Customer Service? No, Customer Experience!

Customer Service

We’ve all been to a business that won us over with exceptional customer service; I have written about it in the past, how being very content with a current provider, having the need to try another provider and finding a better level of customer service and subsequently making a change in regular custom. The first provider did nothing wrong, they had always provided a good level of customer service and gave no reason for me to leave; yet leave I did.

There have been many books written about the importance of providing high customer service; and even some written on the downsides of good customer service. There have been many businesses that have built their success around providing great levels of customer service; many of these businesses have been very successful over long periods.

Good customer service can be described as providing service to the customer that meets or exceeds their expectations. No one loves great customer service more than I do; having written a number of blogs and articles and spoken on the topic, I have seen my fair share of great, good and bad customer service. I’m not here to tell you customer service is not important; on the contrary, customer service has always been and will always be critically important to every business (and for individuals) to succeed. However in today’s commercial world where borders no longer exist and less and less transactions are performed face to face, the challenge is to take this to the next level to find a new competitive advantage.

What Customer Service Doesn’t Do

While great customer service can set you aside from your competitors, it can never make up for a less than great product. Believe it or not, I have seen businesses trying to use great (and I mean great) customer service as a point of difference when their product is below par. This may bring short term successes and customers through the door but it will have no better long term success than a business selling the greatest product with terrible customer service.

Just as great customer service will not make up for substandard products, it will not make up for many other inconveniences and in today’s global commercial world these can be anything from;

  • Location
  • Accessibility
  • Cleanliness
  • Payment options
  • Website

The list goes on.

Think of your favourite establishment, this could be a shop, restaurant, hotel or anything else. Somewhere you frequent regularly or somewhere you go infrequently but feel excitement about going. What is it that keeps you coming back? Is it the product? Or is it the customer service? Or is it something more?

What is Customer Experience?

That something more is what we call the Customer Experience and it is becoming more and more critical as cyber commerce grows and transforms the way we purchase and do business. Let’s take a look at some of today’s best examples of this transformation.

I have written about Uber in the past, (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/uber-argument-jason-tisbury/) and like to use them as a comparison to the standard business model of the conventional taxi industry. Another example is Amazon vs the conventional store. In Australia, although widely used for purchasing books and ebooks, Amazon does not yet have a stronghold; this will change however when Amazon opens its first stores in the country. In Australia currently, Amazon only has the categories of Books, eBooks, Apps & Games on its website so the competition it creates for local conventional stores is not great. When Amazon opens its first store in Melbourne sometime in 2018, local businesses such as Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi will have a new competitor. Just as they have had to compete against the unconventional competitors in e-commerce, they will need to improve their offering to keep customers coming back to their stores.

We’ve seen how a better product or better customer service can help bring customers in, however bringing them in isn’t enough. You have to give them a reason to keep coming back, and an even better reason not to look anywhere else. This is the customer experience. Life is not about purchases, and it isn’t about good service, life is about the experiences. Why do we go on a holiday, or a theme park? Why do we spend the time and money to go watch a movie? Because of the experience. Give your customers a better experience than they can get anywhere else and they are more likely to keep being customers – no matter what business you’re in!

The experience starts well before they enter the store and lasts long after they leave; that’s the difference between experience and service. Service is over when the customer leaves; the customer experience is not.

Again, think of those favourite establishments and ask yourself what do they do differently to make your experience better?

Locus of Control

My first blog for a little while, but thought it was time to put some words on paper (or screen). I have written on this subject before, however I thought I would expand on what I wrote last time. I been studying some more on motivation, leadership and people over the last few months and thought I’d out that study to some good use and share what I’ve learnt.

The last time I wrote about this subject I focused on understanding how much you can or cannot directly control an outcome and to place your focus on those activities you have the most control over. To attempt to control that which you do not have control over will lead to disappointment and /or a reduction in motivation / engagement.

