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Washington Speak

Michael Roman - Wednesday, October 09, 2013

In grade school, our hockey team competed for the parochial league hockey championship for a number of years. Our coach taught us well, and we executed the basics well. He preached team play and we followed those principles. We were successful as a team, largely because our hockey coach always delivered a clear message. We knew what was expected and we knew how to implement.

Unlike the hockey coach, Washington seems incapable of delivering a clear message about anything. Lately, I have been trying to decipher the Washington speak about how well businesses are performing in the USA.  We hear that the unemployment is dropping, then we hear that there are fewer people on the government lists of “unemployed” because scores of job seekers have given up looking for employment. We hear that GDP is declining and companies are having a hard time keeping people employed, but then we hear that productivity is up in the manufacturing sector.

So what is the truth? 

Honestly, it does not matter how EVERYONE is doing; it only matters how YOUR company is doing. There are business strategies for every company’s status. Moreover, when orders decline, and there is still money in the bank to pay employees, that is the time to employ a strategy that will prepare an organization for the future upturn. First, educate people in the organization about business improvement activities, and once they learn how to prioritize those activities, then assist them to perform those key business process improvements that will pad the bottom line. When properly educated, people performing these practices save jobs and deliver the expected results.

Such a strategy prepares organizations to hit the gas when the light turns green. (That is the mantra of a close relative of a famous racing champion, and a man who led the charge for selling an ERP package for a former employer… thank you, Mark E!).

When it comes to prioritizing business process improvements, I learned a long time ago that the question you need to ask is very simple: “What is next to improve?” The answer is also simple: “Which process, when properly functioning, contributes the best cost benefit for your Business Management System (ERP)?” Again, a basic question that is easy to answer with a properly functioning ERP System. 

My playing number on our hockey team was 13, because the other players on our line were 12 and 14, and I played between them. There is another “famous 13” who practiced, practiced and practiced until the basics of auto racing were automatic to him. When the light turned green for Bill Elliott, he hit the gas and often finished first or among the leaders. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. can help your organization learn to perform those necessary improvements, as we have done for others for the past nine years, so that when the light turns green, your company is fully prepared to speed ahead of the competition as well.

5S Can Hone Leadership Skills

Michael Roman - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest Blog by Maryanne Ross CFPIM, CIRM, CSCP, CDDP

Are you a leader, or hoping to become one? Did you know that the same 5S techniques – sorting, straightening, shining, standardizing, and sustaining – that are used to improve the workplace also could be used to hone your leadership skills?

Let me explain. A leader who is significantly out of balance in any of the seven life areas (health/fitness, relationships, finance, career, recreation, spirituality, and personal growth) will be less effective in the leadership of others, and the 5S techniques will help you restore that balance. I see leadership as a role of giving of service to others. The leader acts in such a way as to motivate and inspire others towards the achievement a common goal. However, a leader cannot give to others from an empty well.

Let’s take a look at the first of the 5S steps, sorting. In the workplace, the sorting step is one of the easier steps. Individuals and teams work to rid the workplace of any items that are not needed to accomplish the intended work. Items are identified as unnecessary by the team, and decision makers give direction on the disposal or reassignment of the items. 

As this applies to our life areas, sorting is a bit trickier. In order to improve in our life areas, we must search our souls to identify the wasteful activities that are keeping us from making continuous improvements in each area.  Examples might be spending too much money, overeating, spending too much time watching TV, playing video games, or using social media. Another example might be limiting and negative thoughts. Some experts estimate that we think anywhere from 40 to 70 thousand thoughts per day and that 80% of them are negative. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar: “I can’t do anything right,” “My boss hates me,” “I’ll never get promoted,” or “I’m too short, tall, fat, thin, old, etc.?” The difficulty with sorting these out is that you have to recognize them first!

The next step is to straighten out those thoughts and actions by replacing the negative ones with their positive counterpart. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “The boss hates me and I’ll never get promoted,” replace it with a positive thought that could be more or equally as true.  Since you can’t possibly know for sure that the boss hates you, why not think a thought that steers you in the direction you wish to go? Replace other bad habits with positive ones. Seek out mentors and ask them what they did to succeed and follow their advice. If you cannot find a mentor, do research to get the advice you need.

In the shine step, you can take the best practices you have researched and develop goals and objectives for the things you want to accomplish. Essentially, your goals should indicate what you specifically want to accomplish and when you plan to accomplish it. A goal that states, “I want to learn a foreign language” is too vague to motivate you into action. However, a goal that states, “I will learn 20 phrases of French within the next month” is likely to generate the activity needed to accomplish it.

