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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?

What Makes a Good Client?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations

I have three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people that you care.

 -  Lou Holtz 

Earlier this month, Mike and I went to a potential client site. During discussions with Mike, the company president said he read Mike’s comments on ITToolbox and a recent blog I wrote. That blog was, “ What makes a Good Consultant”.  We were eager to do our look around to learn whether we could help.

Our no-fee Gemba Walk took several hours and initial assessment findings coincided with the president’s undisclosed beliefs. The president then hired us to present a five-day ERP education program to the management team. Additionally, we held two days of informal education for employees to explain the importance of an ERP system implementation and their involvement. Clients who see education as the critical first step to improve operations excellence for their organization enjoy greater success. 

C-Suite commitment helps increase employee engagement as a basic rule.  This company’s employees enjoy that level of support. Initial skepticism quickly gave way to active involvement early in the education process. 

  • On day two, the group asked questions, clarified concepts, and began to speak a common language 
  • On day three, they challenged us and engaged one another non-stop for more than 45 minutes 
  • On day four, the team shared process improvement ideas and redefined their roles and responsibilities 

We discussed Policies, Processes, and Procedures as well as performance metrics on the fifth day. At Manufacturing Practices, Inc., we use the expression Keeping People Involved™ when addressing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and this management team really understands that. 

 As part of the Keeping People Involved™ presentation, I introduced the Lou Holtz quote. It generated significant and impactful discussions. The management team whole-hardheartedly adopted itMore importantly, the company president reiterated it at each employee session! 

As a veteran owned and veteran staffed organization, we continue to support those we work with; only now, we call them successful clients! 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIVING WITH (and Surviving) A COMLEX WORLD

Michael Roman - Wednesday, May 06, 2015
By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

The way we live, work, and play describes an environment that experiences a constant state of change and reflects an ever-growing increase in complexity. These changes, or external stimuli, require each of us, individually and collectively, to react―to improvise, adapt, and overcome―on a daily basis. What is true of our personal lives also proves true in the lives of our corporations, which remain nothing more than a microcosm of society.

Corporations experience a daily state of flux and even the best run organizations suffer from entropy―a natural state of decay―or as others describe it, a “drift into failure.” Organizations, such as Operational Excellence, promote continuous improvement programs to help corporate leaders cope with the challenges presented by this increasingly complex global system, but these programs merely reflect the true challenge of our time―that we must constantly evolve in our thoughts and actions in order to survive and we need to do so in real time!

What do we mean by “complexity?” The Oxford Dictionary defines “complexity” using terms such as convolution, intricacy, involvement, but a simpler way of looking at complexity involves examination of an open-system, our inter-relationships, of the woven pattern to our lives that illustrates a myriad of interdependencies. We live in an interconnected world, more so since the advent of the internet, and one in which knowledge becomes a commodity. Today, if you have a question about almost anything, the typical response or helpful advice proffered says, “Google it!” The Knowledge-based system in which we operate today has changed the way we operate, sometimes for the better, but not always. A company failing to keep up with the modern world simply falls further behind, experiencing a more rapid “drift into failure,” and fail it must.

There can be no doubt that the corporate mindset must change in order to survive. This responsibility falls directly to the corporate leadership.

  • Complexity increases uncertainty and resistance to change, but also creates opportunities. Leadership must “get comfortable being uncomfortable!”
  • Leadership must challenge their thinking, inject innovative ideas, methods, products or services to improve performance, grow their businesses, and reverse entropy.
  • Leadership must understand and convey to all managers and employees that there are no shortcuts to success―that everyone’s actions and decisions effects their shared future.
  • Time is not your friend, instead, it remains a “wasting resource” that requires effective decision-making in “real time.”
  • Leadership must remain aware of external opportunities and be prepared to act decisively to take advantage of those opportunities as they unfold.

Manufacturing Practices, Inc., a veteran owned and veteran staffed company, has the expertise, experience, and knowledge to assist company leadership teams in developing these capabilities by exploiting the internal advantages afforded them through the optimization of their business management systems. Our consultants are APICS certified, an important distinction, in that ERP systems use the APICS Body of Knowledge (BOK) as the basis for the internal system logic. ERP systems provide the “real-time” information the leadership team requires to make effective decisions and we know ERP systems.

Q and A with Mike and Jerry

Michael Roman - Thursday, March 19, 2015

A few weeks ago, Jerry Tiarsmith, VP of Operations at Manufacturing Practices, Inc. and I sat down for a Q&A session.

Q. Mike, Manufacturing Practices, Inc. (MPI) recently had its 10th anniversary. What were the reasons for initially forming the company?