Today I want to look at why some of find the above easier to achieve than others. We all know there are people who are what can be described as controlling and others who seem to not let anything bother them. There are those that seem to blame everything else for the outcome and those that take all of the responsibility (sometimes to an unhealthy level), regardless of the true level of influence over the outcome. This comes down to a person’s locus of control.

Locus of control was first theorised in 1954 by Julian Rotter, an American psychologist and refers to the degree a person believes they can control the outcomes from their life events. The word comes from the Latin “location” hence; it basically means where the control comes from. Rotter theorised there are two beliefs; internal or external. A person with an internal locus of control believes outcomes are derived primarily from their own actions, whereas a person with an external locus of control believes the outcomes are a result of external factors. I’ll run through a couple of examples to help the understanding.

There are examples of this theory everywhere but one that is easily relatable is the life of a student. Put your mind back to when you were in school, you are about receive your marks from an important exam. At this point the outcome is already set, you can have no control over the outcome since the exam is completed and already marked. You receive you marks and they are far below your hopes or expectations; what is your first thought?

If your first thought is internally focused i.e. “I should have studied more”, “I didn’t try hard enough” or similar then your loci is internally located.

If your first thought is externally focused i.e. “The neighbour’s dog kept me awake and that’s why”, “If the teacher could teach better, then I would have got a better result”, “I got lucky there” or similar then your loci is externally located.

Being too far situated on either end of the spectrum can be a bad thing; if your loci are too internal, you can blame yourself for poor outcomes you have little or no control over but that indirectly affect you. If your loci are too external you may blame others for your own actions. A balance is needed, however research clearly indicates that those with an internal locus of control have increased self-efficacy.

There are tests you can do online to determine your locus of control and the best news is this is a learned trait, so anything that can be learned can be relearned!

The Uber Argument

It’s been quite a while since my last blog, apologies for that. It has been a very busy 1st quarter of 2017 on all fronts. I’m writing this post from Adelaide Airport waiting for a flight home from being away in Perth and Adelaide carrying out some ISO 9001 audits.

During this week I’ve had to get to and from the airports, hotels and work places; a total of 8 trips. Now I have always used the local taxi company for these trips, but recently my son has convinced me to give Uber a try – in his words “you’ll never use a taxi again”. So I thought this week would be a good week to compare the two services and make a determination of which provides the better service.

So I took a total of 9 trips this week. Four in taxis and four with Uber. First, let me talk about the taxi rides.

Taxi:

  • I took a taxi from Perth Airport to work. This was a 20 minute journey and quite a simple journey. The car was reasonably clean and the journey uneventful with a reasonable and comparative cost when comparing to previous trips of the same nature.
  • I picked up a taxi from the hotel the next morning. This was convenient as there was a line of taxi’s outside Crown at 7:30am. This car was pretty dirty inside and the boot and the driver didn’t really know his way around Perth; he consistently made late lane changes to make a turn. When I arrived at work I gave him my credit card to pay only to find out his machine was not working. This meant I had to run into the workplace I was visiting to organise some petty cash to pay for the taxi ride (I rarely carry cash anymore).
  • I took a taxi from my hotel in Adelaide to my workplace the next day. This was a very nice and clean car, good journey and a very good driver. I didn’t realise though that I had stepped into a Premium Taxi – it was just sitting outside my hotel in the morning. Without knowing upfront this journey cost me about 15% extra over a standard taxi. I’m not even sure if this is a legal practice.
  • Finally, I took a taxi from my Adelaide hotel to the airport to go home. This taxi was reasonable inside, however the boot was very dirty and dirtied my luggage. The trip was ok and the driver was a nice guy.

