Risk It! Find A Way

A winner says, “Let’s find a way.”     A Loser says, “There is no way”

Rv:2:7: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.training

A winner says, “Let’s find a way.”

A Loser says, “There is no way”

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

 Problems are life.  A great book written some years back is entitled, “Eating Problems For Breakfast.”  Another great book published years ago was “Lateral Thinking”.  Both of these books challenge us to remember that problem solving requires getting outside our normal boxes of thought and thinking different thoughts.  When we are ready to do that, we can see incredible solutions to plaguing problems.

Recently in the children’s department of a large church, the problem of space for growth came up.  The main area for elementary kids would only hold about 150 chairs, crammed uncomfortably with bad visibility.  There had to be a way.  After 15 years of looking at the problem, no one had a real viable solution.  It took getting outside the box.

Walking through another room planned for remodel a worker struck on an old idea with a new twist.  A choir loft seating about 75 adults was going to be torn out.  Why not split the loft and reassemble it in the kids area as bleachers?  The new use of an old item would make room for 100 new kids.  Not only that, but it took up little used space in the room and changed the room to a more exciting place for the kids and allowed over 250 kids to be in the room with all of them having good visibility.  Add to that another idea of doubling the lumens in the lighting and the whole idea gelled.  Unusable, dim space was turned into light, great space because some folks though outside the box against 15 years of  “no way”.  (Sunbonnet: The cost was only a few dollars as the labor was volunteered along with some great carpet to cover the bleachers. The cost of purchasing bleachers and installing a new lighting system would have been over $10,000.)

 1 Pt:1:7: That the trial (testing by presenting of problems)of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

This principle applies in all areas of life.  Tests, trials, opportunities, problems, glitches, frustrations, whatever you call them come up. Persistent prayer and thought can bring new light (couldn’t resist) and a different way to attack the problemFaith pushes through to solutions.  Fear stares at the problem and gives up.

Take Inventory

Do you have a long term problem that needs fixing?    How can you persist again and say, “There has to be a way!”?

What can you do today to get past the idea that you have to live with that old problem?

Make Application

Write what you are going to specifically do in the next 30 days about this.

 Pray To Be A Problem Solver

 Father, quicken my mind and heart.  Encourage faith in me to believe again for something on which I have given up hope.  You are so real and alive and active in everything that is.  Stretch my faith.  Let me be like the one who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”.  Give me the courage to try a new approach and see Your had displayed.

The Day You Launch a Product You Begin to Lose Ground

http://americanprinter.com/columnists/phil-larson/022515-phil-larson-grow-sustain

Every product enhancement must continue to be enhanced.  There is always a better mousetrap.  Better does not mean changed.  Better means it meets a customer need in fresh ways that help them achieve their goals.  That is better.

What about the internals that make that happen.  Here are a few tips focused on the print services industry as they adapt to changing volumes, order types, and media integration. The principles apply to any and all businesses and organizations.

Build A Better Business – Build  A Better Life Forward

Marketing Within

Decades of working in corporate politics can leave you scarred and scattered.  There is no need for that.  In a series for American Printer, I’m reviewing tips for a specific service provision to large corporations.  Enjoy and apply to your endeavors.    This particular service is multi-channel marketing as an ongoing service.  Many print service providers are finding survival means adapting and becoming new.  Whether you are internal to an organization or serving the larger engine of an organization, the rules are similar.

Take a read and ask a question.  This is only one of a series of articles addressing this service.  Others cover staffing, workflow, conceptualization, and will move on to business model for effectiveness.

http://americanprinter.com/columnists/phil-larson/multi-channel-marketing-012315-ampr-phil-larson

Common Grounds: Training Tenacity

training
courtesy robbharper.com

Exerting your vision through your people and customers requires training. You need to train team. You need to train prospects and customers. You need to train yourself. You need to train your board. You must perform with consistency, congruency, and tenacity.  They may resist.  Do it anyway.

Train Your Team

Customer Service: A relaxed customer service is failure in the making. Many inside service team unravel at this point. Every team member must understand the vision of the service group. They must breathe it and live it. It should affect every point of decision.Plus Training

The press tech, the manager, the finishing tech, the shipping clerk, and the prepress tech must breathe customer service. This means constant training on phone skills, face-face consistency, issue handling, and prioritization to customer need. How often do decisions get made based on equipment and supplies versus customer demand? Change it. Attend to it always.

