test a hypothesis using lightweight code until value is proven. Teams can pivot. Teams can iterate. Teams get actionable feedback with every release and can be responsive.

The real world isn’t always like that. Not every team can pivot. Not every release is lightweight. Not every failure is graciously accepted as a learning opportunity. Oh, and did we mention that production-quality code can be expensive and time consuming?

Bringing HCD into an Agile delivery workflow gives teams a chance to do their learning earlier in the process and do it less expensively. It lets teams explore multiple solutions and mitigate risks by making informed decisions based on what their customers actually want, not just what an executive hopes they want.

So, what does Human-Centered Agile provide?

Earlier learning — Discovery lets teams identify real customer needs, and validate the problems they are going to spend money solving. Concept Validation with lightweight, disposable prototypes and mock-ups (paper drawings, wireframes, etc.) allows teams to test and refine their solution concepts with users before the first delivery, shifting learning left.

Cheaper learning — The cost of engaging with users for Discovery and Concept Validation is far less expensive than it is to write some production-quality code and then release it to get feedback. 

Lower risks —  The costs of building a product are not the only risk a team takes when launching a product. Releasing products that frustrate customers can harm their relationship to the product, whether they are first-time customers trying it for the first time, or experienced users looking for improvements. 

Unfortunately, too many teams and programs think that HCD and Agile are simply incompatible. They aren’t! We wanted to show everyone that they are actually well-aligned in purpose, and can be done together with some adaptation. This requires a change in mindset, but neither the change in thinking nor change in work practices are as dramatic as you might think.

What do you think of Human-Centered Design? Have you used HCD within your Agile process and workflow?


Should US Manufacturers Relocate Factories and Production Back to the USA?

In June of this year, William A. Levinson published a book entitled Reshore Production Now: How to Rebuild Manufacturing and Restore High Wages, High Profits, and National Prosperity in the USA. The author contends that a manufacturing resurgence in the United States will not only increase the standard of living enormously but generate taxable economic activity that will help pay down rather than increase the Federal debt. Higher productivity also delivers a greater supply of goods to accompany higher wages and thus works against inflation. This can prevent looming recessions and disruptions.

I had a chance to speak with William this month, and during our conversation, I had the chance to ask him two crucial questions. I'm posting them here with William's answers following the questions:

What aspects of reshoring do manufacturers not fully understand? 

Accounting metrics often ignore the total cost of purchase or ownership of a product or service, and focus instead on only the immediate price. Harrington Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency depicted the latter as near common sense, or focus on only the immediate bottom line, in contrast to supernal common sense which seeks to account for all costs. These include but are not limited to the carriage of inventory—one of the Toyota production system's Seven Wastes—in transit, the incompatibility of container ship-sized quantities with just-in-time production systems, the additional lead time associated with transportation, the fact that inventory gives defects a place to hide and additional exposure to force majeure supply chain interruptions. An earthquake that idles a vital offshore supplier factory, a ship that gets stuck in the Suez Canal, or a strike by longshore workers can all paralyze a supply chain. While domestic supply chains also are vulnerable to force majeure, they are also a lot shorter so there is much less exposure.

Many manufacturers and also retailers are also dependent on products from the People's Republic of China (PRC), whose recent activities have proven it to be a dangerous, untrustworthy, and unreliable supply chain partner. The PRC has a long track record of selling us counterfeit semiconductor devices, substandard active pharmaceutical intermediates (APIs), contaminated heparin, melamine-tainted foods, and most recently counterfeit N95 respirators that may have exposed their users to Covid-19. Cheap becomes expensive for domestic sellers who find themselves at the wrong ends of product liability lawsuits because their offshore suppliers, who are often beyond the reach of our judicial systems, cut corners. The PRC also threatened to cut off supplies of vital products, including medications needed to treat Covid-19, and it is now openly threatening nearby countries like Japan, Taiwan (a major exporter of semiconductors), and Australia with military force. The United States was able to respond quickly to wartime losses of access to, for example, natural rubber during the Second World War and we ought to be up to the job of making ourselves independent of the PRC today. 