I saw a number of fundamental flaws in the manner that ERP Software companies sold their products. Their strength is that they explain what ERP Systems will do FOR companies. The major flaw is that ERP Software companies do not explain what ERP Systems will do TO companies. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. (MPI) explains to companies what ERP software will do both FOR and TO a company, how to use the ERP tool to manage the organization, and helps clients integrate their ERP System INTO the business. A recent client found success with our efforts and in gratitude, wrote the Preface to our book, The Turnaround.

Q. We often learn from our mistakes – what do you consider to be your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I have made several mistakes, some from ignorance, some from omissions, and some for being unable to “reach” clients. It is hard NOT to make mistakes from ignorance but those are rectifiable. It is forgivable to make mistakes from omissions and those too are rectifiable. Nevertheless, I take being unable to reach people as a weakness in me. To counter that short-coming, I stay current with the consulting industry, with the Supply Chain and Operations Management Body of Knowledge, and have weekly conferences with clients to assess progress, address issues, and to ensure we are all in agreement with the course we are taking.

Q. On the other hand, what do you consider to be your greatest success and why?

This might sound strange, but the greatest pride comes, not from the successes that the owners or the C-Level teams achieve, but from the people that do the grunt work for these clients, their employees. Walking through a plant, seeing the benefits of everyone’s hard work, and hearing those machine operators, inventory people, production people, planners, buyers, and supervisors, say, “Mike we really did something wonderful, didn’t we?”, fills me with pride. A great satisfaction is that they helped their organization improve, and they now know how to create a project and continue to improve the company’s profits and reduce the stresses associated with performing their day-to-day activities.

Q. How long have you been involved with APICS, in what capacity and why should that be important to your clients?

I have been ‘involved’ with APICS since 1981. I have been a member of APICS since 1984. In those 30+ years, I served as a chapter member, a member of the chapter’s management team, as President of the Chapter (Atlanta), and as an instructor for the Body-of-Knowledge (BOK). I also served as a member of the team that helped create the ‘awareness’ of a missing piece of the BOK, the Basics of Supply Chain Management. I now serve as a writer of the test questions used on the certification exams (my second committee). I feel honored to have been able to serve this group of professionals. More importantly, I am thankful for being able to sit at the feet of the founders and BOK developers like George Plossl, Hank Jordan, Don Frank, James Cox, and Eliyahu M. Goldratt and the Oli Wight organization. It is said that you only get out of an organization what you put into it. That is not a correct statement. The opportunities I received from my association with these giants and the APICS organization pale in comparison to what I have learned and can share with my clients.

Q. How have your relationships with such industry giants as Oliver Wight organization, George Plossl, and Eliyahu (Eli) M. Goldratt, among others helped shape your approaches to consulting?

Though I never met Oli Wight, who died in 1983, I have had dealings with his organization. In my opinion, they are probably the best education company with whom, I have ever had the pleasure of doing business. They are superb at creating an understanding of what business management systems are all about. I model my classes along their successful approach path.

My relationship with George Plossl was very different. George was a consultant’s consultant. George was a contributor to the APICS BOK and to the development of the APICS Society as well. I was fortunate to have George as a mentor for a number of years. During tenure and as President of the Atlanta APICS Chapter, we did a roast of George, recorder the experience for them, and George and his wife Marion both told me it was the “highlight” of George’s career. A comedian and double-talker presented himself as a protégé of George from early in his career. Attendees at the event were actually rolling on the floor with laughter. George helped me to understand that the APICS BOK is what is created in ERP Software. George also helped me with my first “successful” implementation, in 1989. His business partner, Don Frank started that mentoring process and introduced me to George.  Don and I were developing a textbook and an ERP Seminar when he died, in 2004. I am still unable to finish the book and the seminar. Regardless, Don was one of those mentors that saw more promise in me than I did.

Dr. Goldratt (Eli) was a challenger. It seemed that he took delight in making me feel uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time. In one sentence, he could both challenge and complement me and he did several times. A sentence he said, drove me to write the ERP book, The Turnaround. He said to me, to paraphrase, ‘you have a lot of knowledge in you. Just when are you going to get off your lazy butt and show someone what you got?’ Unfortunately, I missed completing the book before he died. Now, procrastination is a pet peeve, something that, at times, puts a sharp edge to my dealings with customers who also procrastinate. 

Hank Jordan taught the art of Inventory Management and tempted me to become a consultant before I thought I was ready. Neville May, worked with me to understand MAPICS, an IBM mrp system. There were also mentors who taught operations and supply chain management when I worked in their facilities, early in my career.

