Business Process Improvement

Business Process Improvement

Good morning: Mike hope this finds you well.

I have read the letter of the young lady several times. She is interesting and very thought provoking.

You gave her some really good advice. I wish I had thought thru my input about trying to change the structure of how we classify mechanics. When I tried to get some think-tank processes on retaining mechanics by using an A, B, & C type classification.

I realized after the fact while companies will say think outside the box. Those can be empty words sometimes. The politics of stepping on toes or the insecurities of hierarchy can create problems if not well thought out the correct approach. You gave her some sound advice. While it is unfortunate it is like that. Many do not embrace your proclivities in life and business of always trying to mentor people to move up and replace yourself Mike. While they may talk the talk they are really foxes in sheep’s clothing. She seems like a very driven and bright young lady from what I have read. Like to hear more about this young lady. It refreshing to see young people that have drive and desire. It something our country lacks a lot of. I have a nephew that graduated top of his class from Air Force academy a few years back. An extremely grounded and intelligent young man. He is now a fighter pilot and just got assigned to the F-16 Viper. While he wanted and qualified for the F-22 there just were not slots open. Mike some of these young men coming out of the academy really bring confidence back that America still has what it takes to be great again. While the current White house administration can be depressing and cause you to think we are doomed. I believe there is hope in the future.

 

Shoulder is coming along well. I am 6- or 7-weeks post op. My surgeon said I am well beyond the recovery curve. PT has reduced my PT appointments to every other week till I get to 12 weeks and start strength training. I have good movement and overall agility. It is still stiff and a bit weak. Of course I am one that always think if twelve weeks is the goal then my goal is 6 weeks. My doctors says she is confident my shoulder will turn out well as she knows I will push for a full recovery and as close to normal agility as a regular shoulder. She said her biggest hurdle with me is slowing me down and teaching me to work in moderation. I am learning but heck I not getting any younger. Laughing. Hoping all is going well with you and Donna. Hope the new house is coming along well and no hiccups.

 

Be well my friend.

Hi Mike,

It was a pleasure meeting you over the weekend. It has been a while since I have had a passionate conversation about continuous improvement and it reminded me how much it energizes me. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story and for providing guidance on how I might be able to move towards helping small businesses around Cleveland, as well as sharing your story on how you arrived where you are today.

I hope your trip home went smoothly, and I look forward to keeping in touch and continuing our great conversation!

Thanks again,

Amanda

7 Comments
  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:08h, 22 July

    Ms. Amanda,
    I was so hoping that you would send me a message because I mentally reexamined our conversation and came up with a few key points that I failed to communicate. First and foremost, I don’t think I’ve ever met individual as young as you that possessed the passion for both what they want to do as well as what they want to accomplish as do you. Congrats for that. Passion for what you do takes you out of the job market and throws you into the people who have a calling. As such. you will never work a day in your life, however the path to get there comes at a price and comes with both good and bad news, I’ll get there shortly.

    A few other salient points:

    One of the challenges when implementing a continuous improve process is that the key individuals think there is an end. In short, there is no destination, the process is continuous. Some of these individuals will talk out both sides of their mouth and one of them is simultaneously attempting to run havoc on what you are attempting to accomplish all the while pretending to be your new best friend.
    Second challenge- You and/or the company announce the new improvement initiative and you start implementing with regular progress communication vehicles ensure you are informing everyone. Very shortly into the process (usually 30 to 75 days) the key individuals come to realize for this whole process to be successful they must change not just the company. You’ve now gained a whole new wave of resistance. Keynote, if a company isn’t changing fast enough that it makes the employees uncomfortable you probably need to find a new company because they won’t be in business in five years. Your challenge is to communicate the need for change using several different vernaculars, so everyone understands it. In doing so, eighty (80) percent will jump onboard, ten (10) percent will tetter on the fence and 10 percent will never buy-in. Find these ten (10) percent and ask them both sincere personal questions as well questions on how they think the process could be improved. Why, because they are a knowledgeable resource that will be gone shortly and lost.
    For a person to be truly happy they must have a happy personal and professional life. Unfortunately, any one not happy at home it will negatively impact their performance, no matter how many hours they work. Moreover, they, no matter how hard they attempt mask it, will bring down minimum of seven (7) employees that they interact with daily. A turd in the punchbowl is just that, a turd in the punchbowl. I’ve witnessed many employees in just situation have built a corporate protective wall around their respective position (Built-in job security) to the point the company has NO succession plan for their replacement. Huge mistake.
    We spoke briefly on remembering names. From my perspective remembering someone’s name does two (2) key things for you simultaneously. One, it shows respect and two, it commands respect. When I meet someone, I ask their name, then repeat it back to them and I then correlate them to either someone else I know with that first name or who I think they may look like or have the same mannerisms. And at my age it is a very good mental exercise.