Why are many company leaders reticent to rebuild manufacturing in the US?

The dysfunctional focus on labor costs drove the exportation of valuable American manufacturing jobs even though American industrial pioneers like Frederick Winslow Taylor, Harrington Emerson, and Henry Ford proved with real-world results that wages become largely irrelevant if management makes the job sufficiently productive. Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency suggests that the idea of a contest of efficiency against inefficiency originated in Prussia where Helmuth von Moltke had to "do more with less" against France in 1870, as France had more soldiers, better rifles, and a superior economy. Japan adopted these principles and used them to win wars against China and Russia, both of whose populations outnumbered them. Japan applied the same organizational principles to its industries, and to the effect that American industrialists were alarmed at the prospect of having to compete against them. Americans such as Taylor, Ford, and Frank Bunker Gilbreth—who cited explicitly the application of military motion efficiency principles to civilian occupations—responded with what we now call lean manufacturing as later adopted by Toyota.

The dysfunctional focus on labor costs drove the exportation of valuable American manufacturing jobs even though American industrial pioneers like Frederick Winslow Taylor, Harrington Emerson, and Henry Ford proved with real-world results that wages become largely irrelevant if management makes the job sufficiently productive. Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency suggests that the idea of a contest of efficiency against inefficiency originated in Prussia where Helmuth von Moltke had to "do more with less" against France in 1870, as France had more soldiers and a superior economy. The Japanese adopted these principles and used them to win wars against China and Russia, both of whose populations outnumbered them. Japan applied the same organizational principles to its industries, and to the effect that American industrialists were alarmed at the prospect of having to compete against them. Americans such as Taylor, Ford, and Frank Bunker Gilbreth—who cited explicitly the application of military motion efficiency principles to civilian occupations—responded with what we now call lean manufacturing as later adopted by Toyota.

Emerson, Taylor, Ford, and others also pointed out the short-sightedness of choosing cheap labor over efficiency. Ford's My Life and Work urges executives, "to overcome by management what other people try to overcome by wage reduction." Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency adds, "It is unfortunate that the employer shies at the suggestion of a 10 percent advance and pays scant if any attention to a 50 percent inefficiency, two-thirds of which is his own fault." Taylor's Principles of Scientific Efficiency talked about the need to hire "high-priced men"—we would say high-priced workers today—who would follow instructions such as those typical of what we now call standard work. Taylor and Ford both added that, when workers realize that the benefits of productivity improvements will show up in their pay envelopes, they will look for ways to make their jobs more efficient. When employers pay as little as possible, the workforce will respond accordingly by doing only what it is told, and probably only when a supervisor is watching. Low wages also give management little incentive to, as Ford put it, "put more brains into the business" to make the jobs sufficiently productive to pay high wages. 

What do you think of Willam A. Levinson's perspective on manufacturing in the USA? Do you think manufacturers can be more profitable in the long run by relocating factories and production back to the USA?


The Coaching Manager -- Toyota Kata and Scientific Thinking

Just this month, Tilo Schwarz and Jeffrey K. Liker published a new book entitled Giving Wings to Her Team: A Novel About Learning to Coach the Toyota Kata Way, which presents a story about the benefits of becoming a coaching manager and how to get there. We follow the fictional character, named Denise, on a journey of discovery and skill development, as she moves beyond the tools and concepts of Lean and focuses on daily practice that helps her supervisors achieve their goals. It's about the Toyota Kata approach, which helps anyone develop and apply scientific thinking -- an exploratory mindset of curiosity and experimentation.

When I recently spoke with Tilo and Jeff, I had the chance to ask them some questions specific to the concepts discussed in their current book, and how those concepts apply to daily work.

Question 1: What are the benefits of becoming a coaching manager?