I am fortunate to also have had family-member mentors. My father and his father (both Ford Motor Company employees) were my earliest mentors. Both taught the art of question asking, a very necessary characteristic for a consultant.

These mentors formed me into what is necessary helps others succeed. They paved the road to help me understand what I know. I believe this is my strength as a consultant. By the way, I hate the word consultant. It implies something that is not true. People think that consultants are ‘experts’ that have the right answers. These giants taught me that that is a fallacy. These hero/mentors taught that consultants have the right questions. That is why my title is “Business Capabilities Architect.” 

I Think I Can

Michael Roman - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blog by Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

The old maxim, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you will be proven right,” reflects the importance of one’s mindset to future outcomes, good or bad.  The children’s story of The Little Train That Could taught us that perseverance and determination contribute to success.  Athletic team coaches know the value of a “warrior mindset;” the difference between winning and losing more often reflects the mental preparedness of the players rather than the relative physicality and athleticism of the opposing teams. Military combat leaders know that victory (and failure) begins in the mind!

Manufacturers must possess a positive mindset toward successful outcomes. Clearly, the stakes are high; people’s livelihoods are at risk and we are not here to discuss children’s stories or motivational platitudes. Whenever businesses fail, reputations as well as many individuals, families, and communities suffer great consequences. “Failure is not an option!” Yes, the company organization, at all levels, must exhibit perseverance and develop a fierce determination to succeed in the arena of competition, but that may not be enough. Sometimes, companies require outside expertise, particularly when they lack the internal experience and resources required to initiate major change.

That fact proves especially true for many manufacturers in relation to the selection and implementation of the company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.  Improper ERP implementations result in cost overruns, take too long, and prove too disruptive, even if considered “successful.” Companies that lack the necessary internal experience to manage the selection and implementation processes experience significant problems. Executives may strive to develop a thorough plan in anticipation, but their project management and process objectives fail to align adequately with reality. Poorly defined processes or an insufficient understanding of needed resources required for a timely and cost-efficient implementation may be the culprits, but many companies simply do not know what questions to ask of the vendor/sales rep or how to interpret the (often obfuscated and sometimes inadequate) answers they receive from the vendor’s implementation team. Poor ERP deployment results from the following: insufficient system pilot testing, the failure to input needed or correct data, the inadequate knowledge transfer from vendor to company employees, and yields sunk costs in a system that never sees full implementation.

The consultants at Manufacturing Practices, Inc. possess the requisite experience, knowledge, and resource capabilities to help guide your next ERP system selection and implementation processes. Our consultants successfully implemented over 70 ERP systems in companies much like yours. We require our consultants to receive training and earn professional certifications in the APICS body of knowledge; the very same body of knowledge most often used in the architectural design of ERP systems. We are proud members of APICS; the most widely recognized professional association for supply chain and operations management in the world. Our firm abides by the code of professional ethics established by the Institution of Management Consultants. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. is a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company that offers scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solutions to meet client needs.  

COMPLACENCY KILLS

Michael Roman - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

COMPLACENCY KILLS  by Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Complacency kills; a simple but true statement. One writer described complacency as “the enemy of intelligence.” The typical definition of complacency (a noun) often includes words such as a feeling of satisfaction or security, unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like. My guess is that most manufacturing executives would not describe their business using the word complacency or complacent (an adjective). They are, after all, hardworking, caring, and concerned individuals trying to do right by their employees and families. We get it, we really do!

Are some company management teams complacent? Yes! Do they recognize the fact? Not some we see. So how do companies exhibit complacent tendencies? One of the best indicators is when a CEO acknowledges the company’s process problems and then dismisses any concerns with the statement, “But, we are making a profit!” On consulting engagements, we often hear CEOs and senior managers using the term, “tribal knowledge,” and doing so proudly. That makes us cringe. “Tribal knowledge” highlights a process, or design flaw, and maybe both! It indicates a probable out of control process. The resulting variations create an inability to calculate accurate product costs. At the very least, a reliance on “tribal knowledge” exposes a company to unnecessary risk and creates a competitive advantage for “the other guy.” By allowing front-line “tribal knowledge” to persist, a CEO (and his management team) remains complacent regarding the bottom line – just because they are “still making money.”

Another form of complacency involves companies that become reliant upon the use of technology in lieu of standard Operations and Supply Chain Management training & education. Creating additional work for employees, without enriching the work (i.e., gaining user buy-in), creates a complacent and demoralized workforce. Far from empowering employees, wrongly depending upon technology helps create or reinforces the impression of distrust. If employees are smart enough to figure out how to work around incomplete or ineffective processes and design flaws, they are smart enough to train to do the job you ask of them and to do it well. Good pay and benefits are a poor substitute for increased responsibility and participatory decision-making. Those ought to exist as employee satisfaction and engagement processes.