Customer Knowledge: Team need to know who they serve. Communicate personal information about the key customers. Did someone recently have a baby? Take a once in a life time trip? Accomplish a certification? Why do you restrict this knowledge to the sales and customer service teams? When your team members know the customers they serve in simple ways, they take what they do more personal and increase excellence.

Team Technical: All falls apart if the machines are not running. Machines run with good files, good process, and good people. Good people are trained. They are retrained. They are over trained.

Train Your Customer

 “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

 Mission Criticals: Customers must be trained. Men and women around the world follow leadership into life ending battles. They grasp a purpose, attach to leadership, and thrust themselves into the oncoming firestorm. Your customers have a mission purpose. When you show them how their mission purpose connects with your service, you gain customers for life. They want to have loyal and mission attached service and will fight through budgets, purchasing departments, discretionary funds, and idiosyncrasies of their organization to work with you. Connect them. Educate them.

Linked Process: Customer process must be engaged. Discover their process and adapt yours to work with theirs. Educate them on your journey and your excellence. Take time to make them more knowledgeable on your ordering and delivering process than you are. They don’t care how you print it. They care how you interact with them at beginning and end of process. The better they understand, the easier their life becomes and the more they turn to you for service with a smile.

Train Yourself

Be the expert in your industry. Know substrates and capabilities and twenty uses for every machine.

Be the expert in your people. Learn something new every day about a team member. Surprise yourself.

Be the expert in your customers. Study their needs and demands. Know what they need before they know what they need.

Be the expert in your customers industry. Read industry articles and journals your customers read. Get outside your pocket of knowledge.

Be the expert in the mundane. Maybe the numbers don’t excite you. Maybe organization process is boring. Master the mundane. Take a college course. Go interview an executive or manager in another area of the organization and learn what they know.

Train The Board

There are executive stakeholders surrounding every decision you make. Official or unofficial, you have a stakeholder board. They may meet in a room or in the hallway. Get them trained. Keep them updated with quick, pithy mission points of accomplishment and plans. Let them be involved in your decision thinking. You may not have an official board of advisors, but you better have a list for your own reference.

Summary: This is quick and high level. Every organization must train these four and train them well. Skip one and risk failure. Tend to all and move forward.  Overcome your inertia.  Move on it.

ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Be Responsible side of the triad and Communications level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Action and Alliance

actionandalliance
courtesy robbharper.com
Everyone needs a good trainer.. Luke Larson, Unashamed Fitness

Find productivity improvements, lower risk and reduce expenses with 4A teams.  A good team gives bottom line results consistently and with increasing customer satisfaction.   Give managers support from the top to make this happen.  In the first article (Identify Structure) positive and negative approaches are identified.  In the second (Accountability and Adherence) the priority pair of As are outlined.  Now let’s deliver the goods.  Action and Alliance build team synergy. 

Courage and Consequence 

Action: Teams need action.   Teams need people of action.  Issues erupt.  Machines fail.  There is no greater pain than walking into a shop that is inactive for hours due to fear of action.  Costly hours have been spent with no product to show.  Somebody said he would do what she wouldn’t and nobody moved.  Inaction is death to excellence.  Dysfunctional team structure will exacerbate inaction.  Courage and consequence stirs action mode team.

Free action requires empowerment.  Right process and policy and procedure give each team member clear expectations and parameters for decisions to achieve organization objectives.  If staff needs to consult a manager more than once a week, empowerment is weak. 

Alliance: Build key alliances with vendors, suppliers, departments, team members, and customers.  Alliances require maintenance.  Build trust and tenacity.  Never assume loyalty.  Strengthen understanding and alliance with allowance for mistakes.  High accountability affords grace for mistakes.  Do not allow ignorance of the needs of partners and stakeholders.

Check Up on Action and Alliance:

Plus Checks: When team members are proactive are they given immediate and specific feedback?  Is proactive approach on every personnel review?  Do leadership team meetings include kudos for proactive solutions attributed to team members?  Is there an active and up-to-date list of alliance vendors, suppliers, and customers published to the leadership group with assigned action quarterly for communication?  Do you have fun events with partners and stakeholders?  Do alliances know your strategic objectives for the next 18 months?

