In many Companies, there is a Corporate structure at the Head Office and then there are different Manufacturing Plants and/or Regional Sales Offices. Sometimes there may not be physical offices in the regions. But there may be Sales Team members all around the Country/World. Sometimes the Company may be spread around several Countries and then there may be more complications involved such as Cultural differences.
The relationship between Corporate and Regional structures is very often tense, ambiguous to say the least. Many a times Companies may be wasting lot of energy trying to manage the relationship between the Corporate and Regional Teams. If there are no issues between the Corporate and Regional teams, that does not mean the relationship is working the way it should. One of the teams would have given up and surrendered to the other. Most of the times it is the Regional teams who give up trying to get their views recognized and start ‘Managing those H.O Guys’!
I can almost hear these Regional Plant / Sales Teams telling their Teams to just grit their teeth and bear the ‘nonsense’ for two days when ‘those H.O guys’ would visit their Region/Plant!
A Company should be cognizant to this issue and ensure they nurture the relationship in such a way that the Company would get maximum benefit from the Synergy of these two structures. Having worked in both areas in my career, I can understand if a Plant Head talks about the ‘Spies from H.O’ who encourage the employees to ‘tell something’ about their Bosses so that the ‘masala’ can be carried to the Corporate Gods at the H.O!! I can also understand the viewpoint of Corporate HR Head who complain about the wide differences in the way Employee relationships are managed in different Plants or the way different Sales Teams adhere to / not adhere to the Work Timings / Expense statement rules.
A small percentage of the readers of this article may be saying to yourselves ‘Nothing of this sort happens in our Company!’. It may be either of two cases. One – You may be dominating the other part of the Structure in such a way that everyone has given up on you OR Your company may be part of the very small percentage of the Companies who are really managing the Corporate / Regional structure to the benefit of the Company. I know you would like to believe that you are the latter one. Just confirm with your other partner to know the reality!
Unless a Company deliberately puts in practices to manage the relationship between Corporate and Regional, it will go the wrong way and wrong way only.
Corporate clubbed with one Region/Plant: This is the Worst type of combination! Some of the Corporate structures are clubbed with the Mother Plant or Regional Sales office of the one nearest to the H.O. If your Senior Management is in Delhi, your Regional Sales of Office of Delhi may be clubbed with the H.O / Corporate.
Here, the roles of Regional and Corporate are mushed up. The Corporate guys start behaving like the Plant guys. The whole Corporate team would be straddling the poor Plant / Plant Head / Regional Head. They will not let this Plant / Region work independently. The Company Head would become the Plant head for that plant. The Corporate Heads for various functions would be stifling the Plant / Regional Teams.
This does not happen because the Corporate guys really want to do it. It happens over a period of time. The Company Head and the Senior Team are available in the location. So, the Plant / Regional Office start ‘leaning’ on them. Trying to take quick approvals and so on. As they are available on the location the Senior Team will start getting ‘involved’ a bit more. Very soon you will find the Conveyance statement of the Commercial Clerk being approved by the Finance Head of the Company! After some time, the Finance Head will be very unhappy if that does not come to him for approval!! The Plant Accounts Head would only be happy to send it up!
There are several serious disadvantages of this type of Structure. You would find that the Plants that are clubbed with the Corporate structure / Regional offices clubbed with Corporate Structures are the worst performing ones. In the odd case of a Regional Sales Office clubbed with the Corporate structure performing well, the Regional guys would have nicely delegated everything upwards and enjoying the quick decisions coming their way! It is doubtful if the real output is coming from both structures!
I dealt with Plants that are near the Corporate office in another article.
Let us look at a few Best Practices in ensuring that the Company gets the full benefit of both the Corporate and Regional structures.
01. Company View Vs Regional View: The Corporate team always has this advantage of having a Company View. Usually the Regional Leaders do not enjoy this unless they adapt it specifically. Regional Leaders should be encouraged and given opportunity to participate in some Corporate Projects to give them this view. They should be involved in some Company level Projects to adapt this view. Similarly, the Corporate Leaders should be involved in some ‘Hands on’ Projects in a Plant / Regional Office. This will help them retain the ‘Local view’.
02. Functional Expertise: Usually Corporate Functional Heads are senior to the Regional HODs. These Corporate Functional Heads should aim at contributing to the Functional practices in the Company. They should be really having the expertise and should be able to command respect due to their superior knowledge. If they are just relying on their ‘Corporate Designation’, then they will lose their respect very fast. A Corporate Quality Head should show a value to the Regional Quality Heads with the Common practices that he may introducing. He should be able to get the respect of the Regional Quality Heads from his wide experience in handling Customers and the Best practices he is bringing in. They should not be just ‘Bossing around’. Head of the Company should keep a watch on this.
03. Companywide Initiatives: Companywide initiatives like a ‘Business Excellence’ Initiative is best initiated by the Corporate Teams. But it would be best to create a ‘Steering Committee’ having participation from Plants / Regional Offices even to create the Companywide Initiative.
04. Enablers and not Doers: The Corporate Teams should act as ‘enablers’ not initiators alone. They should be trained to exhibit the ‘enabling’ Quality as against ‘doing’. Their KPIs should be to ‘Enable the Regional Teams’ and not to do it themselves. This is more mature point of view. All the Corporate Team members may not get it from beginning. I have seen a few Corporate Functional Heads behaving like Regional Heads of Department and thereby holding on to ‘their way of doing’ too strongly. They should elevate themselves to a higher point of view in a Corporate role.
05. Leave Results related work to Regions: One simple way of bifurcating the work between the Corporate and Regional teams is to leave everything Directly about getting Results to the Regions / Plants. Here, the Corporate teams can at best advice. If a Regional Leader is consistently not delivering on Results, you may deal with the non-performance. But while sitting in Corporate Structure, you cannot be doing a Regional Role! Not good for the Company! The structure will be weakened.
06. Train them to be better Leaders: The Corporate Leaders should be trained to ‘Work on the system’ as compared to working in the System. They should also be encouraged to manage the Regional Structures loosely and not tie them to a rope and take them for a walk! I have seen many Corporate Leaders who are not comfortable unless they get a call from their Regional / Plant Colleague at Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner – Three times a day!! Leaders like this have to be trained to become better Leaders. At the same time, we do not need Regional Leaders who delegate everything upwards!
07. Motivating the Regional Teams: Every Functional Leader should be a good cheer leader for the Regional Teams. He/She should set the Functional expertise benchmarks to the Regional teams and encourage them to elevate the Functional practices in the Regions. They should encourage the Regions that are creating Best Practices in the Company. This would get some respect for them from the Regions.
08. Role rotations: After the practices in Regions and Corporate comes to some maturity, the Rotation of people between Regions / Corporate can be encouraged. This will prevent the people becoming ‘Corporate’ / ‘Regional’ for life! Don’t attempt this if you do not have good amount of Standardization of practices in both Corporate and Regions. That would make the work worse. Everyone will do it in their own way.
Leadership of Company: The health of Corporate and Regional structures is normally defined by the Type of Leadership the Company has. There are many Leaders of the Company who are weak in their knees and encourage lot of ‘reporting’ by the Corporate teams on the Plants / Regional offices regularly. Usually the Regions / Plants do not work well in these cases.
You get what your actions deserve! If you can encourage the Regions to become strong and you want your Corporate Teams to help them become Strong, that can happen!
I know many Corporate Leaders who take the excuse of their Boss expecting them to report in a particular way!
If you are a Leader who is worth your salt, you would know how to stand on your feet at Corporate level and define the Culture of the Company!
Every Company has to manage their Cost in a systematic manner. Ideally there should be no need to cut Costs. But almost every company has this need to drive Cost reduction. The Profits are under pressure continuously and the Competition & Customers always gives you a reason for Cost reduction.
Many a times when the Cost reduction is taken up the Teams take up an approach of ‘Somehow’ reducing the Costs. If you are approaching serious Cost reduction after a few years in your company, then very good chance is that you would do well and achieve a good amount of Cost reduction. Usually the Top Management are happy with that and Serious Cost Reduction is set aside for next few years.
But I feel there is a need for Continuous Cost Reduction in a Company. The Cost should always be looked at and we should continuously find more economical way of doing things. This has to become a continuous focus of every organisation.
To ensure this happens, we need to put a Cost Reduction System in place. The system would have following components.
01. Cost Data: The first step in ensuring a good Cost Focus is to ensure the Cost data is available in the Organisation. I have seen many instances where the data is not available on the Costs and the Management does not get awakened to the need for Cost reduction. The Cost data should have at least two sides. The Internal data giving the various components of the data and second aspect is Benchmarks with external data. It is ideal if we can get Cost Data Benchmarks with the Competition. But we may not get it every time. We can also look at the Cost on Zero basis.
