Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Creativity Is Stifled Without TRUST

I've been reading 'Start With Why' by Simon Sinek and while I think the entire book is fabulous, one thing that stood out last night was the idea that without Trust people are unwilling to take risks. The idea is that even way back, hunters and gatherers had to trust their community to watch over their loved ones while they would go out in search of food.

They knew that if it rained someone would help get their family to shelter, they knew if it got cold someone would light a fire to warm the group, overall the community lived by rules and because of that they felt comfortable taking the risk to hunt because they knew that their group would do XYZ. If they didn't trust the people around them they wouldn't have been willing to leave their families 'in the cave' with a bunch of crazies. It is the trust they had in their community that made them comfortable with taking the risk to leave and hunt.

The same is true in the workplace. Employees need to be able trust their manager, co-workers, and company before they are willing to take risks, for example like presenting innovative ideas. If there is no framework or established pattern that employees can easily recognize then presenting something new is now a huge risk because you would have no idea what the repercussions would be.  Without that trust the majority of their time will be focused on trying to figure out how to do work without getting into trouble or rocking the boat.

However, if the community in which they work plays by a set of known rules, the employee knows what to expect and can craft their creativity into the culture in which they work. This doesn't eliminate risk but it greatly reduces it from the employees point of view because they can more closely predict the response from management or others on their idea and thus can feel more comfortable thinking outside the box.

Management needs to ensure that they are consistent in what they do. That consistency allows employees to understand the 'set of rules' that are used on their team and, hopefully, begins to build trust within the team. Once trust exists employees become more creative and more willing to take risks (hopefully for the good of the team and company). But without that trust, the majority of employees avoid any risk by doing just enough to stay out of trouble.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Process Knowledge = Efficiency

Not understanding your company’s business processes has to be considered a cardinal sin, especially during this economic recession. For the past five years the majority of companies have either downsized their workforce or issued hiring freezes to cope with the economic conditions. Because of this downturn, sales forecasts and revenue expectations at most companies are tempered, however the number of operational improvement and cost saving projects seem to be increasing in an effort to offset the decrease in sales. Essentially, senior management is demanding that Operation’s increase their workload without increasing their workforce. So how does understanding your company’s business processes help solve the problem? 

Historically, the people who cared most about what affect department A’s operations had on department B’s were project managers. The project manager would scope out dependencies and document task sequences. Working with project managers offloaded the need to understand any task that fell outside your immediate circle of responsibility. With good project managers this solution works well. The problem arises when the number of projects is greater than the number of project managers. By having management demand a multitude of cost saving projects you’ve increased the demand for project managers without increasing the supply. It’s important to note that a project manager, as described above, isn’t necessarily an employee assigned that job title but instead the person who spearheads the project.

With limited or no project management help it now becomes imperative for employees to understand, at least at a high level, your business process flow. That’s not to say they need to fill the role of a project manager but what it does mean is they need to understand how they get their inputs and who uses their outputs. These inputs and outputs are not only physical, but include things like accounting information, database code, shipping terms, and lead times. As employees begin to understand these processes and how their job affects those downstream, a host of benefits arise. These benefits might include; cross department collaboration, decrease in project implementation time, improved time management and multitasking, and increased visibility and awareness. 

Take, for example, a buyer who’s been told he needs to reduce the costs of submitting RFP’s to suppliers. This buyer might turn to IT for web option to facilitate this process decreasing emails and phone calls effectively reducing the cost of submitting the RFP. If the buyer understands the IT development process, he’ll know upfront the inputs he’ll need to provide include; business requirement documents, supplier data to be used in development, security requirements, and webpage design ideas. If the buyer understands the process he’ll also know that somewhere in the middle of the project IT is going to provide a beta version of the solution as an output that he’ll need to critique, test, evaluate and summarize as an input back to IT so they can finish the process.