    The good and bad news I mentioned previously is as follows and it is all how you look at it. Once you get what you and I have, this personal develop and professional forte embedded in our psyche it never goes away. However, the sense of accomplishment you get from helping others is more powerful than drug or alcohol known to man. I once was asked to craft a letter to some troops being deployed to Afghanistan which I did. A couple of years later I was standing in a freight terminal in Denver with a bunch of people standing around me, most of which were attempting to suck up to me when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a gentleman watching patiently to speak with me. Once I got rid of the cronies he came over and pulled out the letter I had written. He told me that he and three (3) others carried the letter on their person the whole time they were deployed. In short, I don’t think my feet touched the ground for several days. That feeling of helping or doing something for others is incomparable. If you like to read it some time, I’d be happy to share it with you. There are several articles my blog or white paper section that maybe to interest to you. Well, the white papers may be a stretch.

    The wedding was awesome, there were so many nice people with distinctive personalities. We traveled from The Keys to St. Simons Island where we lived for almost twenty years. We will spend a few days here and head back to the cold and snow of Illinois on Tuesday of next week. I’m able to keep up with client requests while traveling, so it makes it easy. Thank you for the honor of speaking with you and I sincerely hope we keep this dialogue going and let me know how it goes with Jackie. Remember, some people are so ingrained or rooted in their ways that all the leadership and personal develop skills will not change them.

    Your Friend,
    Mike

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:09h, 22 July

    Mike,

    Thank you for the kind words and additional pointers! It is all great content for me to continue reflecting on as time passes and new challenges arise. I haven’t had the chance to look through your blog or white papers section in detail, but a few things caught my attention that I may follow up with after reading through!

    Right now at my current company my next move that I have planned is to talk with our facility manager about my capabilities beyond baking and see if there is anything she can think of that I might be able to help with. I’m curious to hear your perspective on this conversation, specifically in terms of compensation. Should I offer to do this type of work as a continuation of my current baker position, or should I request separate pay for the time that I spend working on these separate projects? Should I complete one project to prove myself and then, if there is a pull for more projects, request separate pay? Or is that selling myself short? In addition, I know you mentioned the different pay ranges you have charged over the years. Do you have any suggestion of what a reasonable price range would be, keeping in account that it is a small business and for someone like me who is just getting started?

    Thanks again,
    Amanda

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:10h, 22 July

    Amanda,

    The questions that you have posed are vary valid ones and I thank you for asking my opinion. Being a process improvement or cost-reduction or whatever vernacular you want to call it comes with extreme challenges whether you are an company employee or an external contract consultant. As you experienced with your previous employer if it is not supported across the organization from the top down and the bottom up you will be fighting a losing battle. Companies such as these have continuous process improvement individuals on their payroll to impress customers, potential customers, shareholders and the stock market. However, if you are an external consultant hired to solve various deficiencies you will have a much greater chance for success but you have to go through all the work of setting up your business and developing a client base.

