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About ERP Systems

The Joke's on Me

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 03, 2013

This has been a rather strange month. Two surgeries, two funerals, and many jokes from my veteran friends and well-wishers for a speedy recovery both before and after the surgeries.  One of those jokes struck home, and it goes something like this: A retired Command Sergeant Major, who was having difficulties finding employment in the civilian job market, was being interviewed by the Vice President of Human Resources for a C-Level position. When he was asked to name his greatest weakness, the former military man immediately answered, “My honesty.”  The HR VP asked what in the world was wrong with being honest, adding that he thought honesty to be a great virtue.  The Command Sergeant Major said, “Why would I care what you think?”  End of interview.

I wonder if too often I am like that Command Sergeant Major – honest to a fault. As an example, just prior to my first surgery, I discussed an ERP Project Management role with a mid-sized manufacturing company.  With facilities in several countries and no current ERP system in any of their manufacturing sites, the scope of the project was right in my sweet spot. We had several phone interviews before the company invited me to meet the senior executives, who as it turned out were coming to Atlanta to meet at their business club not far from my office.

At the meeting, the CIO explained that he was the corporate sponsor for the project and that I would be working with his IT manager.  I explained to him that I was not interested in working with an IT manager on the project. We had already discussed the working relationship, and I had clearly expressed concern about defining the ERP implementation as an IT project and not as a corporate operations directive.

My comments surprised him.  I explained: “Different research efforts for these types of projects produce the same result.  Research suggests that companies that see ERP implementations as an IT project are not successful, and such projects do not create an ROI. To be successful, the operations (supply chain) teams, the customer service teams, the accounting teams, and the quality teams all need to have skin in the game.”  I further explained that research has proven that when the organization sees ERP implementation as an operational project rather than an IT project, success more often follows.

I also explained that the C-Level team would be shirking its management duties by moving project responsibility from their shoulders to a manager.  He responded that he was still the project sponsor and failure would not reflect well on him.  I told him I agreed with that analysis but added, “Project success rests with those committed to the project and not those who were simply involved in the project.  With the current situation, the C-Level team was clearly involved rather than committed to the project’s success.”

I could have ended the discussion there, but in typical Mike Roman fashion, I pressed forward with my honest evaluation by asking how many ERP projects the C-Level team had successfully completed. He said he did not have an answer to that question. I explained to him that I understood his response and suggested that the group do their homework before moving forward.

We were about to end the meeting when the Command Sergeant Major joke can to mind. I ended the discussions with the joke and explained that I was sorry we could not come to terms.  With that, I headed back to my office.  I slept well that night, sorry for not being able to reach terms with that organization but knowing full well that I was not involved in a situation that stood little to no chance for success.

Read the book that explains the secrets to a proper ERP implementation (or re-implementation).  To get the Kindle version of our book, click the link to purchase your copy of The Turnaround.

Simple Algorithms & ERP

Michael Roman - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink writes that there are two types of problem solving tasks, algorithmic and heuristic. An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion. A heuristic task is the opposite. Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution. For example, working as a grocery checkout clerk is mostly algorithmic while a design engineer’s work is mostly heuristic, that being to come up with something new.

I mention this because I remain puzzled at the less than stellar performance most small and mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies achieve when attempting to implement an ERP System.  Most of these organizations mistakenly approach an ERP Implementation as a heuristic task when our experience shows it to be a simple algorithmic task.  Possible reasons for their ineffective approach are well documented and not surprising:

  • Lack of leadership and commitment from the C- Level Team
  • Improper understanding of the necessary processes
  • Inability to muster necessary resources to address the issues
  • Lack of properly identifying tasks
  • Inadequate deadline setting for completion of activities

Education resolves most of these issues and is at the heart of what Manufacturing Practices, Inc. achieves when assisting with an ERP Implementation project.  After the initial assessment and agreement on the process, Manufacturing Practices implements a simple, proven method for success.  The process starts with education of the Top Management team and development of a statement of goals and an agreed upon approach with the project details.  A statement of the problem by Top Management to the users follows that activity, and then a statement of the goals by Top Management to the users follows that.  The Top Management team then explains why user education is vital to the success of the project.  User education follows the next week and ends with a discussion of the project plans.  The execution of the project plan follows and is monitored during implementation.