So now to my Uber experiences:

  • On my first day I actually called for a taxi, only to be told there was a 20 minute wait. I decided to heed my son’s suggestion and open the Uber app on my phone. Very quickly I found it would be less than 5 minutes to wait for an Uber, so I booked it. The driver arrived on time (a great feature of the app is you are able to track the car via GPS). The car was spotless inside and out and the driver very professionally dressed in a suit.
  • The next day I booked an Uber to travel from work to the airport. The first of my comparable journeys so I could also assess the pricing of both. Again, the driver was 3 minutes away; the vehicle spotless and driver well-presented and professional. Interestingly, the reverse journey was around 40% cheaper than the taxi the day earlier.
  • I booked an Uber from Adelaide Airport to my hotel. I found the airport pick up a little clumsy compared to a taxi. There is always a line of taxis at every airport; you simply get in a line and a taxi picks you up. With the Uber I had to stand at the general pick up area and look out for a car and person I wasn’t familiar with and catch their attention before they drove past. I ended up calling and messaging them via the app. This journey another price comparison with the taxi being the cheaper option by around 30%.
  • I booked an Uber from work to the Hotel in Adelaide. Again, the Uber arrived in less than 5 minutes and again was spotless inside and out. This journey in peak hour was around 50% less than the earlier Premium Taxi in the reverse direction.

So there we have it, 8 trips – 4 taxis and 4 Uber. The verdict?

Before I get to the verdict let’s just take a quick look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of both. I’ll do this by looking at some categories.

Customer service:

Of course I will start with customer service, my favourite business indicator. By far the Uber experience was superior to that of the taxis; with the notable exception of the Premium Taxi. The Uber experience was simply better on all fronts; easier to book, and they are on time. Cleaner vehicles by far, both inside and out. And the drives dressed and performed more professionally.

Cost:

This is an interesting category. There were three opportunities for price comparison with Uber coming out cheaper on two of those occasions. Overall over the three comparison journeys, Uber was a total of $40 cheaper.

Ease of use:

In this category I’m looking a bit deeper into one of the customer service aspects. If you’re at a location where taxis wait for customers i.e. an airport, a hotel etc. then a taxi is probably an easier choice. I would say from an airport, then a taxi is far easier.

So now to the verdict. I think there is a place for both services; taxis have a convenience factor and Uber provides a better user experience and can be better value for money. Right across Australia, the taxi industry is fighting against Uber, but they are fighting a bad fight. Rather than strike, hold traffic stoppages on major routes and protesting; why don’t they wash their cars, vacuum them out, put on a nice suit and provide the same level of service that Uber does? If they did this 5 years ago, Uber wouldn’t have had the same opportunities and competitive advantage that it did on its entry. If they go and do it now, they can limit the losses. If they don’t change anything and continue with the arguments they will slowly become obsolete…

What If

I’m writing this month’s blog post from my doctors’ waiting room. My colitis is playing up lately and I’ve been in a bit of pain recently. If this post seems a little different this could be part of the reason.

Anyway, yesterday I was lounging around watching TV resting up and happened to come across Eddie The Eagle, a movie about the English ski jumper from the 80’s. A very inspirational movie about a kid with no real sporting ability and no encouragement from his father who makes it to the Olympics against all odds and even against the English Olympic Committee.

There is a line in the movie; “didn’t you ever have a dream when you were a kid” that Eddie says to his dad. This line got me thinking about how many of us have a dream as children and just how few actually realise those dreams. Even worse, how many don’t even follow or give their dream a real go. While I’m not going to share my childhood dreams today, I am going to talk a bit about how I’ve probably sold myself short over the years.

As a child I used to race motorbikes, while I wasn’t the best out there, I did race at a pretty good level and won plenty of races, ribbons and trophies. What I didn’t do was really put in 100% effort and “leave it all out on the track”. Because of this, I didn’t realise my potential and ended up giving up in my mid-teens as a “he was good, but not great” racer. Now I’m in my forties I really wish I had given it the extra effort to see just how good I could have been.

When I quit racing bikes, I turned to basketball. Again I was pretty good, played A-Grade and played in some State Finals, winning trophies and MVP awards; but again, I wasn’t really trying my best and again today, I think about how far I could have gone.