The Cost data should be available in every area. It is worthwhile to have a small team to analyse the data and bring out the important components.
I have seen several companies that do not know the Cost data for their Products. So much so that they do not know whether they are making money on all their products or not. This is not a good situation to be in.
02. Cost Reduction Target: There should be a Target for reducing Cost just in every Function / Department. The Target should be a reasonably tough. The CEO should have a target at the Company level. This is very important as there are some Cost escalations that happen despite our best efforts. Most of the time, we do not have any control on the escalations. We need to have something to fight back with. Only this will ensure that we achieve our Profitability target for each year.
Cost Reduction target has to be taken to every Function / Department.
03. KPIs: Every employee should have a KPI that is about Cost Reduction. This KPI should have a reasonable weightage. This will ensure that the employee gives a good priority for the Cost reduction.
04. Process for Cost Reduction: Every Company needs to have a good Process for Cost Reduction.
a. War room: There should be a War room for Cost reduction in every company. The war room will have the Cut samples of Products, the Products that are broken down to parts, Competition product Samples and so on. It will also have the Target Vs Actual displays of various teams that are working on Cost reduction.
b. Daily Meeting of Teams: If you want your teams to deliver on Cost reduction, they should spend time EVERY DAY on Cost reduction. Every team should meet for at least 45 minutes in this room The War room should have the schedule for the meetings of various teams.
c. Brain Storming Sessions: Cross functional Teams should meet in the War Room for Brain Storming Sessions. There should be a schedule for Brain Storming sessions. The number of Brain Storming sessions will depend on how much progress you have to make in that particular area. If there is a big target and you are very much behind, then you should meet more often.
Every Brain Storming session should be held with a good Procedure. The team should prepare for the Session. The target for the session in terms of a Value for which you should find ideas should be given ahead of the meeting. The specific topics for the Brain storming session should be announced in advance.
d. Invite SMEs: Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) should be invited for the Brain Storming sessions. These SMEs may be in the Company or they may be Suppliers, or they may be Professors at IIT and so on. You can get different thinking into the Company by inviting the SMEs from outside.
e. Full Time team: Every company needs to have a full time team as needed for implementation of the Cost Reduction ideas. Sometimes it would be very beneficial to have a Task force (Full time team) for implementation of the Cost reduction ideas.
I have seen this Process give wonderful results in Companies. Every Company would require some home-grown processes to ensure effectiveness. But the above standard practices work everywhere.
05. Techniques: Every team needs to learn some formal Cost reduction Techniques like VA / VE, Total Cost of Operation and so on. The teams need to be taught the techniques that work best for the Company. Every company should define these Techniques specifically for each Team and teach them these techniques with the help of E-Learning Courses.
06. Learning from the past: Finally, the Company needs to learn from the Cost reduction Projects / ideas to improve their Products / Processes. A Company need to become better and better at Cost Management and their experience in Cost Reduction can help in a big way towards this objective.
07. Cost Council: It would be good to formulate a Cost Council headed by the Finance Head to monitor the Cost reduction efforts. This Council would be responsible to manage the Cost reduction efforts across the Company. The Council should work out ways and means of encouraging the Employees and motivating them towards the Cost reduction Goals.
08. Total Employee participation: Company should encourage participation from Employees as well as Vendor Community. For this it would be useful to have standard Schemes that will help the Company to encourage the employees and Vendors to participate in the Cost reduction actively. The Employees and Vendors would be rewarded suitably for the Cost Reduction efforts.
A continuous focus on Cost Reduction would definitely help the Company in managing their Profitability much better.
In the Last article, we examined how a Company can use the Business Awards to further their Business Goals. One should be very clear about what is the End and What is the means. In the heat of the awards, one should not get lost that getting the award is the End.
In this article, I am looking at the process of challenging a Business Award.
Run your Business like a series of Sprints
To ensure the Company pursues its’ Business Goals with full vigor, a Leader needs to create surges of energy from time to time. The energy levels go down by default. This is quite apparent in many companies when you see their failure rate towards their own Targets.
It is ideal if a Company can be run in a manner wherein the Teams pursue the goals with great vigor. I am sure good number of Companies may be running like this across the world. But many other companies need help in this area.
Challenging the Business Awards is one way of maintaining the Mojo within the Company.
What Award should you challenge?
Before you decide what Award would you like to challenge, you should decide what Improvement methodology works for you. Some companies go for 6 Sigma, some go for TPM, Some others for TQM and so on. Some Companies may have their own Business Systems within their company. But they may borrow the principles from all Best Practices. I would recommend this route.
I would further recommend that you don’t use the Specific Terminology that is used in TQM, TPM and so on. Put your own names for each of the practices. That would give it your own company flavor. For example, you need not use TPM as a term. But you can have a term like ‘Good Maintenance Practices’ (GMP) and formulate your own practices. I say this as it is better not to bring in the baggage of other companies into your Company. You should formulate the Best Practices in Maintenance that work for you!
Once you have an outline of your own Business System, you would of course have to start practicing the Business System. You can use a Business Coach here. Someone who Is experienced in implementing the Business Systems.
After you form your own ideas about what works for you, then you can look at challenging an award. Don’t just look at one award. One award would give you energy for may be 2-3 years. Think about at least next 10-12 years. What next after this award? Is there a next level of this award? Eg. Deming Award, Deming Grad Prize. After you get all awards, what will be your way of generating this extra energy in the Company? Ideally you should learn how to generate this energy in the organization with the experience of challenging couple of awards.
There are several Business Awards. You can Google them, and you would get a long list. Depending on your Business Practices, you can choose which Award and which methodology would fit you. You can go to other practicing companies and listen to them. It is important to listen to their failures as well as their successes.
What happens when you challenge an award?
Your company has to adapt the Standards and Processes that this Award / Methodology prescribes. So, be ready to make a major improvement in your Business Processes using these criteria. You are going to practice each of the Criteria, and you are not going to pretend you are practicing it to get the award!
Most of the Awards allow you to adapt the Criteria, to your needs. Do not believe if someone tells you that you have to use them as they are.
Use the Award criteria and the Best Practices from that Methodology genuinely to take your Business Practices to the next level. This is a must. If you do not do this, you would end up doing something to just get the award and you would lose focus on your Business!
Choose your Guru
Many of the Awards like TQM / TPM awards require you to take the help of a Japanese Consultant. This is quite fine. They do add a huge amount of value to a Company. But after looking at these Sensei for many decades, my learning is that a Company can get maximum benefit from the association if there is a Local Guru who Is aligned to this Sensei’s thinking. I have seen many companies that are not able to use the help of the Japanese Sensei fully as many of the Sensei struggle to be understandable to Team members beyond the senior level. This is also a reason why the TQM / TPM efforts stay at the ‘top’ in many companies.
I believe that the Local Guru and Japanese Sensei can together give Best output to the Company.
Practicing the Principles
Once you choose the Guru, work out your next 3 Year Goals and look at how the Best Practices of the chosen methodology (TQM / TPM / 6 sigma) will help your Company to achieve the 3 Year Goals much better.
You should create internal champions for each of the Major Principles. You also will need a full time Business Excellence team.
The Principles should be genuinely put into practice to get a better result in each of the Goals of the Organisation. We will not practice any Principle that does not seem to add value somewhere.
The practices have to be continuously improved as they are practiced.
The chosen Gurus will play a role of auditing these Practices and helping the Company to get the best out of the Principles.
Some of the ‘Must Dos’ in this area are:
- Work out the Major Goals for every Function.
- For the big three goals, formulate Cross functional Teams that would get the BEST results for the company. Eg. A Company may decide to improve their market share in three years by 5%. This requires Cross functional working.
- Create a sense of urgency by working out the Audit schedule by the Gurus till the final audit. Please note that this is the major purpose for which you got in to the Award route!
- The Audits by the Gurus should be linked to specific progress that various Teams need to make.
- Create a good Progress chart that would motivate the Teams. Create enthusiasm around the Goals.
- Improvement Story writing: There is a practice in all major Award journeys to write an improvement Story. This is called as Schedule A and B in Deming Award Criteria. This is a very powerful practice. When you write your Function’s Improvement story over past 2-3 years, you may or may not be happy with the improvement curve. That dissatisfaction actually sets the ball rolling. Through the Story, you would gain an upper level picture of the progress that you are able to achieve. When you are not satisfied or when your Boss is not happy with the progress, the real change will start!