Now that you have established goals and objectives, you can begin to standardize them. Simple ways to do so include developing new habits that support your goals, practicing them every day for 30 days, and creating checklists to ensure that you remember them. A great way to develop an action plan is to borrow another tool from the manufacturing world, a quality tool called an Ishikawa or Fishbone Diagram. The diagram resembles the shape of a fish and the quality problem is stated in the head of the diagram, with possible causes radiating out as the branches from the spine. In developing your action plans, your goal would be stated in the fish head and actions to achieve it become the branches. 

Now sustain your momentum by taking before and after photos, setting aside five minutes morning and night to review your actions and results, working with an accountability partner who confers with you on your progress.

These are just a few of the ways to make steady progress towards your goals. You will want to develop plans for improvement in all life areas. Good leaders recognize the importance of life balance, and they take small steady steps to make their plans a reality. Remember the old adage: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Maryanne Ross is an APICS Master CPIM and CSCP Instructor and teaches APICS Certification courses for both the Washington DC Metro Chapter and for the Blue Ridge Chapter.  She is an APICS Master Instructor Development Instruct for APICS and is a member of the APICS District staff for the Mid Atlanta District.




Science just is

Michael Roman - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I have been plowing through The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, who cover a lot of ground about the universe and our place in it. They explain that science has historically allowed interpretation based on experience, even when that experience proves later to be false. For example, Ptolemy’s experience led him to conclude that the earth was the center of the universe (geocentric), but centuries later, scientific experience taught us that heliocentric was more accurate. Then, just in the last century, Hubble gave us a new understanding of the vast universe that disproves heliocentric thinking and compels us to continue to explore and discover the deeper truths about who we are. In other words, for most of our civilized history, we have had an inaccurate picture of where earth exists in the grand scheme of things; and it is likely that we can improve on what we know now.

There are corollaries to this dynamic in the work Manufacturing Practices undertakes, because our efforts to assist organizations implement, find, or re-implement a business management system follow a similar path. Very often, in most small and midsized entrepreneurial organizations that are our main clientele, chaos seems to be the modus operandi. We refer to these clients as geocentric organizations since they believe that only they have the solutions to proper business management and insist that the organization must revolve around them.

Some clients believe that an ERP System works and insist that the primary task is to find the proper package that will automatically remove the chaos and replace with the best business management system. We refer to these clients as heliocentric, because there is some truth in their “theory”, but they mistakenly discount the role of proper education and its effect on the organization. No organization should stop rethinking and reevaluating their business practices just because they now have a new system.

The education that our consultants deliver is the Body of Knowledge (BOK) developed as the model for Operations and Supply Chain Management, i.e., APICS. This BOK defines what a proper business management system is.  Our role at Manufacturing Practices is that of a scientific explorer who takes client organizations on a voyage of discovery, exposing them to the proper tools, processes and procedures that will help the client’s user community to flourish and succeed on the world stage of manufacturing and distribution competition.

It’s not rocket science, but it is science at its best.

How to Avoid Two Dangerous Traps in Leadership—Listen and Engage

Michael Roman - Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

We often read or hear in the media about leaders whose lack of courage reaped painful consequences. But these “spectacular” failures are just the tip of the iceberg. Doubts and fears of a much smaller magnitude have caused legions of leaders to fail in less obvious ways. Although these failures don’t make the newspapers, they nevertheless can suck the energy and life out of the people and organizations they affect. By learning to listen and engage in a healthy way, I believe that many of these less-obvious failures could be avoided.

Learn to Listen

Many leaders fail to listen to the ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback of others. Some go so far as to use intimidation to silence “threatening” ideas. Still others suppress ideas by dominating conversations and not allowing others to speak. These leaders may appear “macho” on the outside, but in reality their fears and insecurities send a loud message that they don’t want anyone to disagree with their view of the world. Unfortunately, most of us know how exhausting and demoralizing it can be to work for a leader whose tender ego must be carefully guarded. Usually there is a graveyard outside this executive’s office that’s filled with the bodies of messengers who had the courage to provide honest feedback.

If you suspect that you are this type of person, let me encourage you to get a “leadership 360 assessment,” so your direct reports, peers, and manager (or board of directors) can give you candid, anonymous feedback. (Now, that will take some real courage on everyone’s part, won’t it!) If the results indicate a problem, don’t rationalize your behaviors or demonize the messengers. Engage the issues and grow into the leader you can be, the one that your followers deserve.