Today, I have learnt from those days and give whatever I am working on everything I have to give at that time. What I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older is “everything” is different every time. Today’s “everything” could be more or less than tomorrow’s “everything” and that’s ok. Energy, commitment and persistence cannot be constant; as we go through life we have conflicting responsibilities and commitments, so “everything we have” isn’t possible; but if we decide something is important enough we have to give a little bigger portion of our “everything” to that new priority, and a little less to something else.

I guess what this blog is about is knowing what you want; this is hard when we’re young but gets easier as we get older. Know what you want, understand how important it is to you (it’s ok, if it’s only a ‘want’ rather than a ‘must’) and then go after it. The more important it is to you to more you need to commit your time and energy; don’t look back years later and say”what if”…

Another New Year!

How do you start a new year?

Well it’s that time of the year again! With many people now back at work this week after a well earned (or maybe not, J) holiday period. Here in Australia we have our summer holidays and many businesses close down for a couple of weeks, enforcing a holiday for staff.

So how do you start your new year? If you’re like many people I know, they rock up to work on the first day back, spend time saying hello, then a few hours checking their emails, before getting back into the daily grind or ‘fire fighting’. They just hoped the fires would be extinguished over the holiday!

Not me, I always have my emails at least read prior to getting into the office on the first day back, I dislike surprises at work so I make sure I’m on top of what actions there are, or any simmering embers or raging fires before I get in. I also make sure I spend at least some time reflecting on the previous year or period that was. For me personally, 2016 was an exceptional year of more new highs, so I want to understand what I did right so I can continue doing it as well as look at some areas that I need to improve on.

Then it’s time to review my personal and work goals for 2017. For me this is a really important process; I don’t spend a long time on it but I do always make sure this is done at least quarterly with the start of a new year the most important time. In 2016 I achieved many of my short term and a few medium term goals; if I hadn’t set them, I definitely wouldn’t have achieved them and if I hadn’t reviewed them regularly, I would have quickly lost interest and let be what will be.

One of the things I want to improve on from last year is my blogging and podcasting, I find I start the year off well but then as I get busier this is an area that I let fall away. I am going to set a more realistic goal this year of blogging and podcasting monthly rather than a weekly target that is too difficult to keep, so in 2017 I will be broadcasting monthly with a bit more chunkier info.

So I’ll ask you again, how do you start your year?

Public Speaking

Earlier today I saw a post on another forum about speaking in public. A reader was asking how to stop being nervous before and during a public speaking event. I speak at around 3 professional events annually on top of regular speaking in my job and I don’t think I will ever not be nervous; the nerves have reduced over time but the butterflies are still always there. 

I recently chaired a speaking event; the nerves on the morning before chairing we’re very high to the point of thinking that I shouldn’t be doing it. For me, that’s normal and it was only when I realised that this is normal (at least for me) and I started to embrace the nervous energy that I became a comfortable speaker. 

Here is my four step guide to improving your public speaking skills.

  1. Preparation – the better you know your topic and the more prepared you are, the better contained your nerves will be. You may work better under pressure when putting a report together but speaking is a different kettle of fish altogether; finish your presentation early so you can run it through in your mind over and over.
  2. Speak – this step is obvious but you have to get up there and speak. Start off speaking about something you know about so you have confidence in the topic. You hear ideas of imaging the audience naked and other tricks; these don’t work for me, I just keep in my mind that regardless of how good or bad I perform I am performing better than everyone who isn’t up there speaking. 
  3. Assess – practice without assessment or review isn’t really practice! There are two important types of assessment; self assessment can be helpful if you are an honest assessor. Don’t be overly critical or soft just give yourself honest feedback and compare your last performance against earlier performances, don’t compare yourself to others. The second type is from the audience, both people you know and those you don’t know; without exception, I always find the assessment from the audience is always far better than my own assessment. I am my own harshest critic.
  4. Do it again. My first attempt at speaking in public was terrible. Not even I could understand what I was saying. But it wasn’t a failure because I assessed the performance and got back up and tried again.

The most important thing to remember is that most of the population will not speak publicly, you are doing it so you are already doing a better job than the rest.