- Write this Improvement Story early in the journey and keep repeating it / updating it every 6 months or so. This helps you to keep having a Bird’s eye view of your progress.
Create Learning avenues
While your Team is shown the three-year goals and you have also created the extra energy towards those goals, you also need to equip the team with much better skills in their Functional and Leadership areas.
You need to make some serious progress in some of the following areas:
- Engineering Problem solving ability in your Company. This is fundamental to a Manufacturing Company.
- Your Product Technology. You should be able to push the boundaries of Product efficiency and become much better player in the market.
- Your Manufacturing Process should become as Lean as possible. You should formulate your own Manufacturing Systems during this period.
- All your Processes like Sales Process, Marketing methods, New Product Development process etc should mature during this time.
- Using I.T and Industry 4.0 elements you should go to a much higher level in Productivity / addressing Customer needs.
There can be more areas.
Create Learning avenues for Employees to learn in these areas and implement their Learnings.
Shifting the focus of the team members on their Skills is the progress that a Company should do. Using technology in the form of E-Learning can be a good idea. The Company should re-engineer the learning using Technology.
Inspiring the Teams
The Leaders in various functions should be able to inspire the teams towards the goals. The Leaders need to be developed to ensure this. Putting the Leaders on to a Personal Improvement journey through a Leadership Development program can be a good idea.
Each Leader should be helped to inspire their teams.
Some of the Best practices in this area of getting results are as follows:
- Recognize the better performing teams.
- Communicate much better using the Technology available today. Many Creative possibilities are there in this area.
- Bring out the Employee participation in the Goal Achievement. There needs to be many methods of engaging the Employees. Few methods may not fit ALL employees.
- Celebrating the progress made by individual teams and Company as a whole.
- Diagnosis of Performance every 6 months. Align this with the review by the Gurus. Guru as an outsider can evaluate your analysis of your Progress and help you make corrections.
Your own Sprint Process
The Leadership should be quite aware that challenging and winning this award is the end in itself. It is a means to learn the process of ‘Motivating the teams to pursue the Business goals in a vigorous manner’.
You should develop your own ‘Sprint process’ towards your Goals using the Award journey!
All the very best !
For a Leader to be successful, especially in these fast-changing times, he/she has to be Learning continuously. But Learning is one of the first casualties once a Graduate join a Job. Somehow the habit of Learning dies once someone joins a Job. As one gets promoted and goes to senior positions, the Learning habit gets buried in the ‘heap of experience’. One can Learn from own direct experiences and from what is happening around them. My observation is that most of the Executives are very resistant to Learning. The more senior a person is the more he/she believes that there is nothing more to Learn.
To Learn or not to Learn?
If you are the Senior Leader in the Company, you may be even thinking that it would be counterproductive to say that you are learning, or you want to learn! The proportion of Learning Leaders is very small.
How do I learn?
It is not that no one wants to Learn! I observe that many of us want to Learn. Learn something new and so on. But, most of the times we fail to Learn! I notice that many people may not know how to Learn!
When you were in College or in formal Education, there is a structure to your Learning. I remember when I went to a 3-year MBA while working. There was a strong structure of Monthly classes, Assignments, Residentials, Group discussions and so on. I was able to Learn a lot! I am always thankful to my employer then, Rane Group who sponsored me for that excellent Course! When you are dealing with many issues live, you can learn much more than when you just completed your Degree!
Now, how do I learn at Job where there may not be a structure for learning? How do I learn in my Business? This seems to be the issue many people are facing.
There is nothing to Learn!
Of course, other than this there is this callous attitude of saying ‘I don’t have time to learn’! For these ‘Busy bodies’ the time has not yet come! We can try to help them by trying to rise their ego to Learn. But responding or not is still their choice!
While working in a job and as an Executive and Business Coach, I have always tried my best to Learn as fast as possible. I remember one celebrated Teacher commenting about me as an ‘Osmotic Learner’ meaning someone who learns with every breath! This had been a god given strength for me.
I have been trying to teach the art of Learning to many people with whom I had the fortune to work with.
I would like to present you a few Best practices in Learning.
01. Learning is Highly Technical: While some of us can learn fast and naturally, many of us require a structure for Learning. If you agree with me that this Human Body is a sophisticated machine, then there is a way in which this Machine Learns. I think David Kolb captured this very well in his Learning Model.
Kolb says as we go thru many experiences in life, we need to Observe what we are going thru in a reflective manner. We then have to conceptualize the Learning to our context and then experiment it in our life.
We need to ensure we follow these steps. Many of the Training programs stop at Concrete experience stage.
We have to Learn the art of Reflection. This is very critical step in Learning. No reflection – No Learning! But once you cross this stage the other two are as important.
In the area of Reflection, writing Diary / Writing Logs of incidents that we go thru can be very useful. This is the way we try to practice what we learnt!
02. Your own Leadership Model: I would encourage every Leader to formulate his/her own Leadership Model. This model should reflect how he/she is practicing the art of Leadership. This does not mean we will not improve this model. We are going to have the model so that we can improve what we have. If there is no Model you don’t know what you are practicing and you may not be able to improve.
I am reproducing my own model of Leadership below. This is one model. I am sure you can do even better than this one.
I continuously keep improving this model.
03. Career Goals / Learning Goals: You need to be clear about the direction in which you would like to learn! For this, you need to have your Career Goals and Learning Goals for at least next one year! Without this, you may work hard and still not find yourself with good direction!
04. Showing Gratitude: Showing gratitude for what you already have is very important to Learning. Acknowledging what you have is important to get more! Once you start showing gratitude, your attitude towards world changes radically. It opens you up for more Learning. Try it! You can write down all the good things that you already have in your Life and thank whoever has helped you to get them. It may be your Teacher, your Boss, your Wife, your children. It would be great if you can tell them personally. You can keep going thru this in your mind every day!
05. Partners in Progress: In your Learning journey, you need the help of your Friends / Colleagues. Without them, you would be simply Blind to your Strengths and Weaknesses. It would be good to have a group of Colleagues/ Friends to get a 360 Degree feedback and a feedforward as to what you can do to improve yourself in a specific area. Please be bold to pull in a few people who do not see eye to eye with you on a few issues. When someone is not agreeing with you, it is a chance to improve. If you ignore them, you are going to lose chance to improve!
06. Use Technology: We are going thru Fourth Industrial Revolution! These are exciting times. There is a lot of technology around us and we can use it for our Learning too. You can rewire your Learning using the Technology. Use E-Learning courses. A Good E-Learning Company can help you to use the Courses in a systematic way. Micro Learning is a concept that can help you to learn regularly and at a Micro Level. You can keep learning the Micro Skills continuously.
Kick off a Learning Journey!
My experience of observing myself and others says that the whole journey has to start with ‘Reflection’. Please look at the Video of Robin Sharma on Reflection. He puts the concept together very well.
In the past 6-9 months, most of the Industries across India have started complaining about their Businesses slowing down. May be this problem very much exists in other countries too. But, let me focus on Indian Companies. The Slow down panic is there in many industries and everyone has his/her own theory about how bad it is, why it is happening and how long it will last.
In this article, I would like to just focus on ‘What a Company can do during the Slow down’.
Every Company would have expanded their capacities with some expectation of Sales every month. When that Sales is not happening consistently for a few months, they would start panicking. Usually, you would see following happening in Companies where the Sales is not happening as per plan and it started dipping below the last year and last few months average.
- Sales Team looks help-less. They are not achieving the Targets consistently and Sales numbers are falling steadily. The Sales team keeps reporting bad numbers. After a few months, the Management may start accepting that there is nothing that can be done, and Sales team is trying their best!
- Employees get fired. The Contract employees are the first to be fired. As the Sales Dip continues, the firing will extend to other types of Trainees, Junior Staff, in Some companies’ Senior people will be fired as it gives better bang per firing. These same Employers talk about the need for Employees to work as owners in good times and when things go wrong, they fire the employees (Rajiv Bajaj put this wonderfully in his interview with CNBC).
- Inefficiencies increase in Factories. The Factories start idling and the Production efficiencies increase. Again, this keeps getting accepted as okay as the Volumes are down.
- New Product activity reduces. Most of the Companies will see their New Product activity reducing as they do not want to take more expense and more risk during the slow down.
- Mad rush to reduce Fixed Costs. The Semi Variable / Fixed Costs get cut ruthlessly. Maybe it is right to do that. But even the essential ones will get cut.