When the truth is courageously communicated, people and organizations flourish. But when doubts and fears hold sway, leaders avoid hard decisions and responsible actions, and instead look for a comfortable way out. At best, team energy drains away and people don’t grow. Too often, fear and doubt cause bad judgment that derails the leader’s influence.

The Leadership Engagement Model

Leaders who lack courage to engage problems usually veer off course in one of two directions: they will either seek to dominate, or they will seek to withdraw (fight or flight; violence or silence.) Both of these counterproductive behaviors have the same root cause: fears and doubts. I’ve found the Leadership Engagement Model™ depicted below to be extremely helpful for improving the cooperation and productivity of teams working cross-functionally, especially if a “silo mentality” is prevalent. It has also been beneficial for strategic partners who have competing interests.

For example, in most medical communities a natural tension exists between the hospital and the physicians and clinics that use the hospital. Typically, one party tries to dominate to get its way, which in turn causes the other party to become distrustful and combative.

Eventually, emotions can get so raw that one party withdraws, or they both do. To halt this vicious cycle, the two sides need to courageously commit to engage in productive dialog, identify common goals, and implement agreed-upon solutions. Meaningful engagement occurs when each party fights for its ideas in a healthy, constructive way, while still being open to the ideas of others. This type of dialog is evidence of humility, courage, and confidence. Doubts and fears are normal. You can’t avoid them, but you can manage them. You can choose to override your feelings and do the right thing. You can choose to lean into the pain for the good of others and yourself. Like the men in the POW camps you’ve read about, you can choose to be a strong leader by being courageous.

In what specific situations might you be dominating or withdrawing (e.g., by attacking or procrastinating) when you should be engaging? What choices do you need to make to engage issues you have been avoiding?


As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at

ERP is like growing tomatoes?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here is a repeat of a blog that follows the science bent.

A few years ago, I learned an important lesson when I read one of Gus Whalen’s books (The Featherbone Spirit) about a man whose claim to fame was growing tomatoes. Large, delicious tomatoes – and lots of them! Jesse, a 40-year employee in the cutting department of an apparel manufacturing company, planted 20 tomato vines just outside the factory on a patch of grass beside a busy highway. By the end of the season, those 20 vines yielded exactly 2,508 tomatoes, an average of 125.4 tomatoes per vine. And that’s after discarding 300 tomatoes because they were too small! By comparison, I would be thrilled with a yield of 20 or 30 tomatoes from one vine in my own garden.

How did Jesse do it? The short answer is… he measured everything! Before he planted, he measured the plot of ground and the space between plants. He calculated the amount of sunlight the plants would receive and the amount of fertilizer and other additives he would need for the entire season. At any point in time during the summer, you could review his notes and know exactly when and how much fertilizer he used that day, what days he watered and how much, and the weight of every tomato that he harvested, including those that were discarded. He knew every detail about every facet of the tomato growing operation, a “statistical process control” practice that he quite possibly had learned from his days in the cutting department.

ERP is like that. Essentially, ERP systems are designed to help you manage your business, but just as importantly, it is a useful tool to measure the effectiveness of your operation. Used properly, it will allow you to dip into the details at any given moment and measure every facet of the operation at a glance, and then make appropriate adjustments. The effectiveness of that is self-evident to owners and employees who are (hopefully) devoted to better performance; they should know from experience how important measurements can be.

Although the specific areas for measurement vary with the type of industry, there are a number of common measures for most manufacturing and distribution organizations. If your ERP system does not provide this fundamental information, it is not delivering a proper value; in other words, your ERP system is sick and needs a checkup.

In most organizations, an effective ERP system will have a pulse on the business in several critical areas including customer service, supplier performance, inventory valuation, shop floor control, and planning. Within those general categories there are key performance indicators (KPIs, as you in the industry may know them) that are vital to understanding where opportunity-improvement projects would contribute directly to the bottom line of the organization. KPIs provide an additional level of control that may not be present in your ERP system, but only because no one told you they were available.

So take Jesse’s advice and give more credence to those little detailed measurements, and then find an ERP expert who can help you get the most out of your ERP system.


Common Sense 101

Michael Roman - Tuesday, August 06, 2013

In graduate school, they taught us that being smart was not always about understanding science, or even the power of science.  As my major professor, Dr. Kelly Wells, would say, “Sometimes common sense is more important than science.” In the mid-1970s, when we participated at Motocross tracks in the heat and humidity of the summer in South Georgia, the weather was similar to that in Vietnam, and science was not necessary to remind me to stay hydrated.  It did not take science to understand that that a product containing water, minerals, and sugar was a benefit for hydration.  The label on Gatorade told that story, as did the advertising at the 7-11 stores. When Dr Wells had me purchase six bottles (one for each competition event for us both) there, we did not need to understand the science behind it; we just needed to know which end of the bottle to open to drink it. Common sense!