Minus Checks: Are team members ignorant of business impact of product and services on the end customer of your customer?  Is a clear customer communication process of risk of missing due times integrated into every team member’s expectations?  Do team members hesitate to make decisions when management is out of office?

Transition Approaches for Each Dysfunction to Courage and Consequence:

Command and Control: Establish “do then report” into a few key activities.  Review your process flow for steering points where decisions can branch to failure and embed a manager call out into the routine.  Over time reduce these points with coaching.

Laissez Faire: Explain the business impact of the end customer of the customer to all team members.  Make this a part of your management communiqués and public interaction.  Establish “down line impact” mentality.  Help each person see the impact of their action on the next person in the process stream.

Helicopter Micro Management: Back off.  Get out of the way.  Identify where you need proactive small steps and find ways to compliment.  Focus on progress toward the end goal instead of the end goal.  Read a book on positive reinforcement theory and adjust your attitude.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Staff Rules: Establish clear vision, mission, and 18 month objectives.  Communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Establish buy-in.  Don’t do this quickly.  Lock yourself out and get a vision, plan, and timeline in your heart and mind. Discuss with the key influencers of the team. Establish lost leadership.  Bring firm vision for their discussion.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor E. Frankl

Summary: Action and alliance build a synergistic environment. Big progress is made.  Team finds solutions to long term issues on their own. Plaguing process glitches go away.  Responsible behavior now is the norm.  Joy takes over.  Move into 4 As Team.  Do it.

 

ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 

This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.

 

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Accountability and Adherence

accountability
courtesy robbharper.com
At times, each is solely accountable

Identification of the most common team structure (See Prior Article) allows you to define the beginning steps toward the productive and pleasant work environment you desire. It won’t be easy. Shop mentalities build over time. They don’t change overnight. They don’t change without strong resistance. Resistance is not a bad item. It just is. Change is painful. Who wants pain? You do. You must change to reach the place of pleasant productivity you crave. There is a freedom in a productive team that makes life enjoyable.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Courage and Consequence

Courage and Consequence: This is the team you want. Empowered staff makes good decisions, takes good action, thinks good thoughts, embraces excellence in operations, and follows right process and procedure and policy. Wow? Who is in charge of this utopia? You are. Vision, mission, and plans guide accomplishment of key organizational objectives.  It is achievable, enjoyable, and realistic.

Accountability: Absent in many teams is fair accountability. Sure, you might have erratic accountability or skewed accountability, but do you have fair accountability? Fair accountability includes up-to-date job descriptions with room for growth. Fair accountability includes up-to-date shop policy and procedure and processes with identified measurements of success at low, medium and high levels.  Fair accountability includes allowances for exceptions with appropriate discretionary latitude at the lowest point of decision making. Fair accountability includes identifiable career path.

Adherence: Alongside accountability is adherence to policy and procedure. When the accountability lies outside the individual team member for her actions you find shop standards slipping, waste unacceptable, and constant angst with little improvement. Why adhere to procedure if no one cares or checks equitably? You need firm adherence to clear and communicated process, policy, and procedure to run alongside accountability.

Check Up on Accountability:

Plus Checks: Are all key shop processes identified and process owners acknowledged and empowered? Are all procedures up-to-date with present software, equipment, and expected people skills? Is there a skills inventory and signoff by responsible staff for each process for which they are responsible? Do you have a training plan for each member of the team for cross training and extra support?

Minus Checks: Are staff members allowed to continually bypass procedures during “hot” jobs? Do you have known team members who are incompetent in some assigned duties required for their role? Are some team members constantly covering for others?

Transition Approaches for Each Dysfunction to Courage and Consequence:

Command and Control: Begin with a process inventory. Identify team members who will be owners of each process. Require delegation with increasing levels of responsibility for procedures and policies. This will start the communication to the entire team that you are serious.

Laissez Faire: Begin with procedures. Identify consequences to customers of not following the flow. Managers communicate to the team the impact on customers in a matter of fact manner. Begin to win their hearts to service.

Helicopter Micro Management: Begin with results reports for feedback. Pull back the micro manger one key result at a time. Implement 10-2-4 checks against reasonable expectations that are results oriented not operation oriented. Make sure your customers get good work while decreasing over site of mundane tasks.