- Negativity all around. There will be a mourning environment and the energies are down. Senior Management pet topic is about how to cut Costs (Again nothing wrong with this approach. But that can’t be the only chant.)
- Company starts going into a shell. You can almost see the company getting into a shell withdrawing all signs of life! It is almost like closing your eyes hoping the storm will just pass and it won’t affect you if you close your eyes!
- Everyone starts asking for Government help. Last but not least, everyone starts looking to Government to rescue them. Government can help Companies to enter in to new markets across Globe by passing on some subsidies to them. This is done by many Governments across the world. China is a wonderful example of supporting their Industries selectively so that they can penetrate the Global market. But, you can’t expect Government to come to your aid whenever there is sluggish demand or more serious slow down.
What else we can do?
I would argue that most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have huge possibilities for improving themselves. The inefficiencies that are there in the Companies are huge. The Slowdown that is happening can be used to rediscover themselves in many areas of Business. We can look to becoming a stronger Company that can withstand these Slow times! I am not talking about throwing lot of money at problems. I am talking about fundamentally restructuring your P&L in such a manner that you can withstand these Slowdowns.
Let me highlight a few ways below. We will deal with each of these areas in detail in articles that will come in subsequent weeks.
01. Skill up your People: A Company is built only by the People that it has. When the Top line dips, Companies should not look at firing its’ People. This is foolish and it is akin to shooting yourself in your foot. When you look at the Shop floor Employees, most of the Companies are living on Contract employees and Trainees whom they can fire immediately! This is no great Leadership! You can show great Leadership by:
a) Re-engineering the Learning: Defining the Skills required for each of your Employees, Skill them up by using Modern Technology like E-Learning. Use this Slow down to re-engineer the way you focus on Skills.
b) Make Learning Contextual: Define Micro Skills and Micro Learning agenda for employees depending on your Business agenda for this Year. Train them for the Context by using the E-Learning.
c) Bring Skills to the center of the Business: Link Skills to Performance and link Skills to Performance assessment. This will ensure your Employees create a pull for Skilling up.
The Business Goal for this activity should be to Triple the Sales Turnover created by each employee in the Organization over next 2 years. This is very much possible. Leaders need to take up this challenge.
Do not look at firing Employees. Rather, build a Team that is totally committed to your Organization and this will make you win in the Longer run. In the Short term too, only this can create good results. If you fire people and improve your Bottom line, the Investors would see it clearly. You would be harming the Company by doing this.
02. Re-engineer your Business Systems: Most of the Indian Companies do not have a clear way of working. The SOPs are there in ISO files and they get dusted before every re-certification audit. After that no one looks at them and no one follows them. Some of the following can be done:
a) Re-engineer the way you Manufacture. If you have not implemented the Lean Concepts on your Shop floor, this is the time that you should do. Everyone will understand the seriousness of the Situation in a Slowdown.
b) Re-engineer the way work happens in various Functions. The Productivity of every activity can be at least doubled if you have not applied Lean principles to it. I am talking about the activities that your Staff does. Time taken for releasing a P.O, Time taken for accounting a Bill and so on.
c) Define the way of working in every Function. You should define your ‘way of working’ in every function. New Product Development System should be defined, Cost reduction System for your company should be defined, Sales Process should be defined, Marketing Process should be defined and so on.
The Objective of this exercise should be to get every activity in the Company done in 50% of the time compared to what it is now.
03. Re-engineer your Costs: The Opportunities for reducing the Cost in a significant manner are there for many companies. In the past decade or so, the Companies are focusing more on Costs. But still there are opportunities to reduce Costs. Some of the activities that can be taken up are:
a) Taking up Big Targets for Cost reduction.
b) Conducting Brain Storming sessions.
c) Involving Subject Matter experts.
d) Bench marking with World Class Products.
The Objective of this exercise again should be to improve the Profitability by 35% or more. A Big target will make your team to think entirely in a different manner. Have trust in your team, they will deliver the results.
04. Re-define the Market Place and the way you approach it: In the current status of the Industry where there is a big change that is coming up in Auto sector in terms of surge in Electric Vehicles and reduction in IC Engine vehicles, many Companies have to have a relook at their focus areas. They may have to redefine their Industry focus. A Foundry / Machine shop that is focused on Auto sector has to realign itself to other Industries.
When a Slowdown happens, it is not that the whole Business has disappeared. You are not growing. But there may be several other Companies that are growing. Indian Economy is growing by 5% right now. You are not aiming to capture the whole Economy. It is just fine for you if you are able to capture a few more new Customers. Every Prospective Customer is looking for new ways to save money and reduce costs in this environment. How can your Team deliver this to these Prospective Customers? If you are skilling up your Team, you can ask them to deliver this result for you. If you are firing them, then there is no one to deliver this result for you!!
If you have been rejecting RFQs that are 20% below your Price expectations, then can you challenge your team to start reducing the Costs and accept more of these RFQs?
05. Re-engineer your Products: Use this time to align with your Customers much more. Every Customer wants the same product at much lesser price. You may be having ideas for reducing the Cost and come out with a new Family of Products. But you would have been postponing it due to the pressure on the Factories and R&D Team. Now, the Factories are not having the Pressure. Focus more on New Product Development, come out with the Family of Products that may be Priced 20% cheaper and most of the functionality.
This is the time to teach ‘Frugal Engineering’ concepts to your New Product Development team and become more attractive to your Customers.
Fill your Company with Positive energy
There may be many more Initiatives that can be taken up. What I am suggesting is that you should use this time of Slow Down to energize your Employees and ask them to take your company to the next level in terms of Competitiveness.
Use this time to create some World Class Benchmarks!
There are many Leaders in the Manufacturing Industry. I have had the Privilege to meet Hundreds of Leaders as part of my Career and Business/Executive Coaching. No two Leaders are the same. Each Leader is interesting in his/her own way. Each Leader has his/her own way of guiding the team and getting results. We can look at results and say who is effective and who is less effective. But, it is also important to look at the Process that each of these Leaders follow.
Let me discuss a few examples of Leadership that I have seen.
01. Patient Leader: I have met a Leader who does not follow up hard with his team. This Leader may / may not fix any targets. If a Sub-ordinate is proactive, he may bring a target for approval by the Leader which the Leader loyally does approve! Otherwise, he is not running after the Team members for Targets. This Leader also does not review his team closely. He does not put any pressure on his team. None whatsoever. In fact, he is trying to make them absolutely comfortable in their jobs.
While this is the style of the Leader, the Subordinates who are quite conscientious are building their own methods and achieving the results that they can. Those who are not firmly in control of their problems may not be delivering very good results. This Leader is not putting any extra ordinary pressure on this person. Sometimes he may get involved in this area a bit more.
The results in this company are reasonably good. They keep growing very well. It is not a very small company. It is above Rs 1000 Crore turnover and they are growing.
When you look at the Business Systems in this Company, they may not be very strong. Whether the Company can withstand strong competition and survive in a tougher environment also? It remains to be seen.
But, fundamentals related to People seem strong.
This type of Leader is a big exception and I have not seen this type of Leader coupled with good results in short and long term. There are leaders where the Business Results are there. But not Process results.
02. Lost Leader:There are many Leaders of Companies who are expecting a lot from themselves and their teams. But, they have no idea of how to achieve it. They keep taking up BIG targets and keep failing regularly.
They keep pushing their teams hard. The teams do not have a way of going after the Targets. The guidance from the Leader is not Clear.
Results are always well short of expectations. Very often I found these companies more or less stagnated at the same level for years on!
This type of Leaders are many. I am not referring to Entrepreneurs only here. There are many Professional Business Leaders who fall in this category.
03. Aggressive Leader: Then there are Leaders who are out to achieve everything and, in some way, or the other. They want results ‘somehow’.
The Targets are usually set to be quite aggressive. But, these Leaders are okay even if their team achieve 75% of these Targets. They have fixed ‘high’ targets in a ‘smart’ manner!!
These Leaders usually tell the team what to do, how to do and of course when to do. They just seem to know everything and have answers for everything.
These leaders ‘deliver’. Their Bosses are very careful with them.
These are the Organisations that are stuck in the wrong place. They seem to be getting ‘Good’ results and they don’t want to even blink while this is happening for the fear of losing everything.
But, they would be damaging the organisation quite badly. When this extraordinary Leader leaves, the Company will come back to Zero.
This is perhaps the most dangerous of all the situations.
How to build your way of Leadership in a conscious manner?
I would say that the type of Leadership that you adapt should develop the People in the System continuously. It should be a very strongly Process oriented approach.