Manufacturing Practices, Inc. consultants assist small- to mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies to unlock unrealized value in their businesses through the effective use of their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. We also see how complacency negatively affects ERP systems. Much like any business management system, garbage in, means garbage out, and ERP systems prove no different. As an example, failure to input an accurate Bill of Materials (BOM) to the ERP system results in a system that can do little to produce meaningful reports to help management make effective procurement and production decisions. The mere installation of an ERP system does not guarantee an improved decision-making process. It takes time and commitment throughout the organization to enter complete and correct data and transaction information. Technology does not replace the human factor, judgment, nor common sense. An ERP system is not an autopilot, a plug and play app, or a default management decision-making system. It is a management decision-making support system, a very capable tool when combined with proper understanding and deployment. Successful Management Teams create it upon the groundwork of Operations and Supply Chain education and procedure based ERP training. Such a deployment almost guarantees its proper use.

Complacency kills! Root it out of your business to improve your competitiveness and bottom line. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. can show you the way! 

Manufacturing and National Security

Michael Roman - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.


I read an interesting article. It noted that for the first time China’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) exceeded that of the United Sates. My strategic interest in China began in the mid-1970s. At that time, China ranked amongst the poorest of the world’s nations, but I believed then that China, a “sleeping dragon,” would emerge as a formidable foe in the near future.

 

China forcefully declared its interest in territorial expansion and regional dominance in 1979 when it invaded Vietnam. Despite overwhelming military superiority, the Chinese achieved little. If nothing else, the conflict highlighted problems in Chinese manufacturing: a lack of standardization, poor quality control, and little understanding of logistics, just to name a few. The Chinese worked hard to correct those problems. Since then, Chinese military technologies and capabilities have dramatically improved.

 

Today, Chinese companies account for three of the world’s top ten companies by annual revenue. In contrast, only Wal-Mart (2nd) and Exxon (5th) represent the US in that group. In 2007, GM led the list, once dominated by the likes of IBM, GM, and Ford. Apple, the technology darling, occupies the 16th position while GM slipped to number 23. Regarding trade, the US imports more than four times the goods from China than it exports. This generates a tremendous trade imbalance favoring China. China also holds more than $1.23T in US debt obligations on which it collects significant interest payments. These hard currency flows from the US help fuel China’s growth and tend to diminish US domestic growth.

 

Other reports note a slow-down in China’s growth rate from a 40-year average of 8% to 7.3%. America’s recent growth rate remains slightly above 2%. If these numbers continue, what could we expect in the next forty years? Using simple analytics (i.e.; the Rule of 72), we extrapolate trends that show China’s economy potentially doubling every ten years over the next forty years while the US economy doubles only once in that same time frame. That means that by the year 2054 the Chinese GDP could approach $240T, greatly dwarfing that of the United States at $30T.

 

While an unsavory thought for many, China already wages war against the United States. A war fought in the realm of intellectual property, on the battlefield of economics and in cyberspace, and one that the US is losing! Some wounds appear self-inflicted. American manufacturing suffers, in part, from poorly conceived governmental policies regarding taxation, trade, regulation, and education. As a result of those policies, the US hollowed out its manufacturing sector over the past forty (or more) years, businesses increased off-shoring activities, neglected the domestic development of critical skills and tradecrafts, and struggled under costly government-mandated burdens. American manufacturing became less competitive. This must change!

 

At Manufacturing Practices, Inc., we witnessed illiterate, low-wage Chinese workers taking great pride in the aesthetic quality of the work they produced. Their work ethic, enthusiasm, and dedication prove commendable. One only has to recall the mass choreographies of the Beijing Olympics; precision performances by thousands designed to impress (and, perhaps intimidate) the world. These performances proclaimed China’s arrival as a major force on the world’s stage, one that includes industrial production. China uses American universities to help educate the next generation of Chinese computer literate, techno-savvy, and highly competitive minded business leaders, the same ones who will ensure China’s global economic dominance, a position once enjoyed by the United States. Americans must relearn the lesson that a strong manufacturing base makes for a stronger, healthier economy and a wealthier, more productive middle class.

