It seems that every manufacturing company is now trying to adapt the Lean Philosophy, invented and mastered by Toyota Corporation. Lean manufacturing has also spilled over into non manufacturing industries. Unfortunately, many companies dont completely understand the true meaning of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing, simply put, is continuously improving your processes to eliminate waste. This sounds simple, but many companies will fail to become truly Lean because they dont have an environment to implement and maintain Lean.Most people believe Lean is just a set of tools (One Piece Flow, JIT, Kan-Ban, 5S, Six-Sigma, Kaizen Teams, Push / Pull Systems, etc.) that can be used to cut waste. However, Lean is not only a set of tools, it is a culture. If a company has severe issues with employee turnover, employee morale, product quality, product delivery, equipment uptime, plant housekeeping, etc., it will be extremely difficult to shift the employees to a new way of thinking and conducting business. In other words, if your employees are in constant fire fighting mode, they will not be able to properly implement Lean.Fix the obvious problems firstTo prepare for Lean, you must fix the obvious problems first. Many times employers will know exactly what the problems and solutions are. They just dont have the time, resources, or incentive to fix them. If you have an automobile that is constantly breaking down because of a bad transmission, then fix it! Repair or replace the transmission. Do not implement a Lean Strategy to fix the car. Just fix it. Lean is not used to fix broken processes. Lean is used to continuously improve working processes to eliminate waste. When all the obvious problems are fixed on that vehicle, its then time to fine tune it to become more efficient. Its time to look at ways to cut waste (cost) to ultimately save money!A Word about Six-SigmaSome companies now mandate that Six-Sigma be used to fix problems. Unfortunately, Six-Sigma isnt always used correctly. Six-Sigma is intended to solve complex problems that have numerous variables that cause variation in a process, which ultimately cause defects. Six-Sigma uses statistics to systematically identify what the different variables are doing in the process and points to potential solutions. It eliminates guessing as to whats causing the variations. Again, fix the obvious problems first. Many problems dont have to be analyzed to detect solutions. In many instances, the solutions are obvious: i.e., If the light bulb is blown, then, change the light bulb.Value Your PeopleSociety generally refers to companies as entities. We speak of IBM, GM, and Microsoft as entities; however, they are really groups of people. GM doesnt build cars, the employees of GM build cars.To develop that culture as successfully as Toyota Corporation has, companies must first realize that they have to develop, nurture and value their employees. In order to build a culture of people wanting to continuously improve, people have to be engaged in their jobs. They have to feel valued by the company. They have to feel they are noticed and rewarded for their contributions. Ultimately, the company has to value having low employee turnover to create consistency. A company with high employee turnover cannot maintain a successful Lean environment.To foster this type of environment in todays business world isnt easy. There is low loyalty between U.S. companies and their employees for a variety of reasons. Some companies look at employees as an expense rather that an asset that can be easily cut. If employees of a company do not feel the company values them, they will find other jobs. With todays business world, its difficult to implement a long term Lean strategy. Yes, a company can dictate to its employees to use Lean tools to cut waste, however, to sustain that ideology long term require an engaged, loyal, consistent, work force.Develop and Retain Strong LeadersGood managers are coaches, poor managers are dictators. A good manager will believe in the team concept where every member of the team is important and his/her opinions are valued. A good manager will value his/her employees and realize that for him/her to be successful, the team has to be successful. A poor manger will dictate to his/her employees, which creates havoc! A good, efficient, business unit with high employee morale will fall apart within weeks if a poor manager has taken over. Poor managers fail because they dont have strong leadership skills. They lack people skills, communication skills, decision making skills, and delegation skills necessary to develop and maintain effective teams. A strong leader must sell the Lean Strategy and realize that ultimately the employees as a team are the ones to make it happen.Think and act World Class (even if not there yet!)To become Lean is to become World Class. When walking into a facility that has an unclean, unorganized work environment, one knows he/she havent walked into a World Class facility. There is no need to look at the productivity numbers to determine whether or not the facility is World Class. If a plant is World Class, it looks World Class as soon as you walk into the door.A Lean facility is thoroughly organized. Every process is clearly defined via standards. Production is operated via very clear Visual Management. A true World Class facility has the discipline to sustain organization. Outside auditors, potential customers and employees will be turned off if the work environment isnt clean and organized. Keeping a work area clean and organized is simple; however, many companies overlook this simple task.Make Decisions Based on Logic and Not PoliticsMost of the time decisions made senior management are implemented without questioning regardless if the decisions make sense or not. Too many times, decisions are made by senior management without them fully understanding the process and issues. Lower-level managers ultimately implement ideas and strategies that are not based on logic but politics. They will implement ideas even if they themselves do not believe in them. This can create numerous problems which makes implementing Lean Strategies difficult.Decisions should be made throughout the organization through effective communication. Senior management should not just mandate, but sell their ideas and be open to questioning and suggestions from lower-level managers. Senior management should fully understand the issues and processes by effectively communicating with the managers at the different levels. Major decisions whenever possible should be made as a team vs. an individual.