I have heard from some accomplished Leaders that Process is not required when a Company is Small, and it is required only when your Company is beyond a certain size. I would invite these Leaders should look at their definition of ‘Process’. Are we straight jacketing our definition of ‘Process’ meaning something that will deliver results only in the medium / long term? A small company / unit requires to deliver results quickly. A Baby who is trying to walk for the first time needs to develop the muscles in the legs. He can’t be worried about preparing for University examination. But, the Process that he adapts should aim at delivering the Short term results only. A Baby that has to learn walking will be helped by her Parents to practice this walking in a controlled environment where the Parents remove all obstacles in the Baby’s path and one Parent releases the Baby while the other goads the Baby to move and come to him. There is a process happening here!
I would say Process focus is a must whatever the size of the Organization. If you don’t have a method of doing your work, then the results happen only by chance.
I would lay down Three Components of ‘Your way’ of Leadership:
01. Your Expectations: A Team develops to meet the expectations of its’ Leader. If your Expectations are set in miserly manner, you are short circuiting the development of your Team. At the Same time if you have too high and unreal expectations from your team, it won’t work.
Please note that it is your Team who will decide whether a Target is unreasonable or not. If they feel it is ‘unreasonable’ and you feel It is ‘reasonable’, the onus is on you to prove it can be attained. Not on them !
If you don’t agree on a Target, please note there is no communication happening !! You need to STOP here and fix this.
You need to have a good Vision of what you can expect from your Team. You need to stretch the Team so that the BEST comes out of them. I would say that this ability of Leader to set the Right expectations is an art. He/She has to look at their team and know how to set expectations and rise the expectations slowly. The speed of raising should be slow enough not to leave too many people behind and fast enough not to disappoint the team members with good capabilities.
The Leader should be very clear about the Targets for this year broken up in to Monthly / Weekly / Daily Targets. Leader has to guide the Team to break up the Targets and ensure they know what to do today to achieve their Weekly / Monthly / Quarterly/ Annual Targets.
01. Your Follow-up: A Leader has to work out his own way of Follow-up with his team. The Follow-up tools will include the following:
a) Business Reviews: Regular Business Reviews and Fixed agenda for these Reviews is very important. If you ask ‘x’ number of Questions every week and you are asking the same questions, the whole organisation designs itself to answer your Questions. Definite paths develop in the organisation along the questions that you are asking. A good Daily Work Management (DWM) (You can get certified as a DWM Specialist with the help of an E-Learning Course from IMA) with good KPIs helps this situation. What is important is to ensure Business Reviews are happening at ALL levels. Not just your Reviews at the Top.
b) Motivation system: The Motivational methods in the Organisation should be continuously tweaked to push the Objectives of this year. Many companies who have some motivational systems have FIXED systems. This does not help. Your Award and Recognition systems should be evolving continuously.
c) Organizational Initiatives: When you are pursuing a set of targets in the Company, you may see a need for taking a bigger action in one area. Example : If too many accidents are happening in your Shop floor, you may feel the need for a major improvement in the area of Safety. You may appoint a Subject Matter Expert either as a Consultant or a full time employee to push for a revamp of Safety systems. These Initiatives are important to help your Company to make some bigger improvements.
d) Deep Dives: In some situations, just reviews are not enough. You may want to get down to the Shop floor / Market to lead some Activities. Eg. In a tough Market environment, You may want to go out and meet the Dealers across the Country to find their views about Market status. Look at what is working and what is not working so that you can motivate the team to get results where they can. These Deep Dives are very much needed to know the Status on the ground and to understand the Problems on the ground.
e) Bench mark visits: It is very important to take the Team to look at other Companies that are doing well. Nothing teaches your team better than a working model. Many companies are quite open to receive teams and share their experiences provided you know the Questions to ask. Companies are available across the world in different economies. Bench Mark Visits have to be timed well. You need to take the team to these companies when they are ready for that. A wrongly timed visit will have no impact.
Many a times the Leader adapts only the Business Reviews for Follow up. Even these Business Reviews will end up in lot of questions rather than answers. This will demotivate the team rather than motivate them! Be careful about this aspect !
Try and put yourself in the environment that you are giving your team and see whether that environment motivates you. You can ask for feedback from your team too!
3. Your Guidance: We spoke about Your Expectations and Your Follow-up. I am talking about another aspect of Leadership. How do you guide your team to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find their way around?
A Sales & Marketing Manager has to build the Process of Selling and Marketing. If he has a wonderful process, he should be delivering consistent results in line with your targets. If he is delivering, it is time to raise the bar. But, the continuous development in the process is a must. Being static is being dead! How do you guide your Colleague to improve his methods?
A HR Manager has to keep measuring their effectiveness in developing people. There is so much modern technology today for People Development is that he should evolve a better process every day. How do you guide him to develop better and better methods fo improve Human efficiency and Human Learning methods?
A Finance Manager has to look at better and better methods to monitor all the costs and understand the activities that are causing the cost. He should make the activities so transparent that anyone can monitor them and control the Costs. How do you guide him in this?
A Leader has to guide her team members to develop these processes in every interaction that she is having with them. This is the higher purpose of Business Reviews! We are not reviewing them to just push them hard!!
To give this guidance, the Leader need not be expert in everything. All that he needs is a systematic thinking and patience to guide. I would say each Leader has to spend at least 2 hours per month with each of their team members to look at the processes and guide them to improve the processes. In some cases they may spend more time and in some cases they may spend less time.
Using the above aspects of Leadership and other aspects that you may feel necessary, it is required for you to build YOUR WAY of Leadership that continuously evolves and that delivers Consistently!
If your team is getting consistently better results, this is one indication that you found your way!
When you look at a typical Manufacturing Company in India, the usage of IT is very limited. A small percentage of Big companies use IT in an effective manner. While a great majority do not use the Quality, Manufacturing and other Modules in ERPs like SAP even though they would have paid for it and they lie unutilized in their servers.
Resultantly, most of the Important work in Manufacturing happens off line. We don’t try to control the Manufacturing process as it is happening. Most of the controls are off line. We seem to be letting defects / problems happen and then we are reacting.
Can we go more online?
I think we should go much more online than what we are right now. I would recommend using some Apps for specific purposes. I would recommend using IT in two areas to begin with:
a) How Employees Learn
b) How Employees pursue Routine
Let us examine how we can use I.T effectively in these two areas.
How Employees Learn
Objective of this exercise can be to reduce losses on the shop floor and improve efficiency by bringing a focus on to the Skills and Knowledge of every employee in the Shop floor.
Today in most of the Companies there is some focus on the Skills of the Workmen. In most of the Companies this focus is very weak. There is no effort to continuously improve their skills. Focus on the Skills and Knowledge of Staff is much lesser. Only a very small percentage of the Companies the Staff are getting trained in a systematic manner.
We can’t afford this anymore. We need to become very efficient if we want to grow our top and bottom lines. Let us act on this !
I would suggest defining the Competencies that all the employees need. These competencies may cover:
a) Product Knowledge:The employees need to have good knowledge of the Products that they produce.
b) Process Knowledge: The Manufacturing Process and the process in every function can be another focus area.
c) Systems Knowledge: The Systems that the company may be following can be another focus area as this will ensure employees know the way of working in the company. Eg. Manufacturing system, Daily Work Management System , Policy Deployment system etc.
d) Functional Knowledge: This covers the knowledge that each Staff member needs to have respective to her function. Eg. APQP / MSA / Problem solving knowledge for Quality Engineer.
Bring the Training online
You can bring the Training on these topics online by doing the following:
- Define the Training agenda for each employee covering topics from the above 4 fields.
- The topics defined should have close link with the requirement of Knowledge and Skills to achieve the goals for that year / Quarter.
- Divide each of the Competencies in to several Micro Competencies / Skills as applicable. We should go really micro so that the topics become small enough for easy consumption.
- Have Learning hours every week. I would recommend at least 2 hours every week.
- Make the Learning content available on line on the cloud.
- Define Certification Standards for every Micro Competency / Skill in terms of Knowledge, Implementation and Results.
- Certify the employees continuously for the Micro Competencies.
This will ensure that the Employees will have continuous focus on Skills, Knowledge. This will ensure the efficiency on the shop floor improves.
The Training and Development has to be owned by the Functional Leaders. They will be the Sponsors of the Training as they will have to show the ROI.
By bringing focus on Skills and Knowledge, the Functional Leaders can make huge progress on the efficiencies in the shop floor and that will more than pay back their investment on the Training.
How Employees pursue Routine
Routine is something that is not very exciting in a Manufacturing facility. But, without a strong and consistent routine, the heart beat of the facility can not be consistent. Most of the problems that Manufacturing Companies face is usually related to a violation of Routine.
