Change and improvement
The foundation stone of lean manufacturing systems is standard work.
How often do you think about the culture of your business and how it might be affecting company performance?
The twilight zone
Few business owners ever expect to find themselves in the twilight zone battling to save their business, to keep it out of administration or to quickly find a new partner.
Governance 2 - Managing the business
What is governance? In an SME it is often something that many owner managers wished they had taken more seriously when things have gone wrong.
Many years ago I witnessed my employer’s brutal reaction to a very public product failure. The product, a climate control heat exchanger, was based on long proven technology. The design had been rigorously tested. It fully complied with the prevailing company design, manufacturing and client standards. And, after pre-production testing, had been “passed off” by the OEM customer for volume production.
How often does your board or management team talk about cyber security?
Marginal gains - a gold medallist's story
Do you remember where you were on 18 August 2016? On that day Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke won the 470 Women Medal Race to win Gold at the Rio Olympics!
Supply chain shocks
At the foot of nature’s food chains is a primary producer, an autotrophic organism that creates complex compounds from substances present in its surroundings using energy from light (photosynthesis) or chemical reaction (chemical synthesis). In turn these organisms are eaten by animals, “consumers”, which in turn will be eaten by other higher level animal consumers. And eventually at the top of the food chain is an apex predator, an animal on which no other animals prey.
There are many food chains in nature. All share the linkage dependency of the higher levels for the activity outputs of the lower levels. Predators only exist if they have prey to feed on.
By any standards the Rio 2016 Olympic performance by Team GB has been outstanding. In a wide variety of sports, and not just the sitting down ones, our athletes have excelled.
Across the UK 99.5% of the 1.3 million private sector businesses with more than one employee are SMEs (businesses with < 250 employees).
In today’s multi-media world firms face an even greater challenge to get their product messages noticed, heard and acted on. We are all deluged with emails, tweets, blogs and advertisements that seemingly can solve every problem known to humanity! In the midst of this digital information tsunami, how does the small firm get its message heard?
Success, luck, careers and humility
How often when you meet a senior executive, a business owner or new colleague do you reflect on how they got to position they now enjoy?
Make it visual
Whenever I am in a factory or an office I look around to see what visual controls are in place. Surprisingly, particularly in offices, all too often there are none.
In my mid 30’s I joined a French automotive component Group. At the time it was rapidly growing beyond its traditional supply positions with the French and German car OEMs to become a truly global business.
Delivering change is one of the biggest challenges most Managers face. Fundamentally, no-one likes change; particularly as change almost always means disruption and learning new ways to do familiar tasks.
How do you go about problem solving in your organisation? Do you have a process or just “wing it” in the hope that inspiration will deliver a permanent solution?
Sales growth often involves finding markets and partners overseas. Experienced exporters know the value of a good local partner and will put time and effort into growing their relationships. But how do you start?
Do you remember your first pay rise? Three months into my first job I went through a probationary review. My thoughts were pragmatic; would they keep me?! The starting salary was the then typical entry level graduate package. I passed the review and to my astonishment was immediately given a pay rise of £1,000; 25%!
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
When did you last take a close look at a £2 coin? We all have them in our pockets and purses but how many of us notice the inscription around the edge and recognise its authorship?
Managing Teams - Who's got the Monkey?
“Who’s Got the Monkey?” is one of the most requested Harvard Business Review re-prints. Written in 1974 by William Oncken and Donald Wass, the article explores “the interaction between managers and their bosses, their peers and their subordinates”. It is for me one of the most influential management articles I have read.
As the newly appointed CEO for a European fluid power business, one of the “hot” day 1 issues on my desk was a series of quality complaints from a sister company.
What's the trajectory of your business?
Have you ever been the only person to see a crash about to happen? Everything seems to go into slow motion as the vehicles collide. In that moment of realisation you scream out a warning but no one hears you and the accident plays out in front of you.
Spectacles, testicles, iPad and watch!
“Spectacles, testicles, iPad and watch” is a mantra I mutter to my-self every time I leave our front door. This simple checklist helps me make sure that I have with me the key items for the smooth running of my day; glasses, mobile, iPad, wallet and watch. The very act of reciting causes me to pause; think about what else I may need for the day ahead and, to check that I do indeed have everything with me.
Practical Problem Solving (PPS) - national style
The starting gun for the General Election has been fired. Already politicians are lining up to convince us that their party’s way is best and that the other party’s perspective is wrong. We are being assailed with sound bites, video pieces, posters, leaflets and press comment from all sides.
Sales leaders are naturally optimistic about their customer prospects. But however well placed that optimism, I have found establishing a sales forecasting routine in teams not used to this important task a mentoring challenge.
Most businesses today use KPIs to monitor and drive performance improvement. So what are the key metrics for your business?
Governance 1 - Board composition
How often have you thought about the composition of your Board, what it does and how it might be perceived by customers, funders and employees?
What do you see when you walk into your reception area, walk around your site, offices or factory?
CRM and database marketing
My first role out of University was in the Marketing Department of a laboratory chemical company. I was the Product Manager responsible for a range of special reagents used in a variety of instrumental analytical techniques.
What kind of leader are you? In the course of my career I have worked with/for the aggressive bully, the listening mentor and the wholly self-obsessed interested only in what the business can do for him (invariably a him!).
What's your definition of lean?
About 20 years ago as a young General Manager in Valeo I had the pleasure of showing a Sensei from the Kaizen Institute round one of our plants in Reims, France.
Cash is the lifeblood of any business. Businesses fail because they run out of cash and managing cashflow is every Senior Manager's responsibility.
The financial plan
A robust financial plan is a key plank of an Outline Business Plan. This should show the profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow for the past two years results, the current year forecast, the current year budget and a three year forecast.
What's your sales team doing?
Sales are a key measure of business performance. Everyone can relate to sales. Often the morale of the organisation will be determined by whether sales are growing or declining.