By knowing the process the buyer reduces development time, he understands he can work on other projects until IT has the beta version ready, and he knows when that version is ready he needs to allocate some of his time to testing. Essentially, because he knows the process he becomes more efficient. That efficiency is the key to weathering the storm during this recession. With more efficient employees; your reliance on project management greatly decreases, it’s easier to accept the workload that comes with cost savings projects, and hiring freezes don’t hurt as much. In the end, you see why not understanding your company’s business processes has to be considered a cardinal sin, especially during this economic recession… because it severely limits your overall efficiency.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Focus and Happiness

Just read an article that I really enjoyed. The article, Will Focus Make You Happier, talks about how when someone is focused on a task they tend to be happier than when they are kind of floundering. I found this article to describe my mood at work to a T. When I am focused/invested/engaged in what I'm doing I find that I am much happier than when I'm not. It's interesting, though, that I often find it very difficult to get myself engaged in a new project. It's hard to find the energy to get things started but after reading this article is seems like by not investing my energy and focus into projects I'm keeping myself from being as happy at my job. Overall, just kind of a really interesting article.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another article on our upgrade

After writing the two articles for OAUG Insight about our upgrade to release 12 I was contacted by SearchOracle.com to see if I would be willing to write a similar high level summary for their website. Well, that summary is finished and can be found HERE. It is basically just the process we went through to upgrade our system to release 12. If you have any specific questions about that process feel free to contact me (I'll respond to any comments I see on this post).

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Will You Measure Your Life: An article from a Harvard Professor

I read an incredible article this past week in the Harvard Business Review that outlines ideas on how to live your life. Its a completely refreshing view about how there is so much more to life than simply climbing to the top of the 'ladder' and collecting gobs of cash along the way.

I particularly enjoyed the authors view on allocating your personal resources appropriately and consciously creating a culture in your personal life instead of letting circumstances and lack of attention create a culture for you.

I highly recommend reading this article.

How Will You Measure Your Life

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making Progress With MES

It's been a little bit since I've posted anything about our MES project so I thought I ought to try and give an update as to where we currently stand. Back in April I talked about how the hardware that we had was making it extremely difficult to get the scales integrated and functioning with Oracle. There were a couple reasons for that:

1st: The Mettler ID30 product that we own is considered and marketed as a complete dispensing solution and as such Mettler makes it extremely difficult to use the ID30 in any way other than as an end to end dispensing solution. We tried for a couple of weeks to figure out how to send and receive messages from the ID30 but in the end it would have taken much more effort than we felt it was worth. One example showing the difficulty of using the ID30 is, without going into too much detail, the ID30 uses an activeX control to communicate with the scales, in order to pass commands from Oracle to the scale you would have to use the existing activeX commands which meant we would have to develop our own internal application to send and receive information.

2nd: The WMS module is something that wasn't available to OPM customers until release 12 so there was definitely a learning curve on our side as to how setup a device to communicate with Oracle. So in my post back in April I mentioned the possibility of working with Kepware to help us get MES setup but as we looked into their product offering a little more we realized that it didn't make much sense to continue down that path. The reason for this is that the basic request to weigh a product would initiate from an Oracle form via a button push or something like that. Once the button is pushed a request is sent to WMS that essentially says 'talk to the scale'. WMS sends a message to the scale and then receives the response and then that response is entered back into the Oracle form. Well, regardless if you're using WMS or Kepware the process is exactly the same and since we are only sending 1 request (read the scale weight) it seemed really foolish to spend a couple thousand dollars to have a company do that for us.

Those were two of the big issues we've had to deal with as we've moved down this MES path. What we decided to do to get around the ID30 is we've gone ahead and purchased a new indicator (the hardware that is used to view the output from the scales and which connects to the netword) from Mettler Toledo, the model we purchased is the IND780. It's much more user friendly because it was designed to send and receive messages from other sources. We just recently received this product so I'm in the process of setting it up to communicate with the scales and with WMS in a TEST instance.

Hopefully we can get this TEST instance up and running quickly, we are pretty anxious to get the solution in place and replace the formweigh system we currently are using for dispensing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our Upgrade Story

This past year I was contacted by the publisher of OAUG Insight magazine and was asked if I would be willing to write an article about our experience upgrading from 11.5.10 to R12. My original article was to long and so the editor asked if we could split it into two parts. Part one covers how USANA went about upgrading to Release12 and part two details some of the functional issues to watch out for after migrating.

Part One: Page 18

Part Two: Page 15