So instead of discussing the science behind an ERP implementation in this blog, let us instead take a look at the top three questions that will help you know if your ERP System implementation is complete. They are all common sense.

Question 1: Do KPIs measure employee performance as they deploy the ERP System on a daily basis? THINK ABOUT IT.  KPIs establish performance goals. You want to know when your people are on track (doing what you need them to do in the business system).  The industry calls these Key Performance Indicators or KPI.  At Manufacturing Practices, we like the acronym but we have adopted a second meaning: Keeping People Involved.  Using these types of measurements, employees know what the management team expects from them and where they are performing against those goals. Why not measure performance by assessing KPIs in your organization?  Shouldn’t your ERP System define those measures?

Question 2: Do your teams openly and freely communicate between different departments, or only through rigid, scheduled regular meetings?  If they do not communicate freely and openly, the C Level teams at the organization are probably the problem. So look first at the C Level people in the organization.  Do they foster teamwork or not?  Departments run much like the upper management to whom they report.  Where there is a spirit of open and complete cooperation, departments follow suit.  Where that does not exist, chicanery and deceit often follow.  Do not foster that atmosphere in your organization.

Question 3: Do your people share information by running reports from your ERP System? Do they ask for information in the form of spreadsheets from other departments? Look to see how people respond to your request for information.  Do they sit at a computer and look for specific reports, or do they pick up the phone and ask someone to build a spreadsheet for the requested information?  A properly implemented ERP System will have most requested information available in a report.  If the report does not exist, it can be built.  If it cannot be built, it is because the data does not exist in the system.  More than likely, information to answer most business needs already exists in a properly implemented ERP System, and no one needs to drink Gatorade to relieve the stress of sweating out an answer to the boss’ questions.


Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In keeping with last week’s blog about applying science to ERP Selection and Implementation, this week’s article discusses the application of measurements in those same efforts. The twist, however, is that the real effectiveness of scientific measurement in the workplace has a lot to do with psychology, more specifically our own sense of self-awareness. In Natalie Angier’s book,  Mirrors Don’t Lie. Mislead? Oh Yes, (Publisher: The New York Times, July 22, 2008), she states, “Researchers have determined that mirrors can subtly affect human behavior, often in surprisingly positive ways. Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat, compared with control groups performing the same exercises in nonmirrored settings. Reporting in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, C. Neil Macrae, Galen V. Bodenhausen, and Alan B. Milne found that people in a room with a mirror were comparatively less likely to judge others based on social stereotypes about, for example, sex, race or religion.” 

The study continues, “’When people are made to be self-aware, they are likelier to stop and think about what they are doing,' Dr. Bodenhausen said. 'A byproduct of that awareness may be a shift away from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of behaving.'  In other words, self-awareness is an important first step in accountability.’”

Of course this is far from being a revolutionary piece of information. In fact, not even close.  Henry Ford knew a very long time ago that you do not control what you do not measure. He employed that principle in his workplace by creating bar charts that showed worker productivity against acceptable high and low ranges.  He used the same method for reporting quality concerns, days cargo was on the water, or anything and everything he wanted to improve.  Mr. Ford charted, measured, and established acceptable and unacceptable, low and high benchmarks.

So again… this stuff is not new! Henry Ford used it around a hundred years ago, and it still works today!

With all that said, here is how we use scientific measurement at Manufacturing Practices Inc., part 1.  We establish benchmarks and time limits for our ERP Selection process activities, as well as our ERP Implementation process activities.  We do that for the client’s Management team, the client’s User team, the ERP Vendor, and Manufacturing Practices’ team. During the ERP Implementation, we assist our clients in using these measures to establish performance goals during the ERP software use.  The industry calls these Key Performance Indicators or KPI.  At Manufacturing Practices, we like the acronym but we have adopted a second meaning: Keeping People Involved.  Using these types of measurements, employees know what the management team expects from them and where they are performing against those goals.

The downside to not using KPI is loss of a quantifiable measurement of progress. In Ms. Angier’s book, she notes that according to studies, people often have better opinions of themselves than others have of them. Left to their own, they will score themselves better than data actually reports. This research suggests quantifiable data (KPI) keeps favorable opinions from interfering with actual results.  To Manufacturing Practices, Inc. this means management should set goals; and with user involvement, set acceptable high and low limits for all performance measurements to Keep People Involved, and in the process, reach the goals that management establishes.