Kanban

Kanban

The term kanban comes directly from the Toyota Production System and literally means ‘signal’. Often, kanban is incorrectly described as a material management system; kanban is simply a system used to trigger an activity (this could be production, material movement or shipment).

Kanban can take many different forms, however the most common is a card system which will be used for the following explanation before providing details of some other common systems.

Kanban Card

The simple kanban card is probably the most common type of kanban used. The card can take many forms, however usually contains the following information:

– Part / Inventory Number

– Part / Inventory Name

– Short description

– Image of component

– Kanban type

– Supplier

– Qty on Kanban

– Lead time

– Item location

– Card / Kanban Number of

– Responsible planner / buyer

The Kanban system is a replenishment system used in place of a materials requirement planning (MRP) system. The two systems are not intended to be used for the same parts. This is where many businesses come unstuck; they use a kanban system and continue to use their MRP system. This creates confusion and / or complacency. An MRP system is not to be confused with an ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning) which provide a much broader business financial management system; MRP is usually one function of an ERP. A card system works by triggering the supplier (this can be internal or external) to produce a part or quantity of parts. It really can be that simple. Some businesses choose to maintain an internal only kanban system; in these instances the trigger is often used to initiate the purchasing process from a supplier.  While not as effective in reducing waste as a supplier kanban, this model can still provide good benefits.

A simple internal kanban process between a warehouse and production is defined in the following diagram.

kanban

The kanban is triggered by the shipment of a part to the customer. In classic pull production theory this action creates demand on production to produce a part. The kanban card is returned to production as a trigger to fill the demand. When the part is completed it is returned to the warehouse with the kanban card. The colour-coding is used to visually display the urgency. When the first card is returned to production both the warehouse staff and production staff can easily see there is a demand, however as there is still stock available in the warehouse (in this case two) the replacement can be made with normal priority. If the second card is returned to production it is clear there is now some urgency as stock is now low. When the third card is returned to production, the warehouse is now out of stock and replacements should be expedited. There is some science behind the volumes which will be explained in further detail in a later section.

In the above example, two simple three position kanban boards are used – one in the warehouse and another in production. A single card is stored in each position meaning the inventory of finished goods will not exceed three units. For a low volume selling item this may be okay, for larger volume items there are a couple of options.

1) Increase the number of pegs and cards to increase the total size of inventory.

2) Store multiple cards on each peg. Once again this will increase the total size of inventory.

Of these two options the first offers greater visibility and control of inventory. A simple system as above can be effective for high or low volume parts and can be used throughout the value stream to trigger staged production, materials, and even resource planning. Kanban will work in small, medium or large organisations and can be effectively implemented without expensive infrastructure or technology.

A card kanban system does require resources to monitor and collect cards; this is often tasked to material handlers on a material route. It is also important to highlight the need to manage the kanban system. Just like any other system there is an element of management and maintenance required for the system to consistently operate at its optimum level. This maintenance may be required for a number of reasons including:

– Changes in demand

– Changes in design or specification

– Changes in supplier

– Lost or damaged cards

Bin System Kanban

Another common type of Kanban system is the Bin System. While the concept of a trigger is the same as with the Kanban card, a bin system is used in place of the cards and visual boards. There are two main variations to the Bin System; Two Bin and Three Bin.

Two Bin System

As the name implies this is a system comprising of two bins; one at the user and the other in the process of replenishment. A two bin system can be useful where demand is low and parts are complex so a minimum level of inventory provides significant cost benefits.

Three Bin System

Similar to the two bin system, this system utilizes three bins and is the more common of the bin type Kanban systems in use. Once again, one bin will be at the user, one at the supplier being replenished and in this instance the third will be in transit to the user or in transit to the supplier. The benefit of this system over the two bin system is the faster replenishment to the user when the replenishment is triggered. Whereas the two bin system where the trigger to replenish comes when the first bin is empty or returned creating a gap in supply as the full bin from the supplier is transported, the third bin is constantly in transit or awaiting internal movement to the work area. This does increase the total inventory or WIP within the system as there are now three bins rather than two.

