Where You Look is Where You Go!

You’ve heard this in various forms, I’m sure. It’s common in sports and you’ll hear it in motorcycle rider-training. Unfortunately, it’s not commonly applied in organizations. Often we see organizations develop 5, 10, or even 20+ goals for a given year? With too many goals, rarely is there clarity about which one or two goals are most critical. The result is a dilution of the organization’s available attention.

This message is delivered repeatedly by many business leaders and authors and I am repeating it here. “The first discipline is to focus your effort on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals”1.

Evidence shown in neuroscience helps us understand that our efforts to create a clear focus is much like our efforts strengthen a muscle group. “Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connection keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive” 2. In other words, the more we maintain our focus on something, the more the brain wires itself to bring about that thing’s reality.

I would invite you to ask yourself where you are placing your focus? What mechanisms do you have in place to continuously remind yourself of this focus? For if you are to be who you want to be and achieve your desired goals, you must be crystal clear about your primary focus.

For a fun demonstration on how the brain is wired to help make our focus a reality, check out this short demonstration. While you do, know that the bits of motion in the background represent the “busyness” of your day-to-day (a.k.a: distractions), and the five points on the screen can represent five different goals.

  1. McChesney, Covey, & Huling, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, 2012
  2. Rock & Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, 2006

Free Up Cash & Improve Profit

Adjusting to a new economic reality is a must for your organization to thrive in the coming months and years. This will require looking deep within the leadership and operations of your organization, but where do you begin? While there are a few solid starting points, inventory management is often an area of great opportunity that can be relatively simple to achieve.

Did you know that the generally accepted cost of carrying inventory is around 25%? That is, if you have $5,000,000 in inventory, it will cost you ~$500,000 annually? For many organizations, this adds up to millions of dollars. These costs include designing, sourcing, ordering, receiving, inspecting, tracking, storing, counting, handling, damage, obsolescence, and sales discounts. Therefore, strategic inventory management systems are critical to the success of your business.

Do you have a robust and formal approach to inventory management? Or do you add buffers based only on experience? We’ve seen countless cases where inventory is dramatically larger than required, often with dead stock that has been sitting idle for years. If you don’t know, right at this moment, how much dead stock is in your facility, then we’d bet a lot of money that it’s there and it’s more than you would expect.

While your team may have many years of experience, the tendency is to hold more inventory than one really needs, out of fear of running out. Instead, inventory requirements should be calculated precisely and should include Cycle Stock, Safety Stock and Order Interval Stock. This should be applied to finished goods, raw materials, and work in progress. This undertaking can be daunting, but there are ways to accomplish this in smaller steps.

At a minimum, conduct an ABC stratification on either your finished goods or raw materials (depending on your context) and focus your efforts on the “A” items (priority items that account for ~80% of related costs). Collect the data, do the math, and determine your target inventory quantities. Then develop a simple plan to reduce to the target quantities and remember to include a target date for your goal.

We’re here to help. If you’d like a free template on ABC Stratification, or if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you improve your business, contact us here.

We Saw It Coming.

The mindful, or enlightened, “act before difficulties occur, sense disorder coming [their] way, and manage it in advance.” – Dr. Wayne Dwyer

As I reflect during this #covid19 pandemic, I recall that I had a sense of the potential scale of this crisis early in January. Yet, I allowed my ego to convince me that it wouldn’t be that bad, and that SARS did not have a major impact on my life. I wonder what I, and others, might have done differently if we had given more attention to that sense of disorder coming our way.

More importantly, since the now is all we have, what can we do today? I will #staythefuckhome and play some music; maybe The Gambler by Kenny Rogers (RIP).

What’s Your Story?

This is not a performance. It is a challenge; a challenge to me to be vulnerable, and a challenge to you to ask yourself about the stories you are telling yourself.

What story was I telling myself? Watch and find out.  

700% Net Profit Increase!

The size of the opportunity you have in front of you may be larger than you think. Dramatic improvement stories are common when applying formal improvement methodology to common business challenges. This is the story of one of those occasions, and a few tips for making the most of your improvement opportunities.

The Background

They are a small manufacturing business in St. Catherines, Ontario that have been successful for decades. They were under new ownership and struggling to profit as they faced a few challenges common to many businesses. They had three challenges in particular; production capacity (productivity), costly defects in products, and difficulty finding skilled workers. My work with them had a direct impact on the first two and an indirect impact on the third. The key in addressing these challenges with them was focusing on identification the root cause, instead of assuming that workers were inefficient and under-skilled.

The Discovery

We began by redefining the opportunity. Instead of assuming that “the number of defects was causing a lack of profitability”, we said that “the gross profit on all machined goods in the past few years was almost zero”. Then we documented the process to help them discover potential problems within the whole process, not just in the machining activity itself. While doing this, we defined the critical metrics within the process and gathered the related data.

Here is where it begins to get interesting! One major item became apparent and shifted the leadership team’s focus away from “fixing the defect rate“. It became clear that the accuracy of job estimates fluctuated wildly (both overestimated and underestimated) and was way off the mark. However, this was still a symptom and not a root cause. Digging further, we found that a rush to produce estimates in a timely manner was leading to the inaccuracy (still a symptom). Leading to the rushed estimates was a high number of quote requests received from customers (what a great problem, right?). We could have stopped there and said that we will simply turn away enough work to allow us to spend the time required to estimate each job more accurately. However, proper data analysis was still required in order to determine the best sollution.

The Analysis

Interesting had now became exciting! At this point, our focus shifted from the process activities to assumptions that leadership had about process. Through some powerful questions, we found that the need to rush to respond to all quote requests was based one major assumption; this being that more jobs won equals more profit for the business. Thankfully, we had done our work and had some valuable data on hand. Here is was what I present them with:

  • 80% of total revenue was generated by only 17% of their customers
  • A mere 5% of total revenue was generated by 60% of customers
  • Yet, all customers were given the same priority

The Improvement

Exciting then became empowering! This is where the real shift happened. More jobs won did NOT automatically equal more profit for the business. Clearly, some customer were more profitable than others. This led to the application of a new customer strategy while producing job quotes. Instead of responding to all customer quotes requests within 24 hours, customer segmentation was applied. Gold tier customers would still receive their quotes within 24 hours or sooner, Silver tier within 72 hours, and Bronze tier within 7 days (with an option of declining the job if deemed unprofitable). The rush was over!

The Result

While we made other small improvements in the months following, this single improvement was the leading factor in the results achieved. Improvement in three key metrics was observed within only 10 months following implementation of the new customer strategy.

An 85% improvement on job estimate accuracy led to a 71% improvement in on-time-delivery. Together, these led to a 700% increase in annualized net profit, and some much happier customers, staff, and business owners.

Inquire today to find out what we can accomplish for your business. Or learn more about eBi here.

Are You Being Honest With Yourself?

Often, we sabotage own results without knowing it. We commonly tell ourselves things that aren’t even true. Yes, we often lie to ourselves about what we believe. Any change in results begins with a shift in beliefs.  Our beliefs can be deeply personal, and oftentimes exist at our subconscious level. Attachment to our beliefs can hold us back in ways we don’t even see.

So, if we can’t “see” our beliefs, how can we question them? An executive coach does exactly that, we listen carefully and ask questions that help you explore your beliefs and assumptions. This helps you learn about the ways in which you are enabling yourself and the ways in which you are holding yourself back.

Who do you need to be as a leader? How do you think a truly effective team interacts? What is the most productive way for you to respond when being challenged? What is most important to increasing staff engagement?

Behind all your answers to these questions are a vast set of beliefs. Some are obvious, others are not, and that is only the first layer! An executive coach will help you achieve greater results by gaining clarity about your beliefs and designing new behaviours and actions.

What results should you expect? Expect to see Increased trust, cohesiveness, and growth. Expect to see reduced stress, frustration and conflict. And expect these results to have a measurable impact on your leadership and organizational goals.

Contact me to see how I can support you in being your true self.

Where You Look is Where You Go!

Where you look is where you go! You’ve heard this in various forms, I’m sure. It’s common in sports and you’ll hear it in motorcycle rider-training. Unfortunately, it’s not commonly applied in organizations. How many times have you seen an organization develop 5, 10, or even 20+ goals for a given year? With too many goals, rarely is there clarity about which one or two goals are most critical. The result is that the organization’s focus is diluted.

In training that I deliver, I include content, and a few fun activities, to drive this point home. I also include a few supporting quotes from various authors; my favourite being this one:

“The first discipline is to focus your effort on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals”1.

Evidence shown in neuroscience helps us understand that our efforts to create a clear focus is much like our efforts strengthen a muscle group. “Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connection keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive” 2. In other words, the more we maintain our focus on something, the more the brain wires itself to bring about its reality.

I would invite you to ask yourself where you are placing your focus? What mechanisms do you have in place to continuously remind yourself of this focus? For if you are to be who you want to be and achieve your desired goals, you must be crystal clear about your primary focus.

For a fun demonstration on how the brain is wired to help make our focus a reality, check out this link for a short demonstration. While you do, know that the bits of motion in the background represent the “busyness” of your day-to-day (a.k.a: distractions), and the five points on the screen can represent five different goals.

  1. McChesney, Covey, & Huling, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, 2012
  2. Rock & Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, 2006

Leadership’s Prerequisite

On any given day, you’ll find thousands of people spending time on improving their golf swing. Yet, how many people are doing the same for their “leadership swing”?

Harry S. Truman said that “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”. I’d like to replace “readers” with “learners”. Not all learners are leaders, but all leaders are learners. In fact, truly great leaders are voracious learners; insatiable; almost gluttonous! I believe strongly that personal development must precede organizational development; your organization will grow at the same rate as your own personal growth.

So, the question is “what are my available sources of learning” and “where can I find them”? This story should provide a hint:

Years ago, I was working with Canada’s largest independent petroleum distributor where I conducted a research project within that organization. The research was aimed at identifying leadership development strategies for its current and future leaders. I had the opportunity to tour many of its offices, interviewing leaders at all levels; from functional and regional managers, directors and right up to the CEO. Part of the data that I had gathered beforehand, was their formal education level. This included college and university, but also included one-off courses, short programs, certifications, and training internal to their organization; anything that was formally delivered with intention to develop their leadership capabilities.

During the interviews, with this data in mind, I asked each of them what their most significant source of learning was, formal or informal, when it came to leadership capability. Without exception, every single person that I interviewed cited the very same source. The answer was the informal, on-the-job experiences. Therefore, one of my top recommendation resulting from the research was the introduction of formal coaching processes within the organization. If we don’t this, we are missing the single biggest opportunity for individual and organizational growth.

Now, we can capture this opportunity to improve organizational leadership through the application of various methodologies. Whether it’s an Improvement Routine as I’ve been developing and delivering, the Coaching Kata as Mike Rother has authored, or the concepts of developing a learning organization as many authors have described for many years now. The exact approach or method is less important as the outcome. The important part is creating the habits within your organization that support increased learning from day-to-day activities, both for the organization and the individual. Most often, this will involve appropriate coaching. Not advice or mentorship; coaching! I would implore you learn more about these approaches and begin applying them if you’re not already.

There are methods to improve organizational leadership, such as The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Traction, and Toyota Kata, which all espouse the same valuable concept. But how do we apply this to ourselves as leaders? After all, personal growth must precede organizational growth. How can we, as individual leaders, learn more purposefully from our day-to-day experiences? The answer, I believe, is in under-utilized process of reflection.

I believe we need to put more effort toward pausing to explore our actions and behaviours that are driving our outcomes as leaders. To do this, we need to create habits that allow us to reflect on our beliefs and assumptions. For me this is a lot of reading, and it is also writing. This helps me explore my thoughts and consider why my actions were or were not effective and inherently changes my subsequent behaviours and actions. For others, these habits of reflection could come from watching TED talks, or journaling, or designated time alone for uninterrupted thought.

So, with an over-abundance of leadership books, courses, and other materials available to you, I will simplify my message and simply say this:

Whatever it is for you that provides you the opportunity to learn on a regular basis, identify it. I challenge you to create that habit, learn more about yourself, and improve your own leadership skills. If you do this, you will, by default, also improve the leadership within your organization.

If you would like to learn how executive coaching can supercharge your learning efforts, learn more here:

Learn More

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Testimonials

  • Each and every session was very thought-provoking and really put me to task with challenging myself to think deeply. Kevin’s coaching to think about ‘why’ and ‘where did that come from’ along with coaching on how to handle those ‘difficult’ situations resulted in some very useful tools to create my new ‘default patterns’. A very sincere thank you!

    – Vandana Paliwal