The Manufacturing Practices approach has been a successful, replicable, and simple process used by more than 60 implementations and re-implementations of ERP Applications.  The number one reason for this success is that EDUCATION about what an ERP System will do both for and to the company happens before we accept an assignment.

For an in-depth look at what a typical ERP implementation looks like, read my new book, The Turnaround. It is available on Kindle, and here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Turnaround-ebook/dp/B00COOF0DC.

Pain Points

Michael Roman - Monday, June 17, 2013

For the past few months, I have experienced a relentless excruciating pain in my hip, measuring 8.5 (on a scale of 1 to 10) on the pain level chart. My doctor identified the problem with my hip, but was mystified by the amount of pain I was experiencing. Long story short, after stepping back and looking at other issues I am facing, the medical team discovered that my hernia was impinging on nerves in the hip and leg area, however improbable that might sound. Turns out that everything in that part of the body is connected, and after minor surgery last week to repair a hernia, the pain level was reduced from 8.5 to 2.5. The reduced pain has helped me regain my better disposition, and after more surgery next week on the hip, the pain will likely be reduced to little or nothing – and I can smile again.

In past roles as an operations and supply chain manager, I became familiar with the many “pain points” on the job. The biggest headaches were missing data, lack of KPIs, the lack of a frozen production period for completing customer orders, no master production schedule, insufficient information defined for BOMS and routings, and no integrated business management tool.  As a group, we approached these problems individually within each silo of information, as if they were unrelated. Of course, we were not effective in addressing these issues because we failed to realize the interdependence of those silos of information that had little interaction with one another.

All too often, we miss the source of the pain in an organization because the pain is coming from a problem area that we have not considered. ERP systems are designed to help businesses identify problem areas, but in a business with a less than fully functional ERP system, it is difficult to locate the source of the pain. In that instance, users must address the ERP system shortcomings before the company can identify the source of the problem and repair the damage.

Our approach to problem solving at Manufacturing Practices is a simple proven method for success, and it starts with education of the top management team about the most effective use of ERP. We work with them to develop a statement of goals and an agreed-upon approach to project details, and then a statement of the problem and goals is passed on to the users, with an emphasis on education. Education is vital to the success of an ERP project, so user education begins the first week and provides everyone a clear picture of the project plans. When companies fail to properly educate the top management team and the user community, there is little chance of everyone having the same understanding of the importance of the project plan, the KPIs, the necessity of frozen planning periods, and all the rest. Without proper education, companies deploy their ERP System to quiet the loudest voice or the bully in the organization while ignoring the greater good of the organization.

Without proper education, companies miss the boat on a whole series of management reporting that can alert a company to possible failures of important components or systems that may adversely affect customer relationships. Without proper education, management may not have access to important information about supplier performance, supplier quality issues or supplier price performance.  Without proper education, missing customer delivery dates can occur, adversely affecting the customer relationship that might cost the company its future in the marketplace.

So take the steps with your ERP system that can eliminate the pain and lead to a full recovery. Use the system to help you discover those pain points and their relationships to other areas in the organization. If you do it right, you will reduce the overall pain level of your business and be able to smile again – and hopefully, all the way to the bank!

By the way, if you have read our more current blogs, you have noticed a number of LEADERSHIP articles written by Lee Ellis, a dear friend of mine who demonstrated the lessons of leadership at the Hanoi Hilton during his stay in North Vietnam. I asked him to grant me access to his blogs on leadership, which he graciously has done.  You may contact him by emailing contact@freedomstarmedia.com or go to his website http://www.freedomstarmedia.com/ .

On Leaders and Accountability-6

Michael Roman - Wednesday, June 12, 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? 

LE

——————–
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

On Leaders and Accountability

Michael Roman - Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

A momentous payoff has just occurred in your team as you’ve applied the guidance in this ongoing series of articles on accountability---your direct report has successfully accomplished his or her goal(s)! Things have gone well; as their leader, your expectations have been met and possibly exceeded.

So what do you do now? How do you celebrate? How do you affirm success? This is the time for you to come through by being accountable in your role as the chief motivator and affirmer in the organization. Although you may not innately be a motivator and affirmer, you know that it’s a critical element of team success.

Here are some tips to help you succeed in this area -   

 Be specific in your praise. Your goal is to be very specific in your affirmation; so before speaking, take time to reflect on what went well and what steps in the process made the work successful. Remember you want to recognize and “call out” what worked well so that you can reinforce the mindsets, behaviors, and attributes that you know will yield success again in the future. 

