Jazmine



My wife loves animals. So do I, but for her, it’s an even bigger commitment. Our current household includes two dogs, five Himalayan cats, four more foster kittens, and two parakeet birds. We’re also feeding a flock of hummingbirds that consider our backyard to be their home. On any given day, home can literally be a zoo.

I’ve been observing one of our family pets lately. We’ve had Jazmine (pictured left) for the last 10 years or so. She was a rescue from the local shelter. One day my wife and stepson decided to go looking for a dog to care for, and Jazmine came into our lives.

Jazmine is a typical “Blue Heeler”, a Queensland Cattle dog (likely a slight mix, given her size). She’s a little bigger than most blue heelers, with a slender but strong build, but her markings and personality are heeler all the way. We all love her dearly, and as family pets go, she’s been the best ever.

I brought Jazzy to the office a few weeks ago, and she was well-behaved. In doing so, I started thinking about Jazmine, her character qualities, and how they relate to work life. You see, Jazmine would be an excellent employee. Here’s why

  1. Jazmine always makes it to work.  She shows up, rain or shine- she is consistent and reliable in her attendance.  As Woody Allen is quoted as having said, Showing up is 80 percent of life.’  Her particular breed is considered to be in the working dog group (forgive me if I’m not completely accurate with my terminology here), that is, she’s basically wired to be busy, and thrives on active participation and getting things done.  I’ve watched her use her herding instincts to even round-up cats or other animals (even people) in the backyard when playing.  She is always up for participation.  Great employees are like that.  They understand the importance of participation in the workplace and communicate their commitment consistently by being there.  Even when you’re a member of a distributed team (in a previous role I had team members in California, Minnesota and Arizona) you still show up.  People know you’re around, available and involved.
  2. Jazmine understands her role and does it fully.  Noise in the backyard at 2 am?  She’s on it- out into the darkness she’ll go, fearlessly, to check it out.  Someone at the door we don’t know?  She’ll wander up to the door, at the ready, and generally can even let us know before we open the door whether or not we know the person on the other side (her tail and her facial expressions are tremendous communication tools).  Did you know that cattle dogs are fiercely loyal to their family?   Great employees tend to focus on their role first and foremost, and consciously pursue completion of their duties with a passion that shows they have some skin in the game”.
  3. Jazmine has great listening and learning skills.  She’s a smart pet, and knows several words we use around the home and what they mean for her.  “Do you want to go for a walk”? elicits an immediate lunge with two large front paws on your chest. “Treat”?  Yeah, you get the picture- eyes focused on you and she parks right in front of the shelf where they reside.  On and on.   Look at those ears- how could she not hear you?  Right?   The same is true for great team members- they typically have a similar character quality, that of great listening skills.  And more than just listening, the ability to interpret what is being communicated as well.  This cannot be over emphasized.  Too many leaders attempt to hire employees and build their teams with those that are already fully skilled at the requirements, when often what is really needed are those that have the ability to learn quickly, that display an aptitude for their role.
  4. Jazmine is generally optimistic in her role.  She is typically cheerful and happy- she has a mellow disposition and demeanor that is drama free.  We all have the capacity to have a bad day every now and then- but great team members are consistently positive in their outlook.  Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not talking about being blindly gullible in all situations.  Jazmine won’t run for a ball if you try to fake a throw.  She’s brighter than that.  But generally speaking, great employees throw themselves into their work fully, and they believe in their products, their team and their shared vision.  And that’s a great quality to have.
  5.   Jazmine understands the importance of forgiveness.  She doesn’t hold a grudge.  She moves on.  Yeah, you left her locked out on the back porch last night because you stayed up too late, binge watching season 2 of Prison Break and forgot to let her in (not that I’ve ever done that, mind you).  Great team members are ready to do the same (no, not stay on your back porch).  They are able to rise above petty behaviors, take a step back and look at the bigger picture to understand a different point of view,  and yes, even when wronged they can accept apologies and move past whatever conflict or issue has just occurred.

I could go on, but for now I’ll stop with these five qualities.  Time for some introspection– do you show up?  Are you the type of employee who is fully engaged in your role?  How are your listening skills and aptitude for learning something new?  Optimistic in your approach? And willing to forgive and move forward with others?  These are but a partial list of ingredients needed for being both a great employee and a member of any team.

All About the 3PL

3pl_diagram_animation

A quick glance within Wikipedia, searching on the acronym “3PL”, will show you this brief description:

“Third-party logistics (abbreviated 3PL, or sometimes TPL) in logistics and supply chain management is a company’s use of third party businesses to outsource elements of the company’s distribution and fulfillment services.”

Recently I went through the process of identifying and selecting a 3PL partner to become our company’s main conduit for the launch of our first round of products here in the U.S. market.  The process was on a shortened time table, particularly given the imminent timing of our launch and the fact that our products were already well into their initial production cycle.

There are many different criteria that can be used when determining which 3PL to engage for your company’s fulfillment operations.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here’s the “stuff” I used to determine our particular selection.  I encourage you to consider the items mentioned below.  Every one of them could be expanded at much greater length, but for the purpose of keeping this article reasonably short, I will be brief.