 

This is one reason why Manufacturing Practices, Inc. assists small- to mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies. Our proprietary processes help C-level management understand and access the hidden value in their ERP systems. We help clients unlock the ability to enhance the speed and efficacy of management decision-making through better use of their ERP system. Our proven methods enable management to implement continuous improvement programs that refine processes, improve procedures, and empower employees through Lean and other methodologies. As a result, our clients gain a significant competitive advantage, leading to increased revenue growth, improved cash flow, and significant cost reductions. We believe that Operational Excellence comes first from an effective implementation and deployment of a business management system. We remain committed to our clients’ successes. This has been the hallmark of our company since its inception.


Make Better Decisions

Michael Roman - Sunday, August 24, 2014
Make Better Decisions 
by Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Good leaders intuitively understand that decisions, and not their conditions, determine outcomes.  Leaders thrive on change, they relish the challenges change presents, and they respond accordingly.

Let us examine the decision-making ability of a fighter pilot engaged in aerial combat to create a common frame of reference.  It is a given that there is a more rapid pace of change in this scenario.  There is the nature of operating in a three-dimensional environment with the ultimate consequences of battle between modern aircraft probably greater than and more impactful than those made in corporate offices.  The pilot relies upon extensive flight and aerial-combat training, complex computer systems that receive a constant stream of data from on-board combat systems and flight controls, then synthesize and analyze that data to produce firing solutions to defeat an equally determined enemy.  

The evolution of these complex systems is traceable to the ideas and theories of Colonel John R. Boyd, USAF (Ret.), as both a Korean and Vietnam War veteran.  Boyd first developed the Energy-Maneuverability Theory (or E-M Theory) that allowed for the quantitative comparison of existing and planned aircraft with respect to all factors affecting performance (i.e.; weight, thrust, lift, etc.).  The upshot of Boyd’s work is that he rescued a flailing production program for the F-15 fighter and generated interest in the development of a lightweight fighter, the Air Force’s F-16 and the Navy/Marine Corps’ F-18 Hornet. 

Boyd developed a decision-time cycle logic bearing the odd name of “OODA" loop based on his fighter pilot experience in the Korean conflict and his interest in E-M Theory.  E-M Theory considers time as the ultimate parameter and that an entity, from the simplest to the most complex human organizations, operates in an environment of continuous change to which it must respond.  OODA loop decision cycle consists of Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action steps. Boyd hypothesized that the pilot who cycled faster than his opponent did gained the advantage and defeated his opponent.  Over the last fifty or so years, Boyd’s theory became ingrained in military strategy, business strategy (the Shewhart cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act), and used by courtroom litigators with the addition of game theory and cognitive science.

Yes, this is interesting, but how does it relate to you?

A properly implemented ERP System does for a company what both the OODA Loop and E-M Theory do for a fighter pilot. At Manufacturing Practices, Inc., we assist Manufacturing companies select, implement and properly deploy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as a holistic management decision-making support system. Such systems enable those business entities to process business data faster and provide a distinct competitive advantage in the complex and fast-paced environment of change.  With our approach, no fighter pilot experience, OODA Loop training, or E-M Theory education is necessary. Our proven approach focuses teams on what works and how to make it better.



ERP and Leadership

Michael Roman - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

By Dan Valentine, VP Sales, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

I have been selling software for a quarter of a century and I see it over and over again. Companies buy some hot new software and expect it to miraculously fix their problems. I remind my clients that software is not a silver bullet and it is certainly not a replacement for good management decision-making. It is a tool, nothing more. To be sure, it is a tool that can enable you to do things more efficiently and effectively, but a tool, nonetheless. It can no more run a company than a power saw can build a house. It does what it is told to do and, in the hands of a skilled worker, it can accomplish great things.

Recently, I engaged with Manufacturing Practices, a management consulting firm that helps companies better leverage their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to run their manufacturing businesses. It would appear that less than one-third of all ERP users are using it effectively. This is not a big surprise because there are some key misunderstandings in the marketplace about what ERP does. True, it can help companies substantially improve production through-put, increase revenues and reduce costs but not in the way many who purchase this software think. ERP, at its core, is a data manager and an information provider. Therefore, it is a leadership tool. It gives company leaders the information they need in a timely manner to make better decisions. It allows leaders to see where production bottlenecks are and address them. It allows leaders to see how fast inventory is depleting and when the best time is to reorder. It allows to leaders to see where mistakes are being made in real-time so they can correct them. And when the leadership makes better decisions, a multitude of positive outcomes result – higher profitability, higher quality, higher morale, etc…

ERP can offer a company phenomenal benefits so long as it is used correctly. This means setting it up to properly collect the data you need, delivering that data to company leadership in a format that effectively informs and getting the leadership to use that information to make better decisions.