Accounts receivable factoring is the sale of part or all of a debt that someone owes to your company. When companies purchase a debt through accounts receivable factoring, they pay for your invoice at a discount. They then collect the debt directly from the company who owes you money. Accounts receivable factoring is distinct from using your accounts receivable as loan collateral because you are outright selling some or all of your receivable to a factor, such as a bank or insurance company, at a discount. You don't collect the debt owed to you from that account anymore, but you also don't have to worry about loan repayments. Accounts receivable factoring makes up about a third of all financing secured by American companies using accounts receivable and inventory as collateral; it's not an uncommon practice. And accounts receivable factoring can help you get large orders that you otherwise wouldn't be able to manage.Consider the following scenario: you have ten thousand dollars in cash on hand, most of which is currently earmarked for payroll or debt payment. As a relatively new company, you don't have credit enough to use your accounts receivable as collateral for a loan. A large new account becomes available, and you bid on it and win. The problem is, you only have a workforce of fifteen people, and the new contract requires you to staff it with twenty people, purchase several new computers, and find space for the new staff to work out of. And you must do this immediately.Your ten thousand dollars isn't enough to do this, and you can't get a loan. But you can engage in accounts receivable factoring, sell your current receivables at a small discount, and have the cash immediately on hand to hire the staff, rent the space, and purchase your necessary equipment.Another possibility - you have a large amount owed to you as in accounts receivable, but one company is paying much too slowly, despite the penalties for late payment. You can sell your not-past-due accounts receivable to an accounts receivable factoring agent in order to maintain your cash flow, and with penalties for late payment applied to the other company, you will probably break even. Using Accounts Receivable Factoring WiselyWhen you sell part of or all of an account to an accounts receivable factoring company, try to get a personal recommendation for the company from a trusted associate: another company's officer, a trusted friend, a bank, etc. If you can't, at the very least ensure your accounts receivable factoring agreement states exact conditions, charges, and procedures for the purchase of your accounts receivable. And don't use accounts receivable factoring just as a way to get ready cash. Accounts receivable factoring can help you determine whether your payment terms are overly generous, whether the companies to whom you're extending credit are credit worthy, and whether your collections arrangements are adequate for your business. When you speak to the agent arranging your accounts receivable factoring, be it a broker or the actual funder, ask about these things. Accounts receivable factoring companies are interested in long-term ongoing relationships with companies, and will be happy to help you ensure your procedures and information concerning accounts receivable are adequate for your needs.You should never use accounts receivable factoring for debts you suspect won't ever be paid. Again, you want to develop long-term relationships with accounts receivable factoring companies; they can help your company grow for a long time into the future. But if you sell them accounts they can't collect on, you can be certain they won't work with you again, and they may share that information with other accounts receivable factoring companies as well.
Here's a provocation for the coming year, decade, century or millennium.By now, you've set a working direction for the year, established clear-cut objectives. Your first-iteration plan to reach them should be in place. This now seems like an ideal time to rethink the whole thing, doesn't it? After all, one of the effects of internet time is that plans are subject to change just as soon as - or perhaps even before - they are written.Along these lines of thinking, perhaps there are some items you missed. Maybe there are issues you didn't have time to consider, or even things your mind touched on, but quickly passed over to deal with more urgent and pressing events. If you are off-cycle, and on the verge of a new period, you can use this exercise ex ante, rather than ex post. To help you stimulate your neural pathways and hopefully create an idea or two, I offer the following thoughts for your consideration. These "considerations" are not sequenced in order of importance. I think they are important.1. How far in the distance is your planning horizon? Most companies today plan 12-24 months out, calling anything beyond that "vision." Internet time implies a shortened time frame for activities, but does that time-collapse extend to a shortened vision as well? How much have you thought about what you will accomplish this decade? What will be your company's impact on the millennium? (OK - perhaps millennium is too far out. What about the century?) You may say you have more pressing fish to fry. Your investors would like to see increased returns sooner than that. While this might be true enough, taking the long view can inform the short view, leading to greater returns for years to come. What do you see when you take the long view?2. How are your prospects' needs going to change? How is their world affected by the dramatic increases in connectivity and the compression of time? What are you doing to understand their changing environment - their changing business issues? What are you doing to improve your customer's business under these slippery conditions? To take it one step further, what do your customers' customers want? While you are at it, you might stop to consider how your suppliers' needs are changing? Could those changes open up new opportunities for you, or darkly portend changes downstream totally derailing your business model? What about your distributors? Is their world shifting? Can you both benefit?3. Who in your organization simply isn't contributing? As they say, your mileage may vary from individual to individual but everyone has the responsibility to go some distance, to make something valuable happen. Not everyone will