Defects happen as the SOP is not followed, High Break downs of machines happen as the Preventive Maintenance does not happen, New Products do not perform better as the New Product Development process is not followed well. The list can be very long.
Strengthening the Routine in a Manufacturing Company can give very high returns.
If you look at how the routine is being followed now, it is mostly offline.
- Quality System is verified off line.
- Machines Preventive maintenance happens offline.
- The Production Routine of a Supervisor happens offline.
- Safety checks happen online if they happen.
How do we bring the Routine of the Shop floor online? I have some suggestions.
01. Online Quality Checks: Develop a Software that will work on hand held devices (may be smart phones) that can do the following:
a. Trigger Quality checks on the basis of the Product that is running on the line.
b. The triggers may go for People across the hierarchy to take care of the ‘Layered audit’ principles making Quality the Collective responsibility of Employees at all levels and not just the responsibility of that Junior Inspector of Quality on the Shop floor.
c. The Data will be accepted in various ways by the Software:
i. Physical data entry by the person to whom the check is triggered.
ii. A Photographic input for Visual Checks.
iii. An electric pulse from an Instrument having capability to give output.
iv. There can be more ways in which we can collect actual data on Quality.
This will ensure that the Quality System becomes online and the checks that are happening and not happening will be clear. Quality can be controlled online.
02. Online Safety system: Similar to the above Software, one can use the concept for Safety checks too. The input can be similarly taken. In addition to the inputs mentioned above, the CC TVs that are available in Shop floors can be used to identify unsafe acts and alert the concerned employees.
03. Online Maintenance Checks: Again, the approach is same as explained in s.no 1. The Supervisor / Operator will check the Maintenance points on line. The machines that have Breakdowns and Machines that already have Zero Break downs can be treated differently in terms of the checks that you do.
04. Online Assembly line: The Assembly Lines can connected to Internet and following actions can be brought online:
a. Start up procedure. Many of the Start up procedures can be automated where the Software will sense the presence / absence of certain parts / resources. The Pressure in the airline can be sensed by a Transducer and recorded.
b. Running Status recording. The Line may stop for various reasons. The losses may be entered by the operators to ensure we capture the losses. The Software can ensure this.
c. Who is working at the Station. This is quite easily captured by the Software for traceability purposes.
d. No Fault forward. The Defects that can happen at each station can be defined, Quality checks to capture these defects can be available at every station and using a RFID / Barcode system we can prevent a defect going to the next stage.
e. Line Work Management. The Line can display the data on Production / Losses and escalate the information in case of Line stoppages and other inefficiencies.
There can be several more ways in which the work on a Shop floor can be brought online. When we do it, we have tons of data coming up from the shop floor.
Analytics: We need to have our Engineers trained to analyze this Data and take learnings from the data. The learnings may include:
- The Quality checks that are getting missed out and address some practical issues that may be there in carrying out these Quality checks.
- The Engineers who may be missing Quality checks at a certain time of the day and this data can help us to understand the way of working of the Production Engineers and help them to arrange their work much better.
- The Safety points that are getting violated frequently and what needs to be done to avoid these violations.
- The Breakdowns that have relation to running a specific product and specific operation.
- Relating the defects to the people / conditions / time will become easier.
There should be a small team who does these Analytics, takes the learning and does something about it.
When you go online, the Team has to become more Disciplined and more knowledgeable about everything around. The training discussed earlier will ensure this. The Online working will also highlight the absence of Knowledge and Skill of People much more.
Indian Companies have to shift to working Online earlier than what we think.
Are you getting ready?
All of us who worked in a few companies in our respective careers and those like me who had the wonderful opportunity to work with many Companies as a Business Coach would have observed that some Companies had a very good Working Culture whereas many Companies did not have such a great working Culture.
We generally say the Culture of the Company is good and may be recollect that this company had the practice of ‘Town hall meeting’ or ‘Annual Sports meet’ and so on.
Let us look at what a Good Work Culture is and how do we develop it in a conscious manner in a company.
I remember a definition of ‘Culture’. ‘Culture is the way we do things around here’.
So, a Work Culture personifies the way you run your Company. To understand this better, let us look at the case of any of the Religions that we practice. Each Religion has its Rituals / Festivals that are celebrated by the Practitioners of the Religion. These Rituals / Festivals survived for Centuries. In the Geographical locations where these Rituals / Festivals are followed rigorously, the Religion flourished. According to the Rituals / Festivals the Culture of that Religion developed. In the Same Religion, there may be different Rituals / Festivals in different Geographical Locations. So, the Culture in the same Religion in different areas may be slightly / vastly different. While the Governing Doctrine is same, the Culture may be different based on the Practices / Rituals / Festivals in that region.
But, the Practices / Rituals / Festivals play a very big role in sustaining a Religion. All the Religions have been sustaining for Centuries!
Now, if you want to develop and maintain a Good working Culture in your Company, you should be able to define your ‘Good Work Culture’. This may depend on the Values that your Company Practices and the way you want to contribute to the Society through your Company’s work.
It is good to start right at the top and be clear about the type of Work Culture that you want to build. But if you are not very clear about this overall objective, then you can look at some universal ‘Good to have’ Objectives.
Some examples are as follows:
01. Performance Focus: Competent Employees / Vendor Partners would definitely be very happy to work in an environment where good Performance is recognized and encouraged.
02. Professional Improvement: Again, the Employees / Vendor Partners would like to have a culture of Company encouraging / giving opportunities to the employees / Good Vendors to Learn continuously.
03. Wellness: Employees would love to work in a Company where their Wellness is given a good importance.
04. Customer Orientation: A Company where good Customer Orientation is there (Both internal and external Customer) would progress well.
05. Contribution to the Society: All Stake holders would be happy if the Company is seen as contributing to the goodness of the Society at large.
06. Process focus: Company may give importance to ‘How’ the Goals are being pursued in the Company and not just the Goals themselves.
This way a Company may have some overall Objectives that are not just monetary objectives but means to achieve the Business Goals of a Company in a consistent manner.
Why should companies pay attention to Culture?
People are the foundation for any Company. All the Stake holders are important. But it is ultimately the Stake holders who are making / breaking the company.
Even if a Company is not building a Working Culture deliberately, a Work Culture gets developed on the basis of how things get done in the company.
A Good / Bad Culture would develop without your active participation. If you want to develop a good culture based on your Company’s values, then it is better for you to participate in that process and try your best to influence it. If you do not control it, it will be left to the Dominant personalities in your Company who would anyway influence the way the work gets done in your Company.
If you are not controlling the Culture in the Company, then the Work Culture can keep changing as the Leaders in the Company change. This is the reason we keep hearing ‘It was an exciting place till 2 years back when ‘xyz’ was in charge’.
How do we build the Working Culture in a Company?
As we discussed earlier, the Company’s Work Culture is sum of its ‘ways of getting things done’.
One needs to introduce some specific Practices in the company that work towards the Objectives that have been set.
Let us discuss with reference to the Six Objectives of Work Culture that we earlier discussed.
a) Performance Culture: Some of the Practices that may be adapted to establish this culture are:
a. Having Measurable KPIs for every employee.
b. Having Transparent link between KPI score and Ratings. This should be visible to all employees.
c. Having clear rules for Promoting Employees.
d. Having practice of giving Objective Feedback by all Supervisors to their teams.
e. Celebrating Performance at the Micro Level. Leaders in the Company can have practice of giving small mementos to encourage Small but significant progress towards Goals.
f. Celebrating Good Ideas towards Work Objectives.
There can be many more innovative ideas.
b) Professional Improvement: You can promote many practices towards this Objective. Some of them are as follows:
a. Having periodic Technical Paper presentations and inviting IIT / International University Professors who are experts on your Company’s Technology area.
b. Sponsoring the higher studies of Employees.
c. Promoting study of your Technology area.
d. Promoting the learning of Formal Technical Problem-Solving methodologies.
e. Promoting Discussion forums on HR, Finance, Supply Chain related topics along with local companies.
f. Improving the Skills of Employees with focused training.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list.
c) Wellness: Promoting Wellness can be done thru a variety of means. Some of them are as follows:
a. Conducting lectures by Doctors / Yoga Experts to address Physical / Mental / Emotional and Spiritual Health.
b. Conducting Health Camps
c. Weekly Wellness camps where Yoga / Zumba etc are practiced.
d. Health monitoring of Employees
e. Recognizing Role models in the area of Physical fitness
What is critical is to do these activities continuously and not as one time activity. Employees adapt these practices at their own speed.
d) Customer orientation: There are several practices that can help you move towards this objective:
a. Taking periodic feedback / Score from Internal Customers.
b. Internal Customers to have a say in the Performance evaluation of Internal Suppliers.
c. Recognizing Best Internal Suppliers by Internal Customers.
d. Publishing Great Customer service stories in the Company.
e. Inviting Senior Executives from other companies to tell Stories about Customer orientation.