  1. Start Locally. This works if you happen to be in northern California (definitely options in this part of the world), but hopefully if your business is near any type of metropolitan area, you’ll have some potential choices available to you close at hand.  Why?  Well, for me, with new products, in a new market, with a (relatively) new business venture, I wanted to “hedge the bet a little” for success and keep this part of the operation within reach-literally.  If there’s a problem, I don’t want to necessarily have to jump on a plane for half a day or more to get there “in person” (see my previous post entitled “Face (to Face) Time”.   Start locally if you can- it just makes sense.  Even later on, if the business scales to a point where a global organization is needed (one with multiple sites to service multiple regions), there will still be a need for a local enterprise, just to give you some bandwidth on special projects or segments of your business.  If you can cultivate this first, it can only help you later.
  2. Solicit Input.  Don’t go it alone!  There are lots of smart people around you, lots of opinions and experience that you should draw upon when determining which 3PL to partner with.  I asked for inputs from those around me, and two of my colleagues, both of whom I trust and respect, offered some great working relationships from previous gigs that were helpful in the search process.  Be somewhat selective about where you get your recommendations from- and if you do, this can pay off later on.
  3. State the Obvious.  When speaking with a potential 3PL, you need to be able to articulate exactly what it is you’ll need them to do for you.  They aren’t mind readers, and no two companies have exactly the same needs.  Sit down with them, walk them through your basic business plan, and discuss the particulars around what is needed. If they are sharp, they’ll not only listen, they’ll offer some insights in response that you might be able to benefit from.  Know what it is that needs to happen, and be able to share it with them in a way they can understand.  Also, be prepared to be rejected by the 3PL.  This happened to me as well- I had one company on our short list actually tell me that they weren’t interested in our business until we were closer to an annual revenue of at least a few million in sales.  We’re a start up- with a great product line up- and a large parent company- but not yet in the U.S. market.  Oh well- I guess this particular 3PL just didn’t need the business.
  4. Spend Effort.  Don’t be lazy– this kind of stuff doesn’t just happen on its own.  You’ll have to put forth some effort to really weigh a 3PL’s capabilities, since it isn’t always obvious.  For me, it meant jumping in the car a few times and heading out to various locations throughout the Bay area.  On at least one of those visits, I was able to grab the boss and bring him along for the ride- which can be a good thing- he gets to see the process first hand, and you get a supporter to your efforts.  And when you conduct a site visit, ask yourself if what you are seeing is also how you’d run the place.  If it’s not how you’d do things, that may be a red flag.
  5. Seriously- How Much?  There’s a place for weighing the quoted costs.  It’s okay to be a little price sensitive-after all, it’s not just business, it’s your business- so treat it that way.  Costs are an important component of the decision process.  Don’t pay more than you should, and don’t be so cheap that your customers suffer, either.  There’s a definite balance to be achieved when it comes to costs and “comparison-shopping”.  Be ready to agree to pricing for those things that matter most to your business and your customers.

Hopefully these points can give you some sense of direction when it comes to selecting a 3PL for your business.  In the end, you’ll want to team up with an organization that mirrors your needs with their capabilities, shares your vision, and desires to truly be a part of your success!

 

 

 

Regarding the Anatomy of Operational Excellence

shutterstock_138565244The Anatomy Of Operational Excellence

LEADERSHIP

THE ANATOMY OF OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE ENABLES AN ENTERPRISE AND ITS LEADERSHIP TO CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE ALL AREAS OF PERFORMANCE. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM GM, CHEVRON, AND BAE SYSTEMS.

BY FAISAL HOQUE

Operational excellence enables an enterprise and its leadership to continuously improve all areas of performance, including decision-making, ongoing investment, profitability, customer and partner services and human resources capabilities. Operationally excellent enterprises possess the processes and structures—or the “intangible assets”—that give them the visibility, control, tools, and management practices necessary to drive greater operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Consider the following three examples:

Potential Failure: British multinational defense, security and aerospace behemoth BAE Systems could be jeopardizing its operational excellence with a proposed merger that would threaten a key market. BAE’s biggest shareholder, fund manager Invesco Perpetual, warns that plans to merge with EADS, Europe’s largest arms manufacturer and the maker of Airbus, makes no strategic sense for BAE. The deal with EADS, which is controlled by France and Germany, would hamper BAE’s manufacturer’s access to the very profitable market for U.S. military contracts, according to Invesco, which owns about 13.3% of BAE, which generates more than 40% of its revenue in the U.S.

Return to Excellence: American multinational automotive General Motors bounced back to profitability in 2011, two years after emerging from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization and a year after making one of the world’s biggest initial public offerings. Now GM is making a strategic decision to add 1,500 software and data management jobs at its tech center in Warren, Mich., as part of an sweeping effort to in-source 90% of its tech work. A month ago, GM opened a similar center in Austin, Texas, with plans to hire 500 workers. GM’s focus on building a new age of automotive innovation could further improve its operational excellence.