Although there are some different methods to manage the replenishment the basics of kanban remain. A signal is used to trigger the replenishment method. Whether you use the cards and visual board, a bin system, a combination or any other method the basic principles are the same.

Many organizations struggle through the implementation of kanban due to a misconception that once implemented, a kanban system no longer requires management. Just like any other system, it will require monitoring, measurement and management as discussed earlier. This is an important concept to understand; resources must be made available. Another reason businesses struggle is the lack of planning and understanding of the system setup.

Kanban System Setup

For any system there are certain requirements that will ensure the optimum results. With kanban these requirements are largely the calculations as discussed below.

As in everything else, there are almost as many formulae for kanban calculations as there are lines of inventory. I am a believer in keeping things simple, so with this approach I give you the simple kanban calculation.

Daily Demand x Lead Time (Days) x Safety Factor
                                  Container Size

Daily demand is simply the average daily usage of the part. If you use the item sporadically, take a total over a month or even quarter and divide by the number of days to determine the daily demand.

Lead time is the time taken for delivery (from either internal or external supplier) from the day the kanban is triggered until physical parts are available on line for use. This is measured in days to enable easy calculation with daily demand.

The safety factor is a measure of your confidence in your systems, processes and suppliers. The standard is 1; if you have very low confidence this may be a 2. In between 1 and 2 provides the levels of confidence.

Container size is the number of parts in each container. This may be 1 or as high as you like. This enables you to talk in containers rather than total quantity of parts.

To give the formula some substance here it is again with some data around it:

Daily Demand = 25 units

Lead Time = 5 days

Safety Factor = 1

Container Size = 25

For the above data, the formula would look like this:

25 x 5 x 1       

25

The result would be 5 containers or 125 units. This is the total amount of parts within the kanban system for this particular part. Where these are situated within the system is negotiated between you and the supplier. They will be either;

1) In your store

2) At your supplier

3) In transit

4) At a 3rd party

We can change the data used to make in more interesting:

Daily Demand = 30 units

Lead Time = 3 days

Safety Factor = 1.4

Container size = 15

30 x 3 x 1.4

15

This results in 8.4 containers or 126 units; we will round-up the containers to the next whole one. Never round-down! This will result in 9 containers or 135 units in the system. As we work with the supplier and gain more confidence in their performance the safety factor can reduce which will result in a reduction of the total quantity to a minimum of 6 containers or 90 units (3 days inventory). Remember, this inventory is not all within your system as roughly 1/3 will be in process with your supplier, 1/3 in transit and 1/3 in stock.

I have intentionally used a simple formula to both aide comprehension and simplify the explanations. I use the same formula in every business I work with and have for more than ten years. There are many more complex formulae used by many practitioners and I’m sure some do have some benefits however in my experience the more complex the system, the more problems will be met along your journey.

A kanban system should be easy to use, easy to determine when it is working on track and even easier to determine when it is off track! That is the beauty of kanban, you shouldn’t need a PhD to setup the system or use the system. An effective system can be setup and managed by just about anyone and everyone in the business should be able to determine whether there is a problem or not.

After setting up and running your kanban system you may find there are some issues with either excess inventory or out of stock. Don’t panic and throw out the system. This just means your calculations are a little (or a lot) off. As you gain experience in setting up kanban systems you will reduce these errors; remember though, the kanban system isn’t a set and leave system. It is a dynamic system that will require updates in line with demand, product changes and supplier performance.

Sometimes it happens

Sometimes it happens, you’re working on a project and you just run out of ideas; your creative juices just dry up. Well this happened to me this week; for this blog. Normally I wake up on Monday mornings and the idea for that week’s blog just comes to me. This week nothing came to me. Today is Tuesday and again nothing came to me; so I decided to do what I always do when this happens to me during a project.