Be enthusiastic in your demeanor. It’s been said that communications are 20% verbal and 80% non-verbal, so your energy, tone and body language are all going to play a big role in communicating genuine satisfaction. It’s true—some people are naturally more expressive than others; so if being low key is part of your personality, then you’ll need to stretch your energy and emotions a bit. This may be your courage challenge and one you don’t want to fail. Regardless of where your natural level of enthusiasm falls, you will need to punch it up a notch to show your pleasure at the way things have turned out. A big smile, high fives, and good words of affirmation communicate positive emotions that inspire others with energy for the next challenge.

Debrief the mission. Set aside a few minutes to discuss what went right, what was learned, and what lessons can be used in the next challenging assignment. This is also a good time for you to ask for feedback on how helpful you were and what you might do in the future to better lead and manage your people and processes. Finally, be sure to listen for insights into the challenges your people are facing. You’ll want to reflect on those and see if there are organizational barriers or trends that you and your manager need to know about.

Consider the next challenge. Successful people are generally looking for their next challenge so be ready with a challenging assignment for the next step. Always keep in mind that one of your important leadership responsibilities is to develop your people. Be thinking about their next steps in their careers and how you can be preparing them for higher levels of responsibility.

Be fair and consistent in your affirmation. We humans have very sensitive egos and people notice what you are doing for others. They expect you to be at least as excited about their success as those of others. The way to nip office politics in the bud is to take care of the needs of each person individually as you work with them. Almost everyone is searching for validation at a very deep level to confirm that “My work has meaning; I’m valued; and I’m worth something.” Great leaders help people become successful and that means recognizing individual differences, helping people become successful and providing affirmation of their unique contribution. 

Evaluate your situation. Celebration is in a sad and pitiful state in many organizations. Many leaders are so busy they just knock down one goal and head on to the next one without taking time to celebrate. That’s an energy drain for the leader and the team.  Also, some folks don’t want to celebrate because they are afraid—yes, afraid that if they celebrate people will quit working hard and lower the standards. I say don’t let your fear take you out. Have the courage (and wisdom) to celebrate and see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and that’s a nice thought, isn’t it?    

Where are you now? Are you providing affirmation and enthusiastic positive feedback to your folks as they achieve their goals?  Are you willing to ask your folks to give objective feedback on how well you are doing in this area?  If you stop and reflect on this, what could you be doing to better affirm and value your people?    

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC® & FreedomStar Media™.

He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments.

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

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Big Part II

Michael Roman - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Guest Blog by David Shavzin

"The nicest thing about NOT planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression."

  ~ Sir John Henry James

 

When Mike mentioned Neil deGrasse Tyson’s videos on YouTube (“We Stopped Dreaming Part 1” and “We Stopped Dreaming Part 2”), we started discussing this in the context of what we see in our consulting practices. As Mike states in his blog, an ERP system is all about "helping people in different departments of an organization come together to manage the business better..." Leadership commitment to an ERP implementation is key to success. A dream and bold steps are essential to staying ahead of the competition.

That dream, or bold leadership, of the executive team or owners of the business needs to be clearly communicated. For most businesses that should include an exit strategy. Maybe it is to retire by a certain date? Is it to sell the business for a certain amount of money so that you can buy that beachfront property? Is it to let others take over as you still nurture the business you created?

The problem with not having a dream - and not creating a plan - is that you will never get there. They go hand in hand. One of my favorite quotes:

"Vision without Action is a Daydream. Action Without Vision is a Nightmare."

 ~ Japanese proverb

Most of the business owners I know started out with some kind of dream. I am sure you did. In fact, I am sure you still do, even if it is just in the back of your mind as you manage the day-to-day fires, the economy, the competition and more. If you cannot clearly articulate the dream and/or if you cannot honestly say that everything you are doing day in and day out within the company is specifically going to get you one step closer to realizing that dream, you need to take a step back.

Write it down - be specific in what your dream really means. Then think about the last 6 - 12 months and write down what specific initiatives you have undertaken in marketing, sales, finance, production, supply chain, etc. that have had a singular focus on the dream.