    In your current situation I would suggests this, walking very cautiously. Why, individuals with our skills make most, but not all people very nervous and they become somewhat intimidated with mental questions like “Why didn’t I think of that?” You mention facility manager, you need to get to know him or her very well. How do they treat you and other employees? Does he/she know anything at all about you on a personal or professional level? This will speak volumes about their management/leadership skills. Yes, I’ve be terminated for making people uncomfortable for my process improvement /cost-reduction initiatives and I would not want that to happen with you. Much like the employees that you will work with and get them to come up with the solutions, you need to let the manager think the process improvement initiatives are his/her idea. Sounds ridiculous, but it is a fact. However, you need to have a few ideas in your own back pocket as well and a few of the initial steps thought out if he/she should ask. From what I’ve ascertained, you can more than likely do the facility managers job standing on your head. Don’t make them nervous.

    So to answer your next question, I would complete several projects in your current position, at your current rate. From this you will learn if they really value you, and if they do they will compensate you accordingly. If not, you now know and understand the true core values of the organization and can begin looking for an organization that will value your skill-set. But all is not lost! Keep a list of all the projects you have completed (Successes.) for future reference. You think you’ll be able to remember them all, but you won’t. By now you’ve probably noticed that I attached my resume, from that you can see how I outlined my accomplishments. They must include the following:
    What it was when you started.
    Where you took it to in terms of cost or percentage
    How long it took to make the improvement.
    Brief explanation on how you accomplished it.

    Some companies will offer to share a percentage of the cost-reduction with you. I’ve witnessed some that will attempt to hide the savings in order to keep more of the profit for themselves. I say profit because everything that you will be saving them will go straight to the improving the bottom line. Should they want increase your salary based on what your saving initiatives have improved the bottom line it should be 25 to 30 percent of the cost reduction minimally.
    If you should decide to branch out on your own you must take your desired annual salary and up it my 28 to 32 percent because you will now be paying the taxes on it. But more this should you take this path.

    I hope this helps!

    Your Friend,

    Mike

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:14h, 22 July

    Mike,

    Your perspective on companies who have internal teams vs. hiring consultants is very interesting, and caused a few light bulbs to go off. So often we would be ignored by our teams, only for them to go and pay a consultant large sums of money for the same thing we already tried to do. It was so frustrating and really knocked the wind out of our sails. Now that I think about it, one of these exact scenarios might have actually been my last straw at the last organization.

    The feedback about not making the managers nervous or feeling inferior also hits home. I have certainly been guilty of this one in the past. I would also argue that I only ever had one manager, maybe two, (out of eight) who were actually capable of “managing” me and letting me really take off. All the others just held me down and back because my ideas were too big and/or “above my level.”

    I have actually started to make good headway over the last two weeks with the facility manager of the bakery. She recently returned from maternity leave and has started to see the value I can bring. She is including me on more communications, giving me access to new documents, and trusting me to tasks outside of my “baker’s apprentice” job description such as costings and production scheduling. She sounds like she is already trying to work towards a more strategic planning mindset for the whole company, but I’m not sure she has the tools or experience to effectively build a plan and sustain it… I’m hoping over time I can ask some coaching/guiding questions to help her realize I could be of service there too. Even now just thinking about it I already have to remind myself to slow down. I get too eager and, as you said, make people nervous.

    I appreciate the tip to keep a list of projects I have completed. It’s something I always wish I would have done come evaluation time and, to your point, to build cases for potential future clients. Your attached resume is also very helpful, thank you for sharing! One thing I will have to really think about is how to assign costs (or effectively describe the resulting benefits) of some of the strategic work I am envisioning. Perhaps it will be in saved employee hours, efficiencies allowing x% more product to be available for holiday orders, or even identifying new product offerings/opportunities out of the newly created space for strategic thinking… I need to remember to really highlight the results.

    Thank you again for helping me find the courage to go after these aspirations at my current job, as well as the potential for self employment in this area in the future. I will keep you posted on my progress, and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you! Unfortunately, I don’t think croissants would hold up in the mail very well 😛

    Amanda

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:16h, 22 July

    Amanda,

    Sorry I haven’t responded for a stint, I picked up another project and probably have just a tab bit more work than I need at this point. Additionally, I have not had time to get our process improvement dialogue on my website yet, but I will shorty and will send you a hyperlink once I do. I’m anxious to hear how things are going with you and your boss as well as Becky or Rebecca, the other employee you mentioned in our initial conversation that had potential but just needed a little guidance. The one thing I’ve learned you can have all the best leadership skills but if the person does not have a teachable spirit you’re just wasting your valuable energy. Kind of like getting an alcoholic to stop drinking, until they see the need nothing is going to happen.