make good on that implied promise. The often observed 80-20 rule applies to your staff as well: 20% of your people will produce 80% of the value.That leaves 80% producing only 20%. Do the math: the bottom 10% of your organization produces almost nothing.Who isn't making the cut? Should you be doing something about it? You may think it beneficent to provide that bottom percent with a paying job - don't. It isn't. The non-performers know who they are, but they won't cut the cord on their own. Do what you can to help them reach the bar, but if after a while they don't make it, set them free to find an environment in which they can succeed. Free up your own resources for people who make a difference.4. Are you creating solutions to today's problems? What about next week's, next year's, or the problems of several years from now? How are you figuring out what those problems are going to be, way out there on the time horizon? Because the solution you sell today should certainly address today's problems, but the solutions on today's drawing board better not. Who in your organization is responsible for trend-tracking and forecasting?Are you building scenarios for the future? What about prospect focus groups, or some other market-based feedback mechanism? Who is your resident futurist?5. What do you believe about the business you are in? For most people this is a strange question - we rarely spend time thinking about our own beliefs. The collection of beliefs you hold about your business - what the Germans call Weltanschauung - is decisive in most of the choices you make. How much risk to take. What's risky and what isn't. What projects and initiatives to undertake. What kind of resources you need and whom to hire.Whom to partner with, or should you have partners at all?Cooperate or compete. How to treat your team. What your customers should expect from you. How hard do you expect people to work?All these decisions stem from your beliefs, and it will help you to make them explicit. Once you surface those beliefs, you can start to distinguish which are useful beliefs and which are not.What is the benefit of a particular belief? Is this belief relevant to your current world, or is it a holdover from some past part of life? Then, when you are ready, you can experiment with new beliefs.6. What are the obstacles to proceeding along your current path? Yes - you've set a plan in motion, and you are taking steps toward its achievement. But what roadblocks may rise up to stop you? What things could get in your way - foreseen and unforeseen? (I know, if it's unforeseen how are you going to see it? Use your imagination, that's the point of this exercise.)Rank these obstacles in terms of likelihood, then rank them in terms of severity. Consider how you might deal with them if they come up. The value of this is a) like the Boy Scouts, you are better prepared; b) you may illuminate issues you have been trying to sweep under the rug; and c) you just may invent a whole new approach to get where you are going, and it just might be better than what you are doing now.7. What, if you only knew how, would you be doing? What would you do now if you had additional resources - and should the lack of resources be stopping you? What, if you were sure it would be successful, would you jump on right away? What would you begin immediately, if your resources were limitless? (Yes, limitless can be relative.) What are you betting the future of your company on? What would you be willing to bet the future of your company on?8. What are the most important issues, right now? Make separate lists for issues in your market and issues in your company.Which of these issues are you dealing with, which ones are on the backburner, and which ones aren't even in the kitchen? What are the processes you use to deal with these issues? Which issues are you ignoring, or hoping will go away?What breakthroughs might be possible by addressing or resolving issues in the latter category? Where are you "resolving" issues by compromising? What possibilities are available by refusing to compromise, or by breaking your compromises? What old stories or old ways of looking at things make these compromises seem inevitable? Where could new technologies (either material, virtual, or societal) be applied to break these compromises?9. What are you sacrificing to accomplish your current objectives? The definition of sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of even greater value. Did you intend to give up that thing of value, or is it a thoughtless byproduct of your other choices? Do not dismiss this lightly.In your business there are a number of priority-conflicting critical success factors. These include profitability, product development, new sales, customer satisfaction, recruiting and retention, revenue growth, sufficient capital - which one gets the most attention? And in this operating cycle - will each area get the attention it needs? Even in a lower position of priority, these areas cannot be neglected. What isn't getting done that needs to be done and how are you going to do it?10. What is the purpose of your organization? I don't just mean increasing shareholder wealth that simply won't inspire your people to greatness. What besides that - a given - is the purpose of your company. Purpose is not something you invent, it is there already - you have to uncover it. Why do you come to work each day? What do you hope to accomplish in the long run?What about your executive team? Your individual employees - why do they come? What do they think they are doing each day? Do you know? Have you bothered to find out? You've just completed a planning cycle, and I'm asking what your purpose is! If you can't answer this question easily, now would be a great time to start.Bonus question for consideration: Are there any questions I've listed above that you do not have easy answers to, but wish you did?Every so often I do an exercise called the "One-Hundred Questions." Download a copy of a recent 100 questions at http://www.paullemberg.com/tipsandtools.html, along with how to use this simple thought-provoker.(c) Copyright Paul Lemberg. All rights reserved