Get the book that tells the full story.  The Turnaround is the story of a manufacturing company struggling to stay afloat, Mike Roman CPIM, a management consultant, helps the company's owners and management team discover the right path for turning near-catastrophe into a brighter future. The challenges they face in this tale mirror those of so many organizations today; challenges such as the silos of information within their four walls that prevent them from addressing problems as a strong, functional, team. Mike's mission was to help the company prosper again by finding solutions that benefit the entire organization -- and not a single department or the loudest voice.  Click here to review & Purchase  

Science and Quality of Life

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Last week, I surfed the web looking for more pearls of wisdom from one of my favorite scientists, Neil DeGrasse Tyson; and I found a good one. It was an interview conducted by Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert about why science is important to everyone.  It is rather long, but in two sections of the interview, he made some excellent points that were particularly relevant to my work.  You would no doubt enjoy the entire interview, and if you like, here is the link:

The first section runs from about minute 9:10 to about 17:37 and discusses whether scientific knowledge is a good thing.  Dr. Tyson explains that “not knowing” causes a person to “miss out” on a better quality of life, a perspective that I believe has a direct relationship to the work we perform at Manufacturing Practices, Inc.  Our goal is to understand the science of finding and implementing ERP Systems, i.e., business management systems, and to convey that knowledge to our clients. Our expertise spans 4 decades, and over that time we have perfected the five areas of focus that are of strategic importance to manage an ERP projects successfully.   Those areas are Leadership, Education, Commitment, Training, and Involvement -- all subjects covered in detail in our blogs.

More recently, Lee Ellis has presented a number of Leadership blogs based on his experiences at the Hanoi Hilton. You may want to read his book (Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton), or you can browse our blogs to find Lee’s musings (

Just after minute 17:37 to 20:03, in Dr. Tyson’s interview, there is a discussion of why science fails. Dr. Tyson states that it is the misunderstanding of science that leads to its distrust.  In our experience, we see resistance resulting from misunderstanding. Our answer to that misunderstanding and distrust was and will always be the proper education of both the management team and the company’s user community.  As Dr. Tyson says, “Just because you don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean it is bad for you.”  Management teams and their user communities are much more capable of understanding what they do not know after our education programs.  

In this second section, Dr. Tyson and Colbert discuss one of the laws that Arthur C. Clarke postulated about sufficiently advanced technology. One part of that law states that such technology is indistinguishable from magic. So, our blog focus for the next few weeks will be to remove the “magic” from our advanced technology of ERP Implementation success. We will discuss the importance of science in understanding what is behind ERP Implementation success. It is not an art, and it is not rocket science. It is just plain science; or in the words of Dr. Tyson, it is “proper science management”.

Hopefully, these discussions clarifying the science of ERP Implementation will prepare you for a "better quality of life" for your company, your management team and your user community.

Leadership Part 6

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Here’s the scene. Joe Staff Member is on your team, and you’ve done all of the right things to develop a healthy relationship of accountability; you’ve clarified, mentored, coached, checked in, and supported. For whatever reason, though, Joe still isn’t producing results that match his competency. So, it’s time to take action.

In the five previous blogs on accountability, we’ve been following a process to insure that you—the leader—have done your part to help your team members succeed. You should’ve been giving honest feedback by engaging with Joe along the way, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to him.

As you deliver the news, make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions: a win for the organization, a win for you the leader, a win for the team, and a win for the individual. Done right, it’s going to be part of the growth process to help him perform better or find a line of work where his talents and passion are better suited. Just as important, you grow as a leader as you gain experience and confidence in respectfully and firmly holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors in the workplace. 

Here are some practical action steps to follow as you move forward –

Have a mindset about what needs to happen.

The leader who is holding someone accountable for poor performance (or bad behavior) must consider the rational and emotional components. Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you’ve made a few performance notes along the way. Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.

Keep in mind that negative feedback always stings—our egos are tender. So, think through how you’re going to say things. If you are by nature not a “feelings” person, then discuss your approach with someone else who is more experienced and more sensitive than you are. Your critique should be fact-based dealing with specific issues and not an attack on the person.

Even those of us who don’t acknowledge feelings much can struggle with telling someone what they don’t want to hear. We must have the courage to deliver the unpleasant message and the consequences—some tough love— that go with unmet expectations. Anything less leads to a dysfunctional relationship and an unhealthy organization.   

1. Plan your approach and get counsel

Good execution starts with good planning.  Here are four steps to remember:

a. Consider your options for consequences.

b. Discuss the situation with your manager.

c. Discuss with your HR rep/consultant.

d. Get your mindset right. Your goal is to be factual, logical, reasonable and firm.

2. Meet with the individual

These specific guidelines will help ensure the best meeting possible:

a. Meet privately in your space and on your terms.

b. Demonstrate a respectful and caring attitude toward the person.

c. Explain the problem and indicate how expectations and agreements were not met.

d. Ask what the person sees as the cause of the problem. Listen carefully, and don’t defend or get into arguments.

- Expect rationalization and don’t fall for it. You’ve done your homework and you don’t want to let them off the hook. Stick to your plan unless there’s some significant problem that you weren’t aware of. 

a. Restate your concerns and underscore that performance (or behavior) has not been acceptable.

b. Lay out next steps for moving ahead (consequences, rules, expectations).

In this step, your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.

3. Follow through

Unfortunately, some adults can still operate as they did in a dysfunctional childhood; they may assume you weren’t really serious and that you’ll forget and let the matter drop. Here are four follow-through reminders –  

a. Stay engaged and walk through the process.

b. Communicate your commitment and firmness

c. Provide encouragement.

d. Be respectful and firm.

Some closing thoughts on accountability

Accountability is really at the heart of leadership, because it’s the best way to insure success for both people and the organization.  As a leader, one of the most helpful guidelines I ever learned (and I have to keep coaching myself on it) was: Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide. Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own. Your role is to initiate action to keep things on track. That’s what accountability is all about.

So how are you doing with accountability? Is there a Joe Staff Member on your team that needs to be addressed?  What wisdom can you share in this forum on ways that you’ve helped grow your people into a “healthy”, accountable organization? 


Lee Ellis 
is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC® & FreedomStar Media™.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

 He is the author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Perfect Spaghetti Sauce

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blick, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, and Outliers The Story of Success, is a respected author, thinker and speaker.  Gladwell also believes in paying it forward.  In April of 2004, he delivered a lecture and honored Psychophysicists Howard Moscowitz.  In the lecture, he drew attention to a fact that has far-reaching impact to many areas of society.  In summary, he points out that in their quest for happiness people often look for ‘perfection.’ They look for the perfect spaghetti sauce, the perfect mustard, or the perfect hamburger.  According to Mr. Gladwell, Dr. Moscowitz finds that those searches will never be fruitful, because there is no perfect spaghetti sauce, perfect mustard, or perfect hamburger; there are only perfect spaghetti sauces, perfect mustards and perfect hamburgers.  In other words, people were looking for something elusive because our preferences group into clusters, and people should look for the cluster that is most satisfying to them.

It is my belief that the same is true for companies looking for business management tools such as the integrated enterprise business management tools that are ERP Systems.  Companies search for the ‘Best ERP System’ when they should be looking for the ERP System that is best for their business.

I also believe that this is why the success rate for ERP implementation is low, as shown in research. That research shows that few companies gain any benefits, so why try?  It is because a small percentage of companies are successful; and successful companies have a HUGE competitive advantage in the marketplace.  Those companies focus the business around using the ERP Systems to help them:

  • Increase inventory turns
  • Decrease inventory investment
  • Increase customer on-time shipments
  • Decrease customer relationship concerns
  • Increase production throughput
  • Decrease production delays
  • Increase commonality in subassembly parts
  • Decrease re-inventing the wheel

Successful companies use the ERP System that fits them the best; and when they do, that system adds directly to increasing profits and a better position in the marketplace.  The journey is not easy and requires commitment from both management and staff, so before taking on the project, do what successful companies do and prepare the organization for the journey. Think of it as going to the beach; you don’t just ‘go to the beach’ without preparing. Everyone has a much more enjoyable time when they prepare for their time on the beach by taking towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.

Company education about what ERP will do for and to you, is the best place to start your journey. While ERP sales teams show the bells and whistles, they often play Tom Sawyer while you ‘white wash’ their fence and they avoid discussing the journey. Sometimes they blow benefits out of proportion, which suppresses the discussion about the pitfalls associated with the ERP implementation.  Once the company compares the cost of education to the cost of failure, education becomes a cost that few companies decide to skip.

Skipping ERP education is like trying to make good spaghetti sauce with no instructions or recipe to follow. You can be sure that the result will be far from perfect.