In general terms, a coach teaches, watches the student, gives appropriate feedback, and assigns drills to learn specific skills.  You can coach anyone on any skill.  In Giving Wings to Her Team, the central character Denise learns a specific type of coaching for a particular skill set -- scientific thinking.

We often think that to navigate today’s complex challenges we need decisive leaders with a clear roadmap that they rigorously implement.  In reality, the more complex the challenge the less a roadmap will be helpful.  Instead, we need adaptive problem-solving, testing ideas rapidly, and learning our way to goals.  In Toyota Kata, this way is called scientific thinking—focus on facts, formulate hypotheses, test ideas instead of making assumptions, reflect, and learn.

Toyota Kata teaches a coaching approach that enables your team to become increasingly adaptive, innovative, and resilient – fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, so your team can meet their current challenges and be ready for more.

Question 2: How does Toyota Kata help you to become a coaching manager?

The term “kata” is used in Japanese martial arts and are the small skills the black belt teaches and then the student practices repeatedly, with feedback, until doing it the right way becomes a habit. Michael Jordan put it nicely: “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” 

In the novel, Denise faces the biggest challenges of her life as a manufacturing manager and is fortunate to get coaching help from Maggie who runs the local gym.  Maggie has studied and used Toyota Kata in her gym.  She helps Denise learn to work with her team to set big challenges they can relate to, study the current condition, set short-term target conditions, and then experiment toward these targets.  Denise struggles at first, but through practice, and Maggie’s coaching, she gets better and better at giving wings to her team.  

You can learn along with Denise how to become a coach of scientific thinking and by coaching your team to achieve goals that at first seem impossible.  In this book, we go beyond laundry lists of coaching best practices and demonstrate how to develop actual skills in yourself and your team.  

We hope our novel will help you start a learning journey of your own.

What are your experiences with Toyota Kata? Have you applied it in your organization? How has it benefited your managers and teams? 


Shop Floor Management -- What Are the Future Trends?

Earlier this year, Philip Gisi published a book entitled Fundamentals of Daily Shop Floor Management: A Guide for Manufacturing Optimization and Excellence, which explores the fundamental elements, management practices, improvement methods, and future direction of shop floor management. 

During a conversation with Philip this past month, I asked him: "What has changed regarding shop floor management? What is the current direction?” Here is his complete response:

The discipline of shop floor management has undergone significant changes in recent years due to advancements in technology and changes in industry practices. With the advent of automation and robotics, the shop floor has become more efficient and productive. Robots can perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy, speed, and reliability, which can help reduce production costs and improve product quality. Automation has also led to the integration of real-time data collection and analysis, enabling better decision-making. As I stated in my book, companies working toward excellence “can’t lose sight of the fundamental activities necessary to preserve what they have already achieved. This is the role of Daily Shop Floor Management (DSFM); to maintain operational performance while realizing and sustaining productivity improvements on the never-ending journey of operational excellence." 

The current direction of daily shop floor management is towards greater efficiency and productivity through the use of technology and data-driven decision-making. One of the key trends in this area is the use of real-time data analytics to monitor and optimize shop floor performance. By collecting data from various sensors and systems on the shop floor, manufacturers can gain insights into how their processes are performing in real time. This allows them to quickly identify and address any issues that may arise, as well as optimize their processes to improve efficiency and quality.

Another trend in daily shop floor management is the use of mobile devices and cloud-based applications to enable better communication and collaboration between shop floor personnel and management. This allows for more effective and timely decision-making, as well as improved coordination between different departments and teams. In essence, the goal of daily shop floor management is to continuously improve operations and drive greater value for customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders. This requires a commitment to ongoing learning, experimentation, and adaptation, as well as sustaining what has already been achieved while embracing new technologies and approaches.

What do you think of Philip Gisi's perspective on the current state of shop floor management? Does it reflect the changes on the shop floor in your company? What trends in shop floor management have you seen?