    Have a great day and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

    Mike

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:19h, 22 July

    Hi Mike,

    Good to hear from you. I hope your new project is going well and is ultimately fulfilling!

    Both a lot and nothing has happened since we last spoke. I started to have additional frustrations with my boss outside of efficiency that led to conversations and management decisions to restructure our roles and responsibilities. All of that actually going into effect has been a slow process for many reasons, but has helped position me so that I can start facilitating conversations around improvements.

    Over the last few months I have really gained the trust of our facility manager, who is a right-hand manager to the owner. She truly recognizes the need for change, and has even said something along the lines of “over the last year we were just in survival mode, but now it’s time to actually run this business.” The business grew much faster than they were able to keep up with, and now they are trying to make up for lost time.

    Right now, the biggest challenge I am recognizing is one that I believe many businesses start off with. They are so under water and fire fighting at every turn that they have no idea where to start. And when they do have ideas on what to do, or good intentions to actually make improvements, the ideas are deprioritized because other fires come up. They are in a vicious circle of fire fighting that they don’t know how to get out of.

    I have been given a few small projects, of which would take an entirely different novel/email to discuss, and are a good start to my work being seen, but right now I am interested in your insights on how you have worked with teams in the past who are stuck in the fire fighting cycle. When I left my last company the phrase they would use was “perform while we transform” but ultimately they were just empty words and there was no organized approach on how to achieve it. I have some ideas, but I have never been in a position to actually see them through. I’m still technically not “in a position” to help this company with that large of a problem, but I hope to have the right conversations to get there. Would love your thoughts on that as well!

    And as I reread that last paragraph, I am reflecting and realizing I am falling into my usual trap of impatience, and that the “small projects” probably are my way to the top… I always want to jump right to the big picture, and get frustrated working on “small things,” when the root of it all is so much bigger and needs attention! This is when I start banging my head against the wall.

    I realize that you are very busy right now, but I was wondering if, once your time frees up, you might be available for phone conversations to help mentor me in these situations? I understand if email is your preferred communication approach as it allows you to answer on your own time. It was just a thought, as I feel there is even more to address than can be written in an email!

    Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you,
    Amanda

  • Mike Buck
    Posted at 10:22h, 22 July

    Good Evening,

    I’d be honored to speak with you on the phone! We can set up a time with when aren’t interfering with our work time. I usually work in the morning, take a long break for lunch and then put in a couple more hours in the late afternoon and evening if need be. Being in Illinois I’m one (1) hour behind you. More importantly, if something or a situation presents itself that you really need to talk DO NOT hesitate to call me.

    In regards to your email below many would think that they you’re in a precarious situation however, people with our passion and skillset would feel that we are right where we need to be. Moreover, any company that takes on more business than they can handle is headed for trouble. It takes a special leader than has exceptional intestinal fortitude to step up and say we can’t handle that given our current production handling capabilities. However, the very worst situation is when the leader ego gets in the way and he wants to be the biggest as fast as possible, that is when you don’t walk but run away.

    My recommendation for your current situation is as follows:

    Yes, keep you wits about you and be very patient and in due time they will recognize your talents and if they don’t then at some point you’ll know just like you did at your previous employer that it was time to move on. In the meanwhile you need to figure out what the businesses full-loaded labor rate is as well as what the fully-loaded production cost is. In short, what is the all in cost to operate the plant for an hour. I wouldn’t just blurt out the question but if the opportunity presents itself then ask. You can also mentally start working up these numbers in your head. They when these much needed project get delayed you can say intelligently, it cost us X because we didn’t get that. Tooting your own horn without outright bragging or sounding arrogant is a slippery slope because everyone reacts differently. As such, you must be able to read the person you are attempting to get your message across to very carefully. I’m confident they will see your potential to help the organization grow.

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