                Staff Rules: When coming from Staff Rules begin with procedures created by the staff. Don’t rob them of power. Focus their energy. Identify process owners who are final signoff on procedures in their areas. Delegate clearly and communicate changes to the entire team in person where possible and by email only in emergencies.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

Fear Factors: Moving into accountability and adherence in a shop increases fear. The prior system is predictable. People fear losing predictability. They greatly fear being held accountable until they experience living with it and receiving results. Fear can result in many types of resistance. “No one ever told me.” “Who made that decision?” “That’s not what I read.” “______ is responsible.” “That’s not the job I was hired to do.” As an executive, director, or manager, you have to provide clear, communicated, and consistent response to these reactions to slowly eliminate fear. It will rise. You need to manage the fear without retreat.

 

ROI/ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 

This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.

 

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Identify Structure

Twin Bridges
courtesy robbharper.com

Teamwork is not simple and not common. A well functioning team is powerful and poised for growth. Why do you allow areas of your company to operate with dysfunction? Do you realize the power of synergy you lose? Great teams have accountability, adherence, action, and alliance knit into performance and decisions. To adopt the Four As of Team identify where you are.  Executives must lead.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today

Command and Controlwere the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.  Steve Jobs

Command and Control: This can be good practice in crisis and creation. But, it does not resemble team. A command and control structure with hierarchical dictates allows for quick obedience. It also promotes mindless action. You had better be ready to lose thoughtful workers. This is great in a battlefield of well defined parameters. It is death when you need mental acuity and engaged creativity.

Laissez Faire: Apathetic management will render apathetic results. How often have you found a manager so afraid of making mistakes that decisions linger? Indecision runs rampant and results wander further off target over time. Many times this is symptomatic of Command and Control structure in the higher hierarchy. Managers freeze because they know every decision is really made in an upper level and they have no authority, just responsibility. And that is a disease, not a management practice. Team? Not on your life. Everyone lives for himself. Finger pointing and blame shifting become survival necessities.

Helicopter Micro Management: Wow. This one is painful for every worker. Authority to make decisions may be released, but any small mistake is noted and put into the brown stamp book for later redemption. This environment breeds anger. Rewards are rare except to the micro manager, who redeems all the good points for her own benefit. There might be a team of workers gelled to mutinous intent. This is common in highly political organizations.

Staff Rules: This dysfunctional team approach is gaining ground in many organizations. Executives, directors, and managers are afraid of the employees. What if they don’t like me and my vision? What if they go somewhere else? What if they file a complaint with HR? What if, what if, and what if cause managers to check in with employees on every decision. This is entitlement mentality and will lower and lower productivity to the level of the most charismatic laggard in the shop. The danger is that managers believe this will improve morale. The exact opposite is true. People thrive on leadership that is decisive, non-political, visionary, supportive, and fair. It is not fair to allow the least productive the same reward as the most productive in a free market economy. The dichotomy of this approach is that executives begin making hidden decisions because it is impossible to please everyone. So really, you are living in Command and Control with a ruse of inclusion.

Courage and Consequence: The best team structure rewards both courage and consequence. There is a reward system for the over achievers.  There is a consequence system for the under achievers. It may not be money. It may be getting more training or being included on key work teams or allowance for a flexible schedule or whatever works for the producer. Isn’t that going to be interpreted as “teacher’s pet” activity? Sure. Deal with it. That is the courage part. Courage starts with the executive and director.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.  C. S. Lewis

Summary: Identify your team. Where are you? How did you get there? Is it where you want it? In next week’s article I address the As of accountability and adherence that make powerful and productive team. You cannot afford to lag in the first four structures. Neither can you change overnight. I’ll give you solid tips on making transitions built over time and tension and triumph.

COMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and 

ROI/ROEconcerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.

 

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: The Fearful and The Brave

fearfulandbraveairshipPursuing growth takes courage. Often, it means a paradigm shift. The brave take bold steps. Every executive, director and manger come to moments of decision. Some require bravery. Some require casting off fear. A brave decision maker in any business or organization must know three things.

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving – we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Where are you going? Columbus was a brave soul. He cast off the shore of mediocrity and embarked into an historical trip. His bravery took him and his team into uncharted waters. As a decision maker for one or multiple companies or organizations, you need to do the same.