Truly this area has enormous potential for innovation in promoting Customer orientation.
e) Contribution to Society: This is an area that you can use to activate the fourth Energy – Spiritual Energy of every Human (After Physical, Mental and Emotional Energies). Very powerful one. Some of the Practices that you can think of are:
a. Encouraging employees to form a group that contributes money, physical effort for Societal Causes of their choice.
b. Channeling the Company’s CSR efforts thru Employee groups.
c. Encouraging Stake holder Groups to participate in Public relief activities.
d. Helping the people in immediate surroundings of the Company.
Stake holders participating in these activities will have enormous satisfaction and they will be able to realize their higher energy.
f) Process Focus: It is very important to let a Process Culture prevail in your Company. Don’t focus on the Results always. Encourage your Stake holders to follow the process and have faith that the results will come. Some practices that can help you are:
a. Have a defined way of pursuing Goals in your Company that prescribes a good Process.
b. Measure the performance of a Stake Holder with Process Measures along with Results Measures. Having only Result Measures will push the Stake holders to somehow achieve results.
c. Promoting a ‘way of working’ in every sphere of the Company like New Product Development, Quality Process, Problem solving etc.
d. Reward People / Functions excelling in Process.
You can do the above and you can do more. Each company should find its’ own mix of Activities / Practices / Rituals / Celebrations that promote the Culture that you want in your Company.
But you SHOULD participate in the building of the Work Culture in your Company. Leaving the Culture building to a few strong personalities in your company that too accidentally is very Dangerous.
Catalyst: Volunteerism can be a Catalyst for Culture Building in a Company. Encouraging Employees to promote the activities that they can personally relate to can be very productive in furthering the Culture. Human beings can generate a lot of Positive energy when they connect to an activity where their heart lies. A Company should encourage this. The Positive energy they generate can be quite contagious!! Eg. Someone who is passionate about Social work should promote the Societal angle in your Company. You would be surprised to see how many of your Employees are interested in Social causes. I know many Youngsters earning just Rs 10,000 per month. But contributing to a Social cause every month!
Build the Work Culture in your Company Actively !!
The Naughty Baby Bear!
I remember a story told by one of my ex-colleagues.
An R&D Engineer was walking in a Forest. The R&D Engineer was carrying a young Bear which was very naughty, and the R&D Engineer was struggling to keep it in his hands as it was scratching him all over the body! The R&D Engineer could not keep it down as it may escape, and his Boss would take him to task. He came across a Colleague who happens to be a Production Engineer in the same company. R&D Engineer called him out and asked him to hold the Bear while he would go to attend to a nature call. The poor Production Engineer could see that the young Bear was very naughty. But he believed his colleague that he would come back and took the naughty Bear in to his hands. The R&D Engineer dashed off never to come back! The Production Engineer was left to struggle with the Naughty Bear!!
My Ex-Colleague was telling me that this is the way New Product hand over happens in Companies!! You can easily understand that this guy was from Manufacturing side!!
Looking at my experience in dealing with about 40 Companies, I think this is fairly accurate description. No one to be blamed. Neither the R&D Engineer who has to deal with many a Naughty Bear nor the Production Engineer who is not equipped to handle untrained young Naughty Bears.
Simply the system is not there to handle these problems.
Handing over of New Products: A Process that is simply non-existent in many Companies!!
Indian Manufacturing Companies are handling several New Products compared to a decade back. There are more Car Models / Two-wheeler Models / Truck models / Capital Machinery models / Hand phone models / New Foods in the market than ever. Customers are having more choice than ever. All this choice made possible by Millions of Engineers across the Country who are working in Factories producing these New Products.
There are some companies that manage the New Products in a very systematic manner. In most of the cases, these belong to the Automotive industry where the New Product development process has matured more than other Industries. But, even in the Automotive industry I have seen companies that have no or minimal process in the area of ‘Handing over the New Products’ to Production.
We notice several scenarios in Companies regarding New Product Handovers.
01. Customer wants it yesterday: There are situations when the Customer would be sitting in the Company to get the New Product developed. The Company has to respond as the Customer has this urgency. Typically following would happen in such a situation:
a. Product may be developed with Adhoc processes everywhere. May be temporary tooling is used. No manufacturing process is defined. Trials are done right in front of the Customer.
b. Customer closes his eyes to several process violations.
c. The Customer team and the Supplier company team together cooks up a lot of documentation.
d. The Customer tests the Product in a great hurry. Only if very big issues are there, the reworks are done.
e. The Production team has to handle high volumes very quickly in this situation.
f. The Supplier Company would take several short cuts, spends much more money than warranted to meet up with Customer demand.
g. No one even talks about the high Rework / Losses in the Value stream.
h. Everyone is simply focused on the Quantity going out.
i. The whole process is highly inefficient. But, the high Volumes may cover up the losses in most of the Cases.
j. No one would seriously address the situation as the Customer is happy he got what he wanted and Supplier is happy a high Volume Product had been introduced.
k. Production team gets used to ‘handling the mess’.
l. Very often the Process is left in this ‘High Loss’ situation till one day when Customer wakes up and starts tightening up the whole process. Usually this happens when the QA Head changes at the Customer end!!
m. The Supplier would start having high losses due to sudden tightening up of Quality standards. He has no defenses as the ‘unwritten acceptance’ of deviations to Quality standards cannot be quoted.
02. Customer wants it but is not sure when: When there is no urgency for the New Product, the Supplier would push the New Product to the Customer. He would have got it developed in the Company at normal pace. But, the handing over to Production does not happen properly as there is no Schedule from Customer. Usually following types of issues are faced in companies:
a. Production refuses to take charge of the Product as the agreed number of Pilot batches are not done.
b. If even this process of doing Pilot Batches is not there in the Company, then the New Product becomes OLD just by passing of time.
c. When the Customer finally gives schedule for the New Product, no one knows the issues with the Product. Sometimes the New Product Development team would have left the company!
d. The Product would hit the Shop floor and all hell breaks loose.
e. The Product would have Quality problems at every stage.
f. The Manufacturing process is not defined properly as enough number of Products were not produced.
g. The intricate details of Process control / CTQ parameters were never identified.
h. Now, the Company starts learning about the New Product afresh!!
i. The Customer would have several Bad Batches before he can get acceptable Quality and acceptable Quantity.
03. The Normal Course(?!): In all normal Product Development Cases, most of the Companies deal with issues regarding the Quality and Quantity. The Root causes may be lying in following areas:
i. Voice of Customer would not have been collected meticulously. This results in multiple iterations of the Development.
ii. Manufacturing Process is not defined clearly. No one from Manufacturing participates in the Product Development.
iii. The Product Development is handled only by a bunch of R&D Engineers.
iv. The Development team would not have got the Manufacturing facilities to produce the number of Products required to establish the process.
v. Suppliers do not show interest in the new products as the volume is low and it would affect their Bulk supplies!
vi. When the volumes pick up, the Suppliers would start giving bad quality products or the Quantity simply does not take off!
This way, the New Product handing over to Production gets in to serious trouble in most of the Companies.
Most of the Indian Companies are developing more New Products than ever. I would suggest a Solution that I saw working in many companies that I have been involved in. There can be several other solutions. But I believe this can be a solution for situations where you are looking at New Product Development in a big way for sustained periods of time.
Organization for New Product Development
Technology / Product Development / Product Productionising: Companies need to have separate organization for continuously developing the Product Technology to the next level, they also need to have a team for Developing the Products with existing technology and then they need to have a team for Productionising the Products.
Having these three teams would help in giving importance to all three major activities. Otherwise one of these would be a victim to the limited resources that a company would have. A company that is having sustained New Product Development pressure should invest in to this Organization structure.
Full time Organization for Productionising: Now looking at the subject that we are currently dealing with, I would recommend a full-time team for Productionising the New Products.
Normally Productionising the New Products is handled by Part time Production / Quality / Procurement team that never have time for the New Products. They are always busy, and they never give as much time as is needed for the New Product development.