Ongoing Excellence: Oil supermajor Chevron is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, and relies on core strategies across the enterprise. The company works with suppliers across the globe as a part of its ‘Chevron Way’ philosophy, which has helped it grow annual net income to nearly $27 billion on revenue of $253.7 billion in 2011, making it one of the world’s largest corporations by revenue. More significantly, from an investor’s perspective, Chevron had $41 billion in cash from operating activities in the bank at the beginning of 2012. There’s speculation that Chevron may go on a buying spree with that cash, and it’s essential the giant makes the best choices to maintain the same commitment to excellence even if it scoops up an inferior smaller company.

Looking Back to a Single Pin

Operational excellence had its genesis in manufacturing dating back to the pre-Industrial Revolution. In his 1776 magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, economist and philosopher Adam Smith was among the first great thinkers to define this now widely used concept. Smith famously described a small pin factory where 10 workers, each specializing in a different aspect of the job, could produce over 48,000 pins a day. Left to make a pin on his own, each of these workers might not have manufactured a single one in a day, and certainly not more than 20. The division of labor immensely increased the productivity of each worker. It’s still true today that assigning different roles and responsibilities across an enterprise enables scale, lowers costs and leads to greater operational efficiencies.

Delivering continuous improvement in the marketplace among competitors and customers requires enterprises to identify, understand and create the capabilities, behaviors and focuses necessary for repeatable, continuous and measurable operational improvement.

Roadmap for Operational Excellence Journey

Being operationally excellent requires a focus on management capabilities to develop and promulgate standards, coordinate decision-making, optimize service delivery and to manage the workforce. Orchestrating these capabilities requires a unification of cross- functional management disciplines. These capabilities can be organized around the following core characteristics:

1. Visualize Key Operational Processes. Identify the key operational processes, including those that create value, growth or innovation as well as those that consume the most resources, time and assets. Develop visual operating models that show linkages both inside the enterprise as well as outside, to customers, suppliers and partners.

2. Design Workflow and Predefined Responses. Model the workflow for each key process, identifying the actions, resources and workers required for each step. Then define a standard response to handle large variations in workflow volume outputs or inputs.

3. Develop Metrics and Gauges. Establish measures for normal workflow and develop systems or methods that report workflow volume outside the normal ranges. Ensure that workflow reports are received by the stakeholders responsible for each operation.

4. Operate Functionally, Measure Systemically. The functional operating manager responsible for workflow, using the predefined responses, operates the workflow by making any changes necessary to adapt to changing volume, inputs or outputs. Functional managers interact with upstream and downstream operating mangers to ensure optimal end-to-end performance.

5. Drive Continuous Improvement. As operating experience grows, make adjustments to the workflow design, predefined responses and performance measures, to continuously improve overall system performance.

If business agility enables rapid adjustments to effect change, and sustained innovation allows an organization to stay ahead of the competition and market dynamics, then operational excellence is the epitome of fiscal discipline, maximizing the use of resources and the assurance of revenue sustainability and, ultimately, profitability.

Managing Operational Risks

To manage most business operations, enterprises must cultivate a culture of risk management that is vigilant in its pursuit and disciplined in its execution.

Today’s businesses are learning hard lessons about operational risk: BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, naked credit default swaps and more than $63 billion in failed U.S. technology projects, are but a few of the high- profile cases that demonstrate the perils of failed risk management and poor operational execution. Each of these disasters and debacles caused billions of dollars in value destruction, yet each of them happened on the watch of skilled risk managers who appeared to do their jobs properly. Each had compliance systems, regulators and oversight mechanisms expressly designed to mitigate risk. So what went wrong?

In two words: systemic failure. Systemic operational risk originates in the complex interactions among the components that constitute a system. An individual component can function flawlessly while the overall system experiences a massive failure, or the system functions as an impact multiplier, magnifying the effect of a single component failure.

Managing systemic risk requires a culture of operational risk management that extends beyond the individual components to the edges, seams and overall system behavior. Mature risk cultures are characterized by a set of essential management practices that ensure the framework of the enterprise functions at a consistently high level. These include the following:

Step 1: Identify the risks. Operational risk identification is the process of identifying of sources of risk from all directions, internal and external. Risk identification is an inherently creative process, and as such, it requires the collaboration of diverse minds and different perspectives that represent all constituencies.

Step 2: Establish a control system. Risk mitigation is an analytical process that devises a control system to mitigate each identified risk. Control systems range widely. They can be designed to respond to a risk event, to reengineer the process to eliminate or transfer the risk, or to detect the risk early, before it can cause significant damage.

Step 3: Test, test, and test again. Control systems require compliance to be effective, and testing simulates risk events and the control-system response. Test results are fed back into improved and more effective control systems; they also serve to identify new sources of risk, each of which requires a corresponding control system.

As our knowledge economy expands and global interconnections increase, complexity grows exponentially. Business leaders and operating managers must proactively manage complexity by constructing control systems that not only function in complex environments, but also adapt and evolve along with them.

(Original article by FAISAL HOQUE)

Founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Newest book “Survive to Thrive – 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015).