I just do something; it doesn’t matter what it is really. I pick up a pen and start to draw or start to write, often totally unrelated to what I’m working on. But more often than not, my subconscious mind will have a light bulb moment during this “down time”. You see the mind is an interesting and complex system and understanding how the mind creates ideas is an interesting subject. There are a couple of important ingredients to having an idea:

–  The brain needs dopamine. Dopamine is released when we are doing things like exercise, listening to music, taking a warm shower.

– Relaxed state of mind. When your mind is relaxed, your thoughts will be more inward focussed. Today this is called “mindfulness”. It really works!

– Distraction. This is the kicker for me. By distracting our mind it gives our conscious a break and lets the real work begin in the background. Think of your mind as a factory. If the owner of the factory  refused to hire anyone else and tried to do all of the work themselves; selling, buying materials, planning production, running the equipment, packaging and distribution the business would crumble. This is because one person cannot do all of that work physically or mentally. It’s no different in your mind – your subconscious is your team around you. Let it get to work and stop micro-managing!

So back to today’s blog, I started with nothing to say but have already written half a page; that’s the power of the subconscious!

But seriously, do not underestimate the importance and the value of doing “nothing”. It’s only nothing if that’s what comes out of it; from my experience this very rarely happens, if ever. So, the next time you’re stuck on a project, put on some music, get into some exercise or any type of distraction and let your inner team get to work.

Speed of Change

Today, I thought I’d get back to the core of my lean passion and talk a little about implementation of a lean project. Yes, lean is about small continual improvements, but there are times when project based work is needed for larger roll-outs and tasks.

I am a firm believer in and practitioner of PDCA, Plan Do Check Act. For many of my projects the planning stage may be up to 80% of the entire project life cycle. Thorough planning of the project will always result in smoother implementation and transition. The stages of Do and Check are critical for any project, and even more so for very large projects with many stakeholders as this is where the real buy-in occurs. Although these first three stages are the longest, it’s important that they are still completed in a timely manner so the project doesn’t labour on too long. When a project takes too long during these stages, it can appear to have stalled and the business may lose interest.

When it comes time to implement the project, speed of implementation is important; however it is more important to not rush it. I like a fast implementation as I’ve found in my experience that you can get a lot more action and buy-in through the excitement and energy of a quick implementation; and let’s face it, if the change is the right change and will bring good outcomes, why wouldn’t you want to be excited? I’ve seen some slow implementations where the team is almost apologising to the business for being in the way or for making the change. These changes will not be sustainable; before the project is finished, the business is already sorry!

So, take your time to plan and test thoroughly before building excitement and energy for the implementation. Implement as fast as you can but be thorough in closing out any open issues. Don’t do a fast half-baked implementation with the intention of going back and finishing; intentions are great but don’t actually achieve anything – actions do!

Tech, it’s a tool not a process!

I spent a couple of days last week attending a Manufacturing Conference in Melbourne. Met some really knowledgeable manufacturing professionals who really know their stuff. Over the course of the two days the presentations and discussions were quite diverse, however there were a couple of trends that kept coming up; one of the was the use of and the integration of technology in business, and in particular manufacturing.

Now, I am a card carrying member of the geek squad. I love new technology, what-ever it is. One thing I took away from the conference was the unfortunate use of technology to either 1) Control our processes; or 2) Be our process. There was an overwhelming opinion within the room that as manufacturers, they have technology thrust upon them rather than supporting them. This technology then becomes another burden.

Quite simply, the introduction of any new technology should be no different to the introduction of new capital equipment; it needs to add something.
– A reduction in costs through improved efficiencies
– An improvement in safety
– Improved quality through tighter tolerances or increased repeatability

This list can be long, but the point is it makes no difference if it’s equipment or technology. It has to add value otherwise why make the investment of capital and time. Before you introduce your next technology, ask some simple questions:
– What value is this new technology providing me?
– Is there a current gap this is will close out?
– What are the risks / negatives to introducing this new technology?