10 Steps to Profit from Process Improvement

10 Steps to Profit from Process Improvement

Anyone interested in growth? Having your employee’s feel important and involved in decision making for minimal expense and maximum value?

Make the investment in a process improvement team and see how well this will work for you.
A process improvement team (PIT) is a group of workers who get together on a regular basis to discuss how to make your business processes better.

The concept is that they take on one process at a time and come up with a way to make that process incrementally better than it currently is. They do this again and again, getting each process a little better each time.

This process improvement works for small transportation companies of two or three people as well as for large fortune 500 type organizations.

These 10 steps will lead to effective PIT meetings, with positive results:

1.Keep the meetings to no more than three employees and another management leader (total of five including you) and limit the meeting to one hour or less.

2.Include your entire group. Leave no one out of the process discussions.

3.With five employees per meeting, topics are discussed in six consecutive meetings. Don’t change topics mid stream. Stay focused.

4.Hold these meetings every two weeks, perhaps over a lunch period. You’ll have six meetings per quarter.

5.Solicit ideas from your entire staff before the beginning of each quarter as to what topics/process may need review.

6.Prior to your first meeting, you as the leader, choose three to four topics for the discussion period, rating each topic in order of importance. Leave the remaining topics for the next group. Do not forget anyone’s topic submitted or you will lose participation. If a certain topic doesn’t require review by the team, advise the employee who submitted the idea and share the reasons why review isn’t necessary.

7.Once you have your core topics, they are discussed in each meeting so all employees have input to include suggestions for fine tuning processes, if any is required.

8.Review the final outcome and group decisions of your meetings content.

9.Make necessary revisions or changes to procedures, functions or systems, notifying your employees as soon as the revisions are complete.

10.Supply your entire group with the necessary feedback from each meeting. Send them an e-mail with the meeting minutes. Praise those who develop a “fix” for you. Keep your staff informed.

By putting aside an hour every two weeks, PIT meetings can be exceptionally beneficial to managers and to your business.

If you are already using a process improvement method, we’d love to hear about it. Give me a call and tell me how you do it. Need some help with process improvement? Give me a call at 888-625-1139 and tell me your needs.

2018 TIA Conference Retrospective

2018 TIA Conference Retrospective

Reflecting on this past week’s TIA Convention in Palm Desert, I was reminded of the collective energy and genius that is present in our industry. From the solid structure of educational offerings to the powerful one on one insights over meals (beverages), the benefit to this gathering is immense. Buoyed by strong 2017 revenue and even stronger Q1 numbers, opportunity and excitement led the way.

With the added revenue and strong margins and profit, leaders are looking to make strategic investments in their organizations to capitalize on these growth opportunities. By clearly defining long term plans and the inherent priorities over the next few months, companies can capture the value that lies ahead.

Technology Perspectives

Data, in both capture and expression, is too valuable in today’s environment to be left wilting on the vine. Between TMS providers, information integrators, freight payment options and marketing providers, there are many ways to best utilize your internal data in conjunction with industry data to give your front line the power to succeed. Define what you are looking to achieve (not just for today, but for a longer horizon) and review options that will move you in that direction of Achievement. As new technology solutions (and their inherent problems) are created, be sure to ask questions with the context of your company to best understand the benefits and to avoid unnecessary exposure.

People Perspectives

People in structure and development are the machines of your operational expansion. You must be mindful of the way they are trained, organized, compensated and developed to ensure maximization of their long term productivity in the organization. They need to be given the proper tools, processes and motivators to grow and to effectively manage growth. Define the perfect employees for each role and the perfect processes for each function. Compare those to your current employees and processes to recognize the existing gaps. Build the hiring, training, organization and compensation models that will cross the gaps to the ideal.

Strategic Perspectives

Growth can come from a variety of different strategies. Organic growth springs from improvements to your existing methods, processes and products to drive expansion. Through proper utilization of Technology and People Strategies, your organization can spur growth and strengthen relationships across the enterprise. Beginning with your Vision of success, you can work backward to create the actions to move from your current situations and bridge the gaps. You can work forward into the future of your organization to develop sustainability or exit plans. You can find an existing external operation that strengthens an identified internal weakness and helps drive achievement faster.