Discovering Failure Modes Early in the Design Process

Earlier this month, I spoke with Ed Henshall, who just recently published a book entitled Right By Design: A Novel Approach to Failure Mode Avoidance. His book presents an approach to product design based on Failure Mode Avoidance that utilizes a series of strongly interrelated engineering tools and interpersonal skills that can be used to discover failure modes early in the design process. The tools can be used across engineering disciplines.

During our conversation, I asked him: "Is it possible to discover failure modes early in the design process?” Here is his complete answer:

The short answer -- Yes, with difficulty. 

In looking at a longer answer, I would rephrase the question slightly --  “Is it possible to discover potential failure modes early in the design process before you have a design?”  

Firstly, the word “potential” is important as it indicates that the design can fail but has not yet failed. Secondly, by not having a design I intend that the design is fluid and not finalized meaning that it can readily be changed without impacting the cost and timing of the design process. This latter point is the good news -- if failure modes are found that require fixing early in the design process, this can be done inexpensively. However, the associated bad news is that it is difficult to discover failure modes early in the design process when a design is fluid. 

The key to this conundrum is to have a clear understanding of what it is that the design is intended to do, and its function, along with an equally clear understanding of the way in which the design will achieve this function. What is important here is that the design is initially considered from a functional perspective rather than a hardware perspective. To quote the well know architect Louis Sullivan, “Form ever follows function.”

The System State Flow Diagram provides a way of modeling a design from the functional perspective allowing potential failures of function to be identified in a rigorous and systematic manner. This enables design countermeasures subsequently to be developed in moving into hardware design. 

Discovering failure modes early in the design process requires effective and efficient teamwork, which does not happen as a matter of course when groups of people work together but requires significant attention to, and coaching of, the team process.  

What do you think of Ed Henshall's perspective? Does your organization have effective "team process" and leadership?


Can You Plan and Execute Strategic Productivity Improvements Without Incurring Large Expenditures?

In February, Alin Posteucă published a book entitled Beyond Strategic Kaizen: Performing Synchronous Profitable Operations, which presents a methodology that achieves simultaneous and consistent systematic operational and financial improvements in a strategic and operational manner. It achieves both synchronous operations at market demand by fulfilling takt time and profitable operations in accordance with profit demand by fulfilling takt profit. In short, the Strategic Kaizen mission is striving for the fulfillment of the ideal state of operations called synchronous profitable operations.

When I spoke with Alin this past week, I asked him: "How do you plan and execute strategic productivity improvements to meet financial and operational expectations simultaneously without further expenditure?"

Here is his full response:

This is a difficult time for manufacturers. To survive, manufacturing organizations must activate their entire potential for planning and executing strategic systematic productivity improvements, they need Strategic Kaizen -- they must go beyond traditional Kaizen activities and beyond the daily activities of continuous improvement based on the reduction or elimination of waste empirically at the shop floor level.

Naturally, a question arises: How is the new concept of Strategic Kaizen for performing synchronous profitable operations defined? "…it is a participatory, systematic, and scientific planning and control process used to align financial and operational business strategy with strategic systematic improvement activities to meet the goals of Takt Profit and takt time at the same time regardless of sales trend (increasing or decreasing)."

Therefore, in this book, I did not limit the Strategic Kaizen to a mere strategic improvement approach. It goes beyond since its main purpose is to direct a complete and continuous strategic transformation to the ideal state of operations, to the state of synchronous profitable operations by meeting successive targets of Takt Profit, or ”the target profit per minute in the bottleneck operation”, and implicitly by meeting the successive targets of takt time. 

As is known, the concept of "synchronization", or JIT and its practice are very important, but it is very difficult for all manufacturing companies to achieve a complete and especially profitable "synchronization". For final manufacturers, "synchronization" seems to be still an extremely effective method, but for their suppliers, "synchronization" is not always adequate, and it is not always profitable enough.

But let's return to your question more specifically. By applying the unique methodology in seven basic processes of Strategic Kaizen presented in detail and with real case studies only in this book, executives have a new way of thinking and acting to move the business to the next level.

In the first five processes, strategic productivity improvements are planned, as follows:

1) measuring and studying the full potential for strategic productivity improvement;

2) calculating ideal Takt Profit and setting strategic expectations for stratified KAIZENshiro;

3) annual financial reconciliation by establishing annual KAIZENshiro budgets and the annual Takt Profit target (financial catchball);

4) annual operational reconciliation by establishing the production target time and by developing the Balanced Scorecard and KPIs (operational catchball);

5) organizing, planning, and learning for Strategic Kaizen.

Then the last two processes focus on the implementation and management, as follows:

6) implementing annual feasible Strategic Kaizen projects in six steps;

7) results, standardization, horizontal extensions, and future plans. 

In conclusion, I recommend both final manufacturers and their suppliers use Strategic Kaizen to simultaneously satisfy the urgent need for "synchronization", or operational need and "profitability" to achieve complete and continuous strategic transformation and to achieve continuous strategic improvement in manufacturing costs of at least 6% per year and with a total of 30-45% for five consecutive years, based on the reduction/elimination of costs of excess inputs and the associated cost of failing to utilize those optimally, costs that exist in their organization anyway, without significant investments, with financial visibility of improvements at the level of KAIZENshiro budgets.

So, the main job of managers is to improve productivity systemically, without investment, and especially strategically, through the now available new Strategic Kaizen thinking and methodology.

What do you think of Alin Posteucă's idea of Strategic Kaizen? Do you think this methodology can achieve synchronous profitable operations?


What Mistakes Do Salespeople Make Regarding Qualification in Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?

In 2022, Antonio Specchia published a book entitled Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Medium and Small Enterprises: How to Find the Right Solution for Effectively Connecting with Your Customers. This book discusses how to implement a CRM from the perspective of the businessperson -- not the more typical IT consultant or the technical staff. It benefits business development, sales management, and sales process control.

When I spoke with Antonio earlier this month, I asked him: “What mistakes do salespeople make regarding qualification in CRM?” Here is his complete answer:

There are several mistakes that organizations make when it comes to sales -- one of them is failing to understand the needs of their customers. 

But there is one that typically goes unnoticed that it is so often ignored if not totally unknown. Even when organizations include it in their sales process it is often diminished and not appropriately performed by salespeople. As it is an essential part of the process of understanding the client’s needs and requirements, the lack of perfect execution affects the quality of the whole process.

This is due to misleading incentives that favor salespeople's shortcuts, and also because of their positive intention to take prospects ahead in the sales process. 

The capability to escort contacts toward the last stage of the sales process shows the completeness of the job. No matter how, when prospects convert, that’s great! If they don’t, there will always be many valid reasons to claim just apply the politicians’ golden rule, it’s always someone else's fault!

You probably guessed it, we are talking about the qualification stage -- a small process itself within the whole sales process. It is a delicate task that requires a deep focus to be performed correctly: mastering the art of persuasion. How many sales reps know it? How many of them truly master this technique? Organizations should consider its real implications, benefits, and risks.

Inadequate or inappropriate qualifications can lead to several problems that are not always directly related to it: time wasting, over usage of resources, and excessive effort, all problems that can ultimately damage the organizations.

Failing to establish clear and objective criteria to clarify what makes a good fit for their solutions. Defining a buyer persona means disqualifying everyone else. The ultimate sense of a strategy is about taking long-term decisions to focus on one single track, eliminating all other options. Failing to follow the long-term strategy always results in a messy execution. Salespeople spend time on prospects who are unlikely to convert as they are not a good fit.

Taking the time to ask the right questions to gather the right information from the prospect by mastering the art of persuasion during the qualification process is the way to do it. Lack of a perfect execution can result in missing the opportunity to identify key pain points to offer tailored solutions, which can ultimately result in a lower conversion rate.

Several approaches help in designing the qualification process, two of them are the MEDDIC and the BANT. Both are intended to provide a pathway to assess the same important matter: if prospective clients match the ideal client. 

But wrong qualification is often seen just as a go/no-go filter -- in order to proceed any further all the parameters should be in place: the potential client should have a proper budget; a clear, definite need; the power to negotiate and sign the contract; and the necessary time for delivery.

No wonder why salespeople shortcut it: are those parameters fixed and riveted or can they change along the way? 

Experienced salespeople know how a budget and the timing may be adapted to fit a more valuable option, or they haven’t clarified the real need. The sales process is well beyond just the process to grow the business by engaging new clients, it is the moment when each relationship, created and nurtured over a long time may finally develop and mature.

Honesty and transparency are getting more relevant in business. Organizations are now expected to operate with honesty and transparency in dealing with potential customers (https://hbr.org/2009/06/a-culture-of-candor). It means the persuasion of the counterpart should rely on transparency and honesty even without neglecting the power of asymmetric information.

And this is what the qualification process aims for, sharing openly and honestly requirements and expectations on one side and possibilities and value of use from the other side, it enables both parties in developing a more trustworthy collaboration, not to avoid possible sources of revenue to deal with the salesperson. The ones that do not fit into the trustworthy framework will walk away without regret.

Do you agree with Antonio Specchia's perspective? How do Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems function within your organization? 


How Can Senior Leaders Be Effective in Times of Constant and Dramatic Change?

At the beginning of January, I spoke with author Joanne Irving about her latest book entitled The C² Factor for Leadership: How the Alchemy of Curiosity and Courage Helps Leaders Become Champions and Lead Meaningful Lives. This book answers the questions: How do we effectively lead in times of constant, often dramatic change? And, equally important, how do we simultaneously create a satisfying, meaningful life? In addition, it reveals that when leaders manifest both traits, they embrace the professional and personal opportunities the future brings. When the landscape is shifting beneath our feet the C² Factor enables us to lead more effectively and helps us cultivate more fulfilling personal lives.

During our conversation, I asked Joanne: "How can senior leaders be effective in times of constant, often dramatic change?" Here is her complete answer:

How can we prepare for the future when COVID and all the changes it provoked remind us of just how surprised we are when it arrives?

Cognitive skills such as business competence, creating a vision, and strategic thinking; and emotional intelligence such as communicating, inspiring, and developing others are necessary but insufficient for leadership today. Beyond specific skills, beyond IQ and EQ, leaders today need personality characteristics that enable them to respond to changes regardless of what conditions emerge. To embrace and exploit the future, leaders need to develop and exercise the C² Factor -- the application of profound curiosity and relentless courage

While both curiosity and courage are often mentioned on lists of desired leadership qualities, the alchemy of the two -- the C² Factor -- is where the magic is. 

Curiosity and courage are symbiotic and when applied synergistically, produce exceptional leadership. To be curious often requires courage – the courage to examine one’s assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes, the courage to be curious about what options have not been considered, whose opinion has been left out, why the organization is structured the way it is…

And it helps us be courageous when we adopt a curious mindset. When faced with a challenge, instead of reacting with defensiveness we can explore the validity of that challenge, be interested in what opportunities it could bring, and what innovation it might inspire. Courage is what enables us to take action in the face of ambiguity.

Leaders who want their organizations to nimbly navigate the lightning-speed change of today and be prepared for an assuredly uncertain future must model the C² Factor and embed it in their organization’s culture. This means:

Hiring from groups with diverse backgrounds

Enabling innovation by encouraging challenges to the status quo

Providing time and resources for exploration outside of one’s immediate area of expertise

Rewarding judicious risk-taking, even when those experiments fail

Today’s world is different from what tomorrow will bring so business as usual does not work. Leaders must ask questions and make decisions that challenge or even defy conventional wisdom.  They must take action to respond to conditions they have never anticipated. They must exercise their C² Factor.

What do you think about Joanne's ideas? Do you believe that this synergistic application of curiosity and courage results in more effective leadership?