Uncharted Waters

  • Where is the industry? You need to know. What is growing and what is lagging? How will that affect your clients and prospects? What do you need to learn to move forward? What do you need to jettison to keep alive? Be bold.
  • Where is your niche? Is it growing? Is it growing in volume, complexity, confluence with related service and product, or number of potential clients? Is it shrinking? Do you need to make a bold strike to hold market share or to improve market position? Be bold.
  • Where is your risk? Can your team keep up the pace? Are they learning at a fast enough rate? Is your equipment and software and marketing set where it needs to be? What is your competition doing to put you out of business? Are you poised to meet the challenges? Be bold.

Who is going with me? All of us need to sort through good and not-so-good clients.

  • Some clients are dragging bottom. They are anchors on a sailing ship. Every Friday at 2pm they bring impossible requests and frustrate your team on their way to anticipated family time. They call your top sales members in the evening when they would rather be watching a child’s soccer game. Specs are never ready and cost you more dollars to develop with them than the profit on the order. Inventory your clients. Can you contain the anchors so they don’t damage progress for everyone? Is there a way to manage them and keep the ship running across the ocean at high speed? Be brave.
  • Some clients bring valued cargo into the hold. Every order is ready to go, priorities are understood, expectations are in line with your capabilities. You love to meet these folks for lunch and talk about the victories. Profit margins are ample because speed of trust enables lean operation on the orders. Payments or allocations are handled posthaste and receivables look wonderful to your accounting. Be brave.
  • Some clients sharpen your saw. No one shaves off fear quicker than these clients. No one creates fear faster than these clients. Every month, they have a new idea that challenges your team to move faster, brighter, and with more creativity. You love them and hate them. You would never grow without them for they point out the future of the industry. Just when you are comfortable at present product and delivery cycles, this client pushes you to higher productivity and variety. They don’t bring an order, they bring ten orders on the same day that utilized 90% of your team’s capability. They make you shine. Be brave.

What will we find when we get there?

Contentment lies not in quality or rest, but confidence that what we have done and where we have gone is the right journey. Decision makers pursue contentment not satisfaction. There is a constant dissatisfaction with status quo that drives the bold to stay bold and the brave to be more courageous. Are you dissatisfied enough to be bold?

Summary: Fear stifles and strangles. Bravery shifts and shapes. Take inventory on your plans to ensure they break the boundaries of fear and launch you into the future. You own the future.  Surrounded by fearful managers looking for the safe route home?  Take the lead. Be one of the brave.


COMMON GROUNDS:
 These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

 This article focuses the BE FOCUSED  vision line of the operational pyramid.

 

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Razor Sharp Relationships – 10 Risk Taker Tips

Every executive, director, manager and minion is tasked with developing increasing levels of intimacy in right service relationships.  Intimacy?  Yes.  A satisfied customer can become a delighted customer.  A satisfied customer can become a dissatisfied customer.  An emotionally distant and dissatisfied customer is on the way to another shop.  A customer, who is an intimate associate, will stay with you and work through dissatisfaction.  So how do you move customers from fringe relationships to intimate foundational associates?

Like all common grounds notes, this one came from a client.  His particular struggle was intimacy with clients.  That is a tough subject.  Most of us like to separate our business relationships into a compartment of mistrust.  “Caveat vendor” and “Caveat emptor” pervade.  Getting to a trusted win-win relationship confidence assumption requires exposure and intimacy and increasing levels of personal revelation.  Sound risky?  It is.  Risk brings reward.

Trust=Risk=Growth 

A good friend in the business took me into his back office and showed me a project recently that is a highly competitive move for him.  He exposed himself.  He knows I also work with his competitors.  Trust means I can do a better job helping him as I understand his needs and focus.  Trust means no one knows but me what I saw.

With one client, when I took an antagonistic department head into the inner workflow of the shop, I was frozen with fear.  Surely they would tear the client apart in front of some executive over a small disagreement of approach.  On the contrary, they reciprocated and let me into their workflow.  We built a cooperative system of workflow that ended up in our locking shop and customer into a 100% provider relationship.

Another client took me into their private conference room with a group of key decision makers.  This was a culturally and politically tense situation.  Without trust and intimacy this discussion would be over before we started. The executive could lose a lot of face if I did not relate to each person in the group well.  She was staking business strategy for the next three years on this discussion. The pressure was on.  In a few minutes one of the key stakeholders and I discovered a common interest in the field we were discussing and the group took off into a vibrant and open discussion.

