Operations and Manufacturing
Operations is the fundamental engine of your business. Often half your employees are housed here. Efficiency matters, and waste is a killer. This is where Lean practices contribute their biggest payoff. Operations/Lean engagements often include:
- Convene a leadership/execution team tasked with Operational Excellence and Process Improvement;
- Identify and Pareto the top issues facing Operations; to the extent possible, quantify their impacts;
- These two exercises alone cultivate big picture, trans-silo thinking;
- Often, create a Value Stream Map (VSM) of a few critical processes; use the VSM to trigger insights, identify bottlenecks, locate needless inventory buildups, reveal hidden delays, etc.;
- Train the team in Continuous Improvement and the management of the improvement projects; identify and assign these projects to sub-teams, and have them report progress every week. This practice builds leadership and resourcefulness in the team, not to mention driving steady improvements in Operations!
This means managing the business as a whole. It’s what the CEO does every day, but hopefully the Top Team and others also are involved with general management. Here are some issues that arise in a General Management engagement:
- Development of a robust, workable Strategy. Key factors: appropriate framework to develop the strategy; right degree of flexibility; including the right people in the strategy planning process; communicating the strategy to the troops, and ensuring accountability and followup;
- Identification, consensus, and energetic buy-in for the key issues facing the company;
- Sometimes: basic blocking and tackling: org. chart, position descriptions, staff meetings, accountability practices, etc.;
- Creative use of your financials: structuring your reports to be truly useful to the team; how much to share, with whom; planning and review cycles;
- Getting the right people in the right jobs;
- Quarterly and yearly planning, goal setting, and accountability review to consistently achieve results.
Research & Development
A solid R&D program is critical to revenue growth; without new products and services, you’re swimming upstream. Typical in an R&D engagement:
- Working with R&D, Operations, Marketing, and Finance, build a robust overall process for New Product Development; usually embodied in a flowchart and a process document;
- Describe the phases of the development process, including the work flow, objectives and exit criteria for each phase;
- Set up the appropriate planning tools for the team. Typically includes software for generating and maintaining the project Gantt Chart;
- Establish the right level of communication meetings. Often includes brief weekly stand-up meetings with a simple, consistent agenda.
The Top Team
In most small businesses, the very capable CEO takes on too much; the next layer of people, also very capable, doesn’t work very well together, lives in siloes, and doesn’t have access to good training. It behooves the CEO to focus on building the team, something that’s hard to do when fires are raging!
Building the team starts at the top. It consists of a series of facilitated meetings that take a deep dive on topics like these:
- Understanding the personalities of the Top Team;
- Getting clear on the company’s strategy;
- Making sure your infrastructure is working for you;
- Making explicit your company’s values;
- Implementing a company-wide practice of continuous improvement;
- Understanding the kind of leadership traits your unique company needs;
- Sharing the company’s financials as appropriate;
- Achieving a work-life balance.
Companies that have engaged in this process have experienced truly amazing results in cross-functional collaboration, and simply operating more efficiently, creatively, and profitably.
Project Management (PM) is a critical skill for the R&D organization. It’s also a very powerful and helpful tool for leadership throughout the company. PM engagements tend to be short and focused, and include some of the following:
- Instruction in the fundamentals of classical Project Management. Classes can range from:
- An in-depth, multi-day experience in R&D PM, including developing actual plans for an actual R&D project. PM is the most fundamental non-technical skill in R&D, and its mastery is an absolute must for effective R&D Project Management;
- A general purpose PM class suitable for any leader in the organization. Most leaders will need PM at least several times a year;
- A “PM Lite” class suitable for anybody, but especially people involved with Continuous Improvement projects. A must for embedding Continuous Improvement into your culture;
- Coaching for projects underway in the company.