Online training is known by numerous names and acronymscomputer-based training (CBT), web-based training (WBT), cyber-training, distance learning, e-learning, etc. By whatever name, online training is a method of delivering training through an electronic medium without the immediate presence of a human instructor. By taking advantage of technology, online training can be more cost effective by delivering more knowledge in a more flexible and efficient manner.There are distinct advantages to online training that may apply to your organization. With an online training course you have the ability to consolidate education and training across geographical and time constraints. Courses can be delivered to people in different offices without the expense of travel and with less interruption of work schedules. For individuals with busy schedules, online training courses offer the flexibility of being available when the people are able to take the training.This flexibility is the strongest facet of online training and the flexibility extends beyond scheduling. For many people, an online training course supplies material in a more palatable manner then instructor-led courses. This certainly isnt true for everyone, but the power of online training to help many people makes it an important tool for your training program. Online training is self-paced and includes interactive tutorials, questionnaires, case studies, self-assessment, and other features that easily assimilate to individual learning styles. Because people have more control over their training experience, online training offers the opportunity to learn in a non-stressful environment.An online training course combines the advantages of uniformity in training and self-paced training. The basic course is the same for each trainee (while still offering you the chance to tailor instruction more easily) but can be delivered to different people at different times. While a human instructor is only available a limited time, online training materials dont go home and trainees can review the subject matter as needed or desired. Support can be supplied via e-mail or phone.Online training most likely will not require any additional equipment at your location. Training is delivered through existing computers and an Internet connection. Most online courses will run through any Internet browser on any operating system. You will need to dedicate newer and powerful computers to the training is the course has graphics, sound or video. Dont make the mistake of using old castoff computers as your training computers. That will just make your trainees frustrated.Still, being in an electronic format alone does not ensure that training is effective. How do you make the online training course effective for your people? To be effective, an online training course must be interactive without being messy. Bells and whistles are not always a benefit if they overburden the user. The course material and its interface should be streamlined. So, while you can incorporate video and audio instructions, interactive simulations, testing modules, and the like, the question you should be constantly asking is: does this add to the substance of the course? Does the way information is being portrayed supplement the learning object of a particular topic. If it does not add to the real content of the course and increase the knowledge of your trainees, then all of the flash and pizzazz will end up being more distracting than helpful. Likewise, always be sure that the learning interface, navigation graphics, and control buttons are easily understood and useable.The self-paced flexibility of online training can also be a negative as well as a positive. Flexible should not mean unstructured. Yes, people can take the training when it fits their own schedule, but that schedule should still be a structured, set time, not just starting and ending when they feel like it. Thus, you probably want to have the online training course only available on computers inside a dedicated training room. Assign specific times for trainees to come for training in an environment where they can train undistracted. Really, your online training environment should be similar to an instructor-led training environmenta room conducive to learning and concentration where trainees can get the most out of their time.When designed and carried out systematically and in an organized manner online training can be highly effective. Either as an addition to or a replacement for the face-to-face classroom environment, online training can be a strong part of your organizations training environment.
The caliber of the project management you have merged into your job or department can mean the difference between holding out and flighing high in a very no holds barred industry that you serve. It's very crucial to understand the evolution of a project management lifecycle and avoid skirting or skipping important upfront issues from the outset. It's also very important to understand the concept of not over analyzing a problem or being paralyzed to a point where further action is not being carried out. A dreadful opponent to you in this case would be "Feature Creep" where individuals from the department keep changing their minds on requirements or have new ideas on better ones.Beware of feature creep as it will rear it's ugly head at every step of every stage you encounter of your project. Things such as that, as well as losing focus on the core objectives will typically result in project failure because a core component or stage of the project is not able to move forward.Leadership in this examples is utterly critical in order to prevent mishaps, and total project disasters from happening. These usually are not only a waste of time, resources, but a major drain on employee morale and faith in the leadership of the entire organization.It's critcally important to phrase a communication strategy before the project begins. Make sure to sit down with the clients and constituencies during a set agenda and with set goals as well as a decided upon methodology to capture and organize requirements from everyone who has a stake in the project you are working on. Otherwise they will call you up every five minutes and give you new requirements or ask you to alter existing ones.Needless to say, this is not a very productive use of your time nor is it of theirs. A solid big picture view of all the project needs has to be looked at before moving forward with the actual implementation. This due diligence will take up a bit more time in the beginning but will save lots of time, money, headaches, and potentially broken relationships down the line.