It would be good to get people from following functions and put them in to one ‘Productionisation function’:
- Manufacturing Engineering
- After Sales Service
The members from these Functions should be rotated every 2-3 years. This would ensure that these members retain their Functional Point of view and will not become R&D Engineers in disguise!
There should be a Leader for this Function who should be from one of the above Functions and not from R&D.
This team should physically sit along with R&D Team.
The Leader of this team should report to the R&D Head. Hence the Productionising is taken up broadly by the R&D. But with the support of a FULL TIME team.
Administrative control and Functional Control: When you put together a Productionisation organization with all the functions mentioned above, one needs to recognize the importance of Functional Knowledge / Processes in each of the functions mentioned above. The Functional Leaders should keep giving the Functional Leadership to the People in the Productionisation organisation. If the Quality Engineers in the Productionisation organisation are disowned by the Quality Head, then the same problems will be carried forward as they are in the current situation.
The Quality Head has to define the Systems and procedures for a Quality function while receiving new Products. This has to be followed by the team in the Productionisation team and the Mother function should keep conducting audits to check this situation.
Same is the case for all other functional people in the Productionisation team.
The R&D Head should let this Matrix structure work. If he becomes too possessive of the team, then we would not be having a proper solution to our problems!
Manufacturing facilities: Next problem that many companies deal with is, the availability of Manufacturing facilities for Initial Production.
The Production of New Products can never be at the full speed straight away. There will be some amount of Capacity loss. This is reality and we need to face it. Companies have to decide whether exclusive facilities can be given for Initial Production of New Products or it can be done in the regular Production facilities. Both strategies can be made to work with proper Systems. A Company can chose its’ solution depending on its own situation.
But it has to take a decision. Indecisive behavior of Management in this area can put it back by a few years in New Product Development.
Functions of the Productionisation team: This team would handle following types of activities to ensure smooth handing over of the New Products.
- Voice of Customer collection: As full-time team is there from several functions; the VOC collection would be much more effective with everyone’s point of view coming in.
- Participating actively in the Product Development: As the Productionisation team is full time, they would be participating in the Development actively. This would ensure better attention to DFM / DFA (Designed for manufacturing / Assembly).
- Receiving the Product from Proto Team: The Productionisation team should be very careful and use Check lists to see that Product they are receiving from Proto Team is acceptable to them. Each team has to own up what they need to own up. Right questions have to be asked at the right time.
- Material Planning: The Material planning and availability would improve as the Materials person is sitting within this team.
- Production activity: The Initial Production would be much more effective as the Production people are handling it and issues that are coming out are quickly being attended to by the R&D Engineers. As both Teams have same Boss, the interactions become easy.
- Quality Planning: The Quality Plan preparation can be handled by the Manufacturing Engineering team and Quality team in a seamless manner as they are sitting together.
- Hand over: When the required numbers are produced, the Productionisation team will hand over to the Regular Production with whom they can communicate better as they are one team.
Program Manager: In addition to the structure above, a Program Manager role would help in putting focus right from VOC to Delivery to the Customer. Each Program Manager may handle ‘x’ number of Projects.
This type of Organizational Structure level Solution can work very well for Indian Manufacturing Companies. This can ensure that the New Product Development and handing over to the Manufacturing is given its’ due importance. Especially when more New Products are coming in to Production, if this type of Organizational Structure level solution is not put in place, the Company would be inviting a lot of trouble in terms of unstable Production and unprofitable New Products!
How well are you addressing New Product Productionisation in your Organisation?
For any Manufacturing Company, the Problem Solving is an important Business Process. The Company needs to give it a high priority and treat it as such. There needs to be specific Structure to handle this important Business Process.
Very few Companies in Indian Manufacturing treat this as an important process. If they do not give this importance, there would be a big adverse effect on the ability of the Company to progress. They would have serious problems with the Customers. There would be suffering on a daily basis for all concerned. This is a major reason for the tensions and stress in every Company. But still Companies are not able to put their finger on this issue and address it squarely.
Let me try and list down the issues that a Company needs to do to address Problem Solving in a systematic manner.
01. Capture all the Problems in a Company:Most of the Companies have records for the Customer Complaints / Rejections and Supplier Quality. They record this in a systematic manner. But they need to do this for Internal Quality Problems too. Usually there will be a bunch of phenomena that keep repeating in the Internal Process. They should record these Phenomena and count each one of them as another problem to solve. It is best if all the Problems so captured get in to ONE Problem Solving Software.
02. Problem Solvers: Every Company should identify Problem Solvers from across the Functions in the Company. In many Indian Manufacturing Companies, the Quality Function plays a major role in Problem solving followed by the R&D Function and Production Function. But it is required for a Company to involve Engineers from Materials, Process Engineering, Plant Maintenance also to be involved in the Problem Solving. The Company should identify the Engineers and designate them as ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’.
03. Develop the Ninjas: There has to be specific Development Plan for the Problem-Solving Ninjas. I covered their Development in a separate article earlier on 10/2/2019. You need to Grade the Ninjas in to Leaders and Members of the Teams. The Leaders would lead a Problem-Solving effort whereas the Members can become members in the Problem-Solving Team.
04. Decide the Problem-Solving Capacity of the Organization: Decide how many problems can each Leader handle at a time. This would decide the Collective capacity of the Organization to solve Problems. A Company needs to boost this up as needed from time to time.
05. Allot the Problems: The Problems that are captured in the ‘Problem Solving Software’ of the Organization needs to be allotted to the Problem-Solving Ninjas by the Software on the basis of a Logic. This would ensure that ALL the Problems are parked with one group or the Other.
06. Problem Solving Methodology: Each Company needs to adapt a Problem-Solving methodology that it prefers. It can adapt a Standard methodology like 8D or formulate its’ own methodology with Best Practices.
07. War Room: Every Company needs to have a War Room for Problem Solving. This is the Room that will host two types of meetings. One is a Review by Management. Second type is the Team meetings of the Teams. Normally a Schedule is kept for each team and every team would meet as per the schedule.
08. Meet Daily: If you want the Problem solving to improve in your Company, then every Team has to meet EVERY DAY for at least 45 minutes. If the teams do not meet and then you expect the Problems to get solved, it is not a reasonable expectation. The Team should meet every day and then solve the Problems. They need to spend as much time as is needed on the Shop-floor for Problem-Solving. This is a Primary requirement.
09. Measures of Problem Solving: How do you measure the success of Problem Solving in your Company? There can be two types of Measures. Process Measures and Result Measures. Result Measures are very clear. That would include your Customer Rejections / Complaints, Supplier Quality, In-Process Quality etc. The Process Measures would include the following:
a. Daily Meeting schedule adherence.
b. On Time Activity. Number of Activities planned vs done on a daily basis.
c. On Time Problem Solving. When each 8D is supposed to be closed and when it was closed.
d. Quality of Problem Solving. The 8D Check List score calculated by the team and certified by the Coach.
e. Repetitive Problems: If the Quality of Problems is good, the problems will not come back.
10. Problem Solving Coach: It would be very much required to have a Problem-Solving Coach who would help the teams to improve the Measures of Problem Solving.
11. Certifying the Problem Solvers: It would be useful to Certify the Problem solvers on the basis of their Knowledge, Skill and Results. The Certification should also lead to Rewards for the Problem Solvers. This would take care of Motivation of the Problem Solvers.
12. Approving Solutions: Company should authorize a few Senior people who would Certify the Solutions being implemented. This would ensure that the Collective wisdom of the Company is at work in Problem-Solving.
13. Use Technology to train the Ninjas: The Experience of the Senior People in the Company should be translated in to ‘Standard Check Lists’ for all known and repetitive problems. Using these Check lists E-Learning programs can be developed to train the Ninjas. For every known Problem, the Program would teach the standard steps that need to be taken to move towards the Solution. This would reduce the time taken to solve the Problem. This is a good way of using the Collective Experience that is available in the Company.
14. Managing the Knowledge Base: The Problem Solving in a Company can create enormous amount of Knowledge on Products of the Company and the Process of the Company. This knowledge needs to be captured in a Knowledge Data base and this Data Base can be used for:
a. Learning from Mistakes in Design/Process
b. Going back to the Solution in case the Problem reappears.
15. Problem Solving Conferences: The Company can think of conducting Problem Solving Conferences where the Problem Solvers from across the Company would converge and present the Technical papers about various issues in the Company and Best Problem Solvers may be rewarded. Usually the Company would invite Technical experts to this Conference to help teams to learn something more.
This way, the Manufacturing Companies can look at addressing Problem Solving as a special Discipline that cuts across Functions and look at developing this Competency in the Organization.
How well are you addressing Problem Solving in your Company?