What Single Word Leads to Improved Performance?

In the Quality Management world, it is an accepted belief that people lack confidence in instructions for a given task when they don’t fully understand the value of or reason for the required actions. Therefore, it is important to build into our processes and instruction sets the explanations for the actions we are defining and the methods to confirm that those explanations are clearly understood.

It makes “why?” the single most useful word for improving performance.

A quote from George Bernard Shaw is often used in this context. It goes like this, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

This quote makes us aware of two things. First that it is all too easy to assume the act of speaking or directing is, in fact, equal to communicating – it’s not! Second, that we really need some level of feedback to ensure that our communications is more than an illusion. We need to ensure what is received in our message matches the intent of our message.

When we find people struggling to adhere to our process requirements and we have confirmed that the instruction set is clear, the resources needed are available, and the tasking is achievable, we will often find that purpose is the missing element. Sometimes we don’t explain the why of a process because it seems self-evident or we believe the training-and-education on the tasking is sufficient. Other times, we are so busy with the task of delivering instruction we fail to include sufficient time for meaningful explanation. Then, of course, there is the situation where purpose has been lost in the translation from one employee to the next. As one employee replaces another, meaningful information on tasks, duties and purpose is often inadvertently omitted.

There is yet another improvement benefit to the use of “why”. It can also help us identify and eliminate redundant tasks.

Most processes, particularly business processes, evolve on the basis of need versus resources. This means that we execute tasks and collect information based on previous business needs and the tools or processes that were available at the time. As new technology or methods are deployed, if we fail to ask “why?” we might continue to execute tasks that are no longer beneficial or useful, simply because we fail to deeply examine purpose.

The root cause for many software and other system change failures often points to the failure of management to deliver a reasonable explanation and the failure of employees to ask for one.

Make “why?” your friend; then sit back and watch your systems improve.

Cost or Confidence? Which controls your decision making?

Cost or Confidence?

Do you know a business owner or employee who would say that the quality of their work is irrelevant? Probably not.

How would you answer the question, “How important is the quality of your vendors’ or customers’ performance to the success of your business?” You would probably respond, “It is very important.” Right?

Not a highly scientific survey… but an honest one. Quality matters. For everyone.

So, and here is the age-old question, what is it about quality that matters?

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Microsoft’s Message about Cloud brings Fog and Torrential Rain

In last week’s blog, we started a series of posts related to cloud trends for manufacturing.

This week, the DynamicsGP User Group Summit event presents us with a great opportunity to expand a little more on that subject, as one of the key topics at this event is certain to be The Cloud. More specifically, it is likely to be how Microsoft, the owner of the Dynamics brand products, is planning to execute and drive adoption of Cloud technology for this business audience, even if this business audience doesn’t really believe they need it.

But before we go there, let’s consider what we really have here in Tampa.

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Cloud Trends for Manufacturing

Choosing the Cloud for Manufacturing

The “to the cloud” decision is one that many businesses will face over the next few years and, while the term cloud is found everywhere, the definition varies so much that it can be confusing. This lack of specificity is causing many decision-makers to be more than a little uneasy about taking their first steps.

From Information Super Highway to the Cloud

This journey to the cloud is reminiscent of the journey that many of us made back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. During that period, a lot of effort went into encouraging businesses to invest in developing their own websites. For many business owners, the concept of the World Wide Web and what it would mean for business competition and even business processes was completely new; there was no model that could be applied. Certainly, very few owners believed that consumers would exchange the immediate gratification of purchasing goods & services in a brick-and-mortar establishment for the delayed gratification of buying online.

But today we know we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Are There One or Two Paths from Envision 2016?

The Road Less Traveled

Reading the variety of post-event comments from Microsoft Envision 2016, it is very clear that two strong camps have emerged. Which is not to say that they are in conflict with each other. Just that, in my opinion, there were two important outcomes from the event. The outcomes aren’t even exclusionary. I believe that those individuals who care about one are also those individuals who will care about the other.

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The Inevitability of Digital Transformation

The Inevitability of Digital Transformation

At the inception conference for Microsoft’s Envision this past week in New Orleans, digital transformation was at the heart of CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote address. Anyone not present for the keynote or not particularly focused on the software industry could be forgiven for wondering why a speech was delivered about transferring your photos or music to digital media. After all, haven’t we already done that?

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When Convergence Evaporated

When Convergence Evaporated

When Convergence Evaporated, What Did We Gain?

For the last ten years the first quarter of my team’s calendar year has been heavily focused on wrapping up final details and preparing for Microsoft’s event, Convergence. For us the planning effort begins almost as soon as the previous year’s event ends. So one might think that Microsoft’s recent announcement – Convergence is out and Envision is in – would be helpful in eliminating or adjusting resources.

Surprisingly, that is not true. A different challenge awaits.

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The Great Search for the Right Integrated ERP

The Great Search for the Right Integrated ERP

Like every other year for the past 15 or so, I will speak with many organizations that plan to acquire manufacturing software or expand the capability of their existing solutions with functionality like quality management. These organizations will take similar but not identical routes in their investigation and evaluation of proposed solutions. A high number will find themselves facing the end of 2016 still not having made a final selection; they will be strongly concerned about how to balance their team’s ability to digest such a project and its perceived benefits.

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Is Confidence the Difference Between Estimates and Guesses?

Estimate or Guesstimate

At the Dynamics products user group summit in Reno in October, we decided to engage in a small social experiment.

We asked attendees to tell us how many pieces of Candy Corn (we were very seasonal) they thought were in the jar we were displaying. We provided a few tools to help them develop their answer: measuring tapes, sample candy, a template of the base of the jar and, of course, the jar itself was accessible. We had no restrictions on the use of tools like smartphones as calculators. We also expanded the sample size of the experiment by providing a web page for online answers. The webpage had a photo of the jar with a 16-ounce bottle of water to provide scale.

Finally, we incentivized participants by offering $10.00 gift cards for the fifteen closest answers.

Then, in what we thought was the most important part of the experiment, we asked our players to identify how they had reached their answer. Did they guess, estimate or measure?

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Learning from First-time Flyers

Learning from First-Time Flyers

I have a deep respect if not an actual fondness for the way the airline cabin crew executes their safety announcements. Regardless of how many passengers are on the plane, they deliver their messages consistently and clearly. Sure, they understand that there are likely more than a few passengers aboard who have flown before, but they also recognize that some individuals are making their very first flight. For the safety and comfort of all, they deliver their messages to ensure that all fliers are well-prepared.

I believe there is an important lesson in this consistent effort by the airlines and it is this: no matter how common we believe an experience or piece of knowledge to be, there is always someone for whom the experience or the information is new. We serve best when we remember this – to keep groups, events and knowledge growing, we must acknowledge the experienced participant and make available the tools and programs needed to educate and bring confidence to new members.

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