Tuesday, August 31, 2010

busy doing nothing


Defined simply by Wiktionary as “a moving or going forward; a proceeding onward; an advance”

Progress is something you can witness, effect, and feel. You know the days I’m talking about. It just feels good when you’ve completed a project, nailed the critical idea in the development of a product, solved the root cause of a big problem, or simply sold a new program.

It feels good when you make progress.

What about the other days you work? What about the people you work with? Can you tell when they make progress?

Can you tell when they’re not making progress?


It can be witnessed by individual or company – as in a culture of a company.

You know what I’m talking about. You witness:

  • People walking really fast needing to get somewhere fast
  • Someone walking in breathless to a meeting because they were rushing there
  • A person who begins many sentences with, “I’m going to…” and “I’ve been really busy”
  • People who choose to focus on the now with disregard for future work
  • A person or group of persons busy but not getting done what they need to

There are a few top causes why this happens, let’s start a list:

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of understanding
  • Lack of planning
  • Alternative agendas
  • Bureaucracy
  • Conflicting directives
  • Multiple ‘bosses’
  • Lack of strategic direction
  • Lack of leadership

Are you experiencing any of these?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

mirror mirror on the wall

Looking at yourself whether under a magnifying glass or in a mirror rarely reveals results you want to find.

You may find flaws you thought didn't exist. It's hard to discover bad things about yourself. It's even harder if someone else knows (or tells you) about them. Discovering them however, is the first step in eliminating them.

Of course, I'm not talking about you physically now am I?!

I'm talking about your business.

What's wrong today?

Do you have quality problems? Did you miss ship -or another important customer date? Are your machines down frequently? Does your staff seem incredibly stupid or underperforming?

The good news is that these are only symptoms of (gulp) bigger problems and they can be fixed. The first step of course is understanding the root cause of these issues. Only in solving the root cause will you be able to forever-fix your woes. You may not like what gets uncovered, but facing issues head on is the right thing to do.

Finding things wrong you thought were perfect such as finding out that your processes aren't being followed as you thought they were, or finding out that your empathetic staff was not so respectful of others is hard to face. These problems didn't start overnight. Luckily with a little insight - perhaps unbiased by the fresh eyes of an outside consultant, you can start correcting quickly.

What is your company's culture like?

When was the last time they looked in the mirror?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

us verses them

For as long as I've been in manufacturing, I have been aware of the 'us verses them' phenomenon. I'm talking about the exchange between new product and equipment engineers who create stuff versus the manufacturing engineers who are handed this new stuff and expected to make product.

The 'us' is typically the manufacturing guys who are handed the short stick when the development guys (them) use up all the customer timing and may not finish their work.

The problem arises with expectations I suppose.

The (new product) engineers expect the manufacturing plant to know everything they know * VERSUS * while the manufacturing engineers expect product and equipment to be delivered in working order.

I can see both sides:

New engineers are pushed on timing, timing to their managers or timing to the customer.

Manufacturing engineers are often in charge of multiple pieces of equipment and have less time to work on an incomplete designs.

So, how do we fix?

Meeting expectations is really the solution.

How? (some basic solutions often missed)

  • Finish your work
  • Do the high volume product run-offs to uncover (less than complete) equipment
  • Find variation and fix it
  • Complete documentation (and all 'PSO' materials)
  • Create operator instructions specific to your machine/product
  • Train the manufacturing crowd on 'how' to run it and how to fix it (note: see above where it shouldn't really need to be fixed at all!)
  • Hand off all your documentation to help manufacturing stand on their own

  • Hold the developers accountable for delivering complete designs
  • Be available to learn how to use the new equipment
  • Understand basic problem solving and use of basic tools for basic fixes

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Down in Mexico

Down in Mexico things are different.

Down in Mexico, people are genuinely interested in who you are. It's also good to know that while extremely hard working, time means much less than it does in the midwest.

What does this mean to you?

Your Mexican colleagues might not show up to the meeting at the same time as you, nor complete that project as you requested - at the same time, alternatives to your expectations might be caused by how you've communicated such timing and information.

Maybe it's you.

Cultural differences run both ways and it's important to understand how to say something as much as what to say.