If you are not as far as long as you like, reaffirm the dream and develop a plan. Make it comprehensive. Make sure you have the right resources to make it a reality. Communication with your staff is critical so that they understand where you are headed and why. We typically look for the home run but getting to that dream is most often a focus on the basics. A healthy ERP infrastructure will go a long way. Business process improvement, quality systems, engaging your clients, reducing and eliminating errors will all help you get there.

Dream BIG, then work at it every day!

David Shavzin, CMC

President, Shavzin & Associates

Helping Clients Build Value and Achieve Their Dreams

678-795-1750

David Shavzin

www.ShavzinAssociates.com

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Memorial Day 2013

Michael Roman - Sunday, May 26, 2013

 

A few weeks ago, I scheduled a lunch with one of my veteran friends, whose wife (also a veteran) was having dialysis problems. On my way out the door for the meeting, I got a call from another friend and business associate, Mike O’Connor, saying that he had written and recorded a song entitled “His Name is on the Wall.” He wanted me to hear it and added that I might want to share it with the veterans groups to which I belong. His excitement was infectious, so I agreed to give a listen and possibly share it with those groups. I never knew that Mike was musically inclined, so I did not know what to expect.

After I sat down at my table at the restaurant, I downloaded the song to my laptop just as my veteran friend arrived. We both listened to the song, and by the end of it, we were not the only ones with tears in our eyes. Our server and a veteran listening in at the next table were both similarly moved by the song. I think you will be moved too. Here are a few lines from the song, the words spoken by a gray-haired woman who traveled a thousand miles to see “his name on The Wall.”:

 

He was only a boy back then you see

Awkward and shy as boys tend to be

I missed my change to speak up then

Now it's gone and won't come again, won't come again

Here is the Link to the Song (click the arrow near the top of the new window to play the song) 

For me, the song has as twofold message. First, do not let an opportunity pass you by to speak with someone you love about the things that matter. That message transcends Memorial Day and ought to a part of everyone’s day. The second message is a reminder of the cost of freedom. The path of a warrior is perhaps the most difficult of all, and yet there have been so many who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.

A few days after my lunch meeting, a veteran from the Atlanta Vietnam Business Association distributed an email with a link to a YouTube video entitled The Path of a Warrior. It has a different method for delivering its message, and its primary purpose is to educate, but like Mike’s song, it inspires us to live our lives through the tears we shed in remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom. Take a moment and watch the video; it is an opportunity to better understand and appreciate the path of a warrior.

And one last thing.  It is difficult to explain what veterans feel about the duties they perform.  But, maybe an experience I had this past week might help the uninitiated understand.  I was fortunate to be able to escort the Honoree and his family for the Johns Creek, GA Memorial Day picnic/lunch.  The Honoree, Sgt. Michael Doi, (93 years young) was a member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment; the most decorated Infantry Unit in the US Army.  I asked Mike to please tell me about the three Bronze Stars he was awarded for heroism in combat.  He refused saying they were not important, that was then.  He then began to explain what was important was the fact that he “won” his car keys back from his daughter.  Those simple words are inspiring.  They mean that the times make great people whose only actions are to do what is right for the greater good.  These words are truly an inspiration and in my humble opinion should guide people’s actions daily.

 I hope you have a great Memorial Day this year, and I hope you will take time sometime during the day to reflect on the freedoms you enjoy and the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions made it possible.

 

Do Not Stop Dreaming

Michael Roman - Friday, May 24, 2013

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. I was enjoying the series entitled “We Stopped Dreaming Part 1” and “We Stopped Dreaming Part 2”and they are 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 advisor 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.

Will it Work?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ERP TIRE-KICKERS

I had another one of those “tire-kicking” calls this past week from a CIO (Chief Information Officer) at a mid-sized manufacturing company, wondering if I had a few minutes to answer his very important questions.  I politely said I had a few minutes but reminded him that, as a consultant, my answers have the same value as consulting advice. He laughed it off, and then asked his first question, “What is the best ERP system?”

Brother! So much for subtle hints…

So I quickly pulled up my “List of Standard Answers to General Questions,” and suggested he visit a page on my website (LINK TO PAGE) to find a more comprehensive answer to the question. He thought about it a minute and then asked, “How long does it take and how much money will it cost to implement a new ERP system at my company?”