It is imperative to find the right partners to both support your goals and to guide you in the areas where their expertise is greater. The TIA Convention is a wonderful forum to meet and share with potential partners to accelerate and maximize your business objectives.

Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism defined: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

In a recent study, it was determined that the younger working class (millennials) is less optimistic than previous generations. In our current technology focused world, we are hyper aware of any local, national or global activity. This hyper awareness shows the granular existence of both good and bad. Less is open for interpretation. Reality can be less filtered through our own comfortable biases and can make one feel less optimistic than the less connected previous generation.

However, optimism isn’t a static existence or experience; it is a dynamic belief of the individual at the time of the questioning. There are moments in all our lives where we are truly optimistic and others where we have a deep pessimism about the future. Much is determined by our ability to understand and have control of the decisions that lead us forward in aligning our future with the perceived success that we desire.

Finding optimism in our personal and professional lives evolves from a clear understanding of our goals. These goals, defined by our desire and bound by our capabilities (both current and future), are at the end of a pathway – a pathway that is varied in both direction and length. There is no straight line between where you are today and where you plan to be. The path changes as a result of obstacles, conflicting choices and the unknown unknowns.

The key to achievement is to develop a plan that takes you to the vision of success.

The first step is to have a clear and honest understanding of where you are today. By assessing your business across multiple factors – financial, cultural, personnel and market position – you have a baseline starting point. Without clarity of this starting point, the following steps (and the decisions that must be made) are built on a faulty foundation and will be unsustainable as you move forward.

The second step is to have a clear vision of what success means for you and your company. Define the goals across the factors – this may be a financial number ($20M), it may be the creation of a sustainable, growing company to pass down through generations, or it may be to become the leading regional LTL provider in the upper Midwest. Once you establish the goal(s), a system is created between your current state (the baseline starting point) and your desired state (the goals and vision of success).

The third step is to take ownership of the plan and its corresponding goals. You and your organization must become committed to both. Each and every decision related to the business from that point needs to be made through the context of the plan and the goals. There is comfort in the status quo and often decisions are made that keep us within this comfort zone, but the goals exist in competition with the status quo and will cause discomfort. Belief and commitment, along with communication and reinforcement of the goals, will keep you focused in making decisions aligned to your success.

The last steps of the process are the actions necessary for achievement. The creation of useful metrics and measurements to assess the movement keeps you, and each person, progressing towards the goal. Regular review of the action steps – where you are accelerating and where you are lagging behind – will help you understand where to deploy resources to stay on track. Support your team through recognition and reward. Hold them accountable to the expectations and behaviors necessary to reach your goals. In short, lead them across the finish line.

Having a clear plan and the tools to work it creates an energy that drives success. This energy is contagious and feeds others within your organization to continue to grow and move forward. This collaborative and motivating energy is powerful. It fosters innovation and facilitates the necessary changes to bring greater value to your company. This energy has a name and that name is optimism.

Differentiate Your Business from Its Competitors

Differentiate Your Business from Its Competitors

There are three basic ways to position or differentiate your business from its competitors:

1. Be a market leader. Choose a particular market and focus on being the leader in that market.
2. Be unique. Offer something no one else or just a few shippers do.
3. Be a price leader. Focus on providing low cost services. Wal-Mart is a good example of a successful business built on this strategy.

Warning: Trying to be all things to all people will inhibit your growth. Instead, be the very best at something. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes what he calls the hedgehog concept. A hedgehog is an animal that protects itself by rolling into a ball that cannot be penetrated. Your marketing strategy should protect your business in exactly the same way.

Whatever direction you choose, commit to it and do everything you can to be the very best at what you do.

Next identify your company’s unique selling proposition. What makes your company different? Is it the way you communicate with your customers, your unique transportation services, the technology you use, or something else? Figure out what makes you “the purple cow” that stands out from everyone else. Even if your uniqueness is not 100% unique, treat it like it is. Make it work to your advantage.

Tip: Your unique selling point should be about more than your equipment or what you haul.

Once you are clear on what your unique selling proposition is, design everything about your business around it, and make sure that your employees fully understand it and know what they need must do to underscore it and deliver on it. Then, go after customers that are seeking that uniqueness, making sure that you clearly convey to them what distinguishes your business from the competition.

Tip: When you offer something unique, you can usually charge a bit more than firms that don’t offer what you do and/or you will be able to minimize your price competition.

Yet to Come……

Yet to Come……

Over the weekend, I watched Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri with my family. When it ended, my 15 year-old daughter was left unfulfilled because she didn’t know what was going to happen next. I told her that the ambiguity of ‘what’s next’ adds to the drama and texture of the story.

This conversation got me thinking about our collective need to know what happens next in our lives (and in the lives of others). We are overstimulated with bites of abject predictability. Our online platforms are directed by algorithmic certainty and similarity so there is little need to explore or challenge beyond our comfort zone. Unfortunately, reality is never quite so certain or so perfectly resolute.

While there are occurring factors that compound the uncertainty (universal entropy), the vector of our future is dictated by the choices that we make and the choices we do not make. Are the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously made, directed towards your desired outcome – or are they consistent with the present pathway of ‘good enough’?

By gaining clarity in your goal definition, you can see the structure of the decisions laid out before you. Through the lens of your goal(s), you can focus on the changes that need to be made from your current position along the path. The speed at which you reach the goal is also determined through choices – often requiring multiple interconnected choices from all members of your team/network/family.

The collaboration of focused decisions purposefully moves you towards your defined goal.

Use your choices to build the texture of your own story in its movement towards the ending you desire.

How effective is your team?  Identify and root out dysfunctional areas threatening your business.

How effective is your team? Identify and root out dysfunctional areas threatening your business.

In his leadership fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni defines the dysfunctions that hinder the development of a cohesive, effective team as Lack of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Results. While each of these dysfunctions can damage your organization, when combined, they truly threaten its foundation and can lead to the dissolution of the organization.

Working with your team to overcome these dysfunctions will help reorganize and reenergize your business to fulfill the vision of growth and achievement.

TRUST

Trust is built on a foundation of respect, vulnerability and experiential behaviors. Alignment to organizational goals, instead of contradictory self-interest based goals, sets the stage for greater collaboration. Make sure everyone understands the roles and expectations for each team member and how they impact the overall strategic plan helps to clarify the parts of the whole and the applicable responsibility.

CONFLICT

Within any group of individuals, there is bound to be conflict of some kind. Too often, the conflict is not directly addressed or shared and remains hidden under the surface of conversations and meetings. Disagreements on direction and tactics are natural and should be communicated as they develop. The team should recognize that the opinions are tied to a desire to improve the organization and are not the ideological representation of the person. Disagreements and conflict should not be personal, but professional. Tying the opinion or idea to the persona of an individual can be detrimental for current and future projects.

COMMITMENT

Individual and collective commitment to the overarching vision and strategic plan for an organization is imperative to the achievement of its goals. Clarity in that vision and the regular communication of expectations are key components to building that commitment. Focus on the objectives, intrinsically energized by the commitment, drives and accelerates your team forward.

ACCOUNTABLILITY

Accountability is the insurance for organizational risk. It also acts as the integrator for the other areas. Accountability begets trust from other team members by taking responsibility for activity and tactics, outlined in the strategic plan. Conflict can arise when productivity and results are not met. Use accountability as a focal point to discuss the how and why failure may occur and a champion for improving those areas toward achievement.

RESULTS

Results matter. Results are defined by the productivity against the metrics. If those results are not reviewed or addressed appropriately (either positively or negatively), the entire team loses their trust in both the measurements and in the culture that did not value the goals. If 90% of the financial goal is acceptable, neither the goal nor the effort to reach it have true value in the organization. Set the right goals and the right processes to achieve them.

When reviewing your team, in times of growth and in times of change, look for the potential roadblocks caused by these dysfunctions. Address these challenges before they rot the foundation of your organization and limit your ability to create a healthy and sustainable company.