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”  Stephen M.R. Covey, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything

Developing successful relationships from fringe to friend to familiar to faithful to forever is a principle I work to instill in every organization. The Road to Human Loyalty   It applies to staff relationships and customer relationships and community relationships.  There are a few “caveats” in this path and you need to take time to understand them, but they are deeper than starting out with a lack of trust.

So as you work on your plans for the next 18 months and consider your customer relationships here are a few tips.  Sure you will meet some disappointments when you apply them.  However, you will find you gain much more than you lose.

  1. Take time to listen deeply and unplug the filters of prior expectation.
  2. Be slow to judge motivations for the heart is a complicated web.
  3. Give yourself 20 seconds to consider and weigh before you respond to any situation.
  4. Reaction to medicine will kill you.  Response will heal you.  Choose response.
  5. The space between stimulus and response is filled by choice.
  6. Believe in your customer.
  7. Believe in yourself.
  8. Think of ten good actions you could take in response to a request before making a decision when feeling like you are being used.
  9. If you consider all your relationships as well, think again and be realistic.
  10. Do the thing you fear the most, give trust.

ROI - ROE COMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

This article focuses on Sales and Marketing level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Solving Workflow with Leadership

Quality is best managed by leadership.

The conversation with a commercial manager of multiple in-plants was revelatory. His responsibility covered a variety of situations of business and higher education where management had been sourced. Each instance had a mix of team members who were employees of the institution or business and team members working for the commercial sourcing group. Few of us ever have to work in such a complexity. One of the shops experiences continual quality issues. VisionWhat is promised and proofed sometimes does not match what is delivered in color consistency. Every shop has to solve this in their workflow. Yet, no shop can ever claim to have final resolution. Why?

Can quality be 100% managed by workflow? Policy and procedure and process never resolve every issue. It is the team member performing the task that must apply discretion and excellence. Machines glitch. Chemical mixes fail. Papers absorb and dissipate moisture. Files are changed two seconds before a run. People forget to communicate changes. All of these items impact workflow. The finest workflow fit to the greatest team and equipment and software and supplies does not accommodate for all variances or all combinations of variances.

Priority and pressure pre-empt. They do. An angry customer can fluster the best of press operators. A haggard executive can shift priorities on a job in process in order to take care of the urgent. When the job is restarted not all the conditions are the same. What was going to be on time is now threatened as a rush. Content may shift due to final edits and the customer overlooks the slight but critical impact on the final piece as they sign the proof and rush out the door at 4:30pm for a piece due the next morning. “Well you signed it!”, just does not please the customer after they have handed out the goof at their most important meeting of the month.

Quality is best managed by leadership. Some things are taught and some things are caught. Leadership is best taught by being caught. A production team will reflect the tenor and approach of the leader. If you’d like to have impeccable workflow then start with impeccable leadership. What you do in the shadows will be done in the light. How you handle decisions needing discretion will lead them when you are not there.

Proactive: Leadership looks beyond the specific request to the heart of the need. Instead of overlooking a mistake on a proof by a customer, a leader reviews with the customer and asks qualifying questions if something seems amiss. That is caught when a manager does an employee review or barters with a vendor or approves a request for time off. Do you give that example at all times? Then expect team members to apply during production.

Responsible: Leadership is ownership. A leader will listen to a dissatisfied customer, personally apologize whether involved in the job or not, and give a reliable expectation of correction. That is caught when a manager takes the heat for the mistake of another department with no bad remarks.

Supportive: Leadership undergirds in tough times. A leader will stay an extra few minutes to make sure the next shift fully understands the job in process. That is caught when a manager cheerfully goes over to help a customer stuff envelopes when last minute changes threaten a mailing.

Customer Best: Leadership cares. Care means I want the best for the other person. A leader will make sure all the pieces of an order are packed so no damage can happen in shipping.  That is caught when a manager opens the door for someone whose hands are full at the front door of the company.

Summary: Plant management is a 24/7 leadership opportunity. How you live in the hallways will flow over into your shop. Cutting corners with vendor contracts will come out in cutting corners among layout artists. No workflow quality check will replace quality leadership example.

ROI/ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

 This article focuses on the operations and communications levels of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK