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Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I am in the midst of a conundrum. Clients ask me to analyze, assess, and recommend changes for improvement opportunities in their company processes. My findings, at times, shock business owners and company managers.

I educated myself in the Body-of-Knowledge for my field. I trained to become a Management Consultant, tutored by the industry experts. I maintain credentials for my field (APICS Certification and now am on the APICS ECO Committee). I have been doing Management Consulting for thirty plus years. So, why are clients shocked by the findings? After all, they ask for the analysis. I muse about this conundrum daily, sometimes when I should be asleep.

I was reading a magazine recently called, Korn Ferry Briefings. An article on Optimists and Pessimists caught my eye. The article by David Berreby suggests that situationally people are either Optimistic or Pessimistic. It reminded me of a Graduate School conversation with my Major Professor, Dr. Kelly Wells. I was in the final weeks of my Masters Work, having passed my orals and written exams and was preparing to defend my thesis paper on eye blinks (we found high correlation between eye blinks and memory types).  After some discussions, Dr. Wells asked me, “Have you always been someone who sees three sides to a coin?” I said, “If you mean when someone asks me if the glass is half-full or half- empty and I reply, well, maybe the glass is just too big, then I guess so, you brought that out in me.” He smiled and rolled his eyes!

There is something at work, within the minds of clients, when I arrive on the scene. Maybe their Optimist-Pessimist tendencies appear. Maybe they see the glass as half full and my findings threaten their inner-peace. Maybe they see the glass as half-empty and my findings goes further to threaten their inner-peace. Why do people who ask for assistance become defensive when a report states, ‘improvements in these activities will contribute to the bottom line’?

Mr. Berreby’s article supports the “inside the mind” idea. Both Optimistic and Pessimistic approaches have benefits and drawbacks.  Where Optimists see the long-range benefits, Pessimists see many dangers in activities. Optimists often fail in careful planning; Pessimists often encounter analysis paralysis.  Optimists take the ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead approach’ while Pessimists fear missteps. When Optimists succeed, the cost is sometimes detrimental to the organization. When Pessimists succeed, the chosen path is sometimes very stressful to those who execute the plan. Regardless of which personality type sits in the C-Suites, Management Consultants have the skill-sets and tool-sets to assist organizations pass the challenges of Change Management.

What are your thoughts?

Dream Big

Michael Roman - Monday, September 07, 2015

Here is one from the archives...

We Stopped Dreaming

The driving force that led me to become a Management Consultant was a simple idea: Dream bigger. The big moment of realization for me happened at a rather comical lunch meeting with my boss at the time, the company’s owner, who wanted to discuss a problem we had with missing shipping dates for a new customer. The Chinese restaurant where we met was a favorite of mine and not far from the plant, and my boss had reluctantly agreed to go there even though he was leery of eating “different” food, especially Asian.

We arrived just as a supply truck passed by and pulled around to the back of the restaurant. We entered the establishment, and I introduced my boss to the owner. She directed us to a quiet area not far from the kitchen, and my boss was noticeably nervous about the place. I assured him not to worry because their food was fresh and delicious. We focused in on the discussion, and I explained the engineering problem that caused the order to ship late, as well as the best way to avoid the problem in the future. Satisfied with my assessment, he acknowledged how much he appreciated my ability to get to the point quickly and explain the situation in a simple and concise fashion. He then added that my work ethic was inspirational, especially in light of the fact that I was not really a part of the “wealth stream of the business.” I asked him to explain what that meant, and he replied, “You are not family or one of the company’s lifelong friends, so you will never get to share in the wealth that we have planned for our retirement years.”

I was speechless for a moment, and then said, “I thought there was enough opportunity to include all of the company’s employees in the wealth stream”. He replied that it was simply impossible to do so, that it was his mission to ensure that this small group of stakeholders had a comfortable future.

At that moment, the server came through the kitchen door with our meal, followed by the chef who was chasing a cat with a meat clever and shouting at it in Chinese. The look on my boss’ face was priceless. He immediately arose and said, “I’m leaving. Fresh cat is not in my diet.” He headed for the door, and I stifled my laughter as I left money to pay for the meal and followed him out. The owner stopped me to apologize and explain that the cat snuck in while they were unloading supplies from the delivery truck. I told her it was okay and suggested she may want to institute a policy not to accept supplies during the lunch or dinner rush.

I was reminded of this true story a few days ago while I was watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s videos on YouTube. It is entitled “We Stopped Dreaming Part 1” and “We Stopped Dreaming Part 2”and is worth a few minutes of your time to watch and consider. I left that company shortly after that incident, because I realized that the owner’s dreams for his company were too small to include rewards for the very people who were most responsible for his success.

Today, my goal when working with companies is to help them dream big. The odds of properly implementing an ERP System increase proportionally with the commitment of C-Level people and with dedicated involvement of the user community. As my business adviser so often and simply states, “A company can't stop dreaming. It has to take bold steps. It has to become a team with a bold mission. It cannot rest on its laurels and wait to see what everybody else does before taking a new step forward.” And he is absolutely correct!

In my opinion, the best motivator is to help everyone see a bright future. Let them know that the future is brightest when the organization unites around a common goal and all the players are doing their part to focus the company around that goal. That is what ERP systems are all about, helping people in different departments of an organization come together to manage the business better and build the business to the point that everyone can reap the rewards.

Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t let your dreams be small. Dream big, and include everybody in that dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes a Good Consultant

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

By Jerry Tiarsmith VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, describes consultant as “a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organization but has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.” I am relatively new to the world of consulting. I have over four decades of varied experience in a number of organizational settings and cannot recall one time when I actually used a consultant. However, in certain situations, due to my position within an organization, I acted as an internal consultant on matters related to the support of strategy and operations to the organizational management team. Too many clients and prospects with whom I interact often express negative sentiments about consultants. Even my mentor, with over thirty years in his field, describes his role as a Business Capabilities Architect, preferring that distinction to one of mere consultant.

At a recent breakfast meeting with my mentor, I began asking a series of questions to which he responded, “Excellent question! Now go write a blogpost.” So here I am.  Many blogs offer advice on methodologies, the importance of adopting new technologies or modernizing plant equipment. All of these represent a valuable exchange of ideas and foster significant discussion. I am writing to invite discussion but I offer no new insight or solutions to difficult themes. Simply put, I ask the question, “What makes a good consultant?” I would like to hear from experienced consultants but only those who operate in a similar space of working with closely held, small- to mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies. By that, I mean companies with $35 - $500M in annual revenues. Business owners in that space can provide a unique (and much valued) perspective on what they think make a good consultant. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the Vice President of Operations of a small veteran owned and veteran staffed firm in the Greater Atlanta area. Our consultants hold APICS certifications in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). The logic systems of ERP System platforms incorporate the APICS Body of Knowledge (BOK). With extensive understanding of that particular BOK, we help optimize client’s business management systems. It is a competitive, cluttered, and confusing space full of bogus claims and a trail of broken promises. We get it. Our prospects have spent countless dollars and hours in attempts to seek a competitive advantage by installing ERP Systems, the vast majority with little success. Of course, they remain skeptical and wary of consultants.

We remain very aware that these problems described above often prove self-inflicted. Clients focus too much on cost verses capabilities (and specific needs). They lack a strategic focus to their business and decision-making processes, and, all too often, they allocate inadequate resources to ensure the successful implementation of their business management systems. We certainly can help resolve those situations and, if not prevent such developments at least reduce the negative impact on the company. 

So, what makes a good consultant? Please respond to me at either my LinkedIn page (linkedin.com/in/jerrytiarsmith) or e-mail: jerry.tiarsmith@manufacturingpractices.com.