I bit my lip and told him the simple answer to that question is, “It depends.” He issued a very audible sigh, so I asked if something was wrong. He said he thought I was being flippant. I apologized for appearing so, and explained that it was impossible to answer his question because I knew nothing about his company. That explanation didn’t faze him, and he asked, “How long does it USUALLY take?” I issued my own sigh and said, “I have never recorded an average, because the data is so skewed, it becomes meaningless. My clients work at their own pace and have implemented ERP Systems in spans of time ranging from nine weeks to three years.”  Then I directed him to one of my blogs that answers the question more fully. (here).

Somewhat agitated, he asked, “Can’t you just answer my questions?  They are simple, and should have simple answers.”  I took a deep breath and said, “Sir, since the late 1980s, I have consulted with many small and mid-sized companies, helping them shop for and implement ERP systems, and most of them had little understanding of what a formal business management system will do both for and to their company. It is not rocket science, but it’s far more complex than simple answers to what seems to be simple questions to you.”

He grunted, and I continued. “But, to help you thoroughly understand all the issues and challenges of ERP systems, and to answer most of your questions, I have written a book. And considering the price of an ERP system, the price of the book will be a worthwhile investment because it can answer questions for you, other management team members, your CEO, and everyone else on your team.”

Just before I hung up, I assured him that I would welcome questions that might arise after reading the book. Then I gave him a link to the Amazon website, where the book is available for the low introductory price of $9.99. He admitted that was indeed a reasonable price and agreed to download the book. Hopefully, he did.

By the way, here’s the link to the book (The Turnaround Link).  I’ll be happy to answer your questions as well after you read the book.  Here is a link to use to send your questions (ASK THE EXPERT).

Doing the Right Thing

Michael Roman - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Frustrations for C-level executives run high when someone in their organization decides NOT TO ACT to correct a damaging situation before its effects reach the final customer. Small issues will grow proportionally larger as they travel through the supply chain – including small supply chains within small and mid-sized manufacturing organizations. The problem is a matter of empowerment and placing the mantle of responsibility for customer satisfaction on EVERYONE’s shoulder. It reminds me of my recent experience with a health care provider – a story that drives home the point.

Recently, a few of my veteran friends suggested I make the journey to the Veterans Administration to obtain medications that Vietnam Veterans are entitled to by law.  I had not done so in the past; but facing retirement age and knowing that every little bit of savings helps, I made the trek and hoped that the experience would not be as difficult as the time thirty years ago when I last visited the VA. Wrong!

After an initial three-and-a-half-hour wait, the receiving nurse finally logged my vital signs and sent me to the next available Physician’s Assistant (PA).  A discussion followed about medicines, protocol, etc., and then she arranged for a pharmacist to review the case. Twenty minutes later, the PA said that I could get one of the several meds now but the others had to wait until after my initial review by my VA doctor in three weeks. Well, my scripts were due to expire within a week, (another long story), and the prospect of waiting three more weeks without the medicines I had been taking for several years was not a welcomed suggestion.  The only other option was to pay several hundred dollars for my meds, since I had no insurance for price/copayment adjustments, having reached that magical age.  I asked if another opinion was available, and the PA said she was sorry but no. My journey to the VA, now stretching into a four-hour ordeal, had come to an abrupt end, with no satisfaction.

I vented my frustration on the young PA and said that I knew coming to the VA would be a waste of time, that it reminded me of the last time I visited the VA thirty years ago, and that too few people give a damn about the end customer. I sarcastically thanked her for seeing me and left abruptly.

I drove home contemplating why I decided to go to the VA in the first place.  As I pulled into my driveway, my cell phone rang.  It was the PA, who said that she was involving herself in this case and would shortly let me know the outcome. I was stunned. That phone call immediately changed MY attitude.  Her simple decision to do what she could to help a customer improve the situation was a bright spot not seen in the many years in which I helped both my parents and a few other veterans receive the care that they were entitled to receive.

So thank you, Miss Jasmine, PA at the Atlanta Veterans Hospital.  You have made my decade.

And here is my point to you, Mr. C-level Executive. I gave up on the VA thirty years ago because my concerns as a customer were never addressed, but the simple initiative of one PA brought me back and made me feel supported. She did the right thing by me. Occasionally, it seems, even people within the government bureaucracy can choose to do the right thing, so why not take the steps necessary to embolden the people in your company to do the right thing.

Your customers will love it. I did.