Tuesday, 30 April 2013


In the previous blog we likened top down corporate initiatives as either Virus or Vaccine. (see Corporate Initiative: Vaccine or Virus)

Incoming is how a Site leadership or Senior Management should treat these initiatives.
For each of them as they start to appear on the horizon, what do we do to respond? Does it meet a missing element in our own capability that we should harness as quickly and whole-heartedly as possible? Is it a training programme that cuts across one of our own, will it lead to confusion in our teams? In that case can we tailor it to ensure that it dovetails into our existing processes, can it be packaged as an enhancement, rather than “here comes another initiative…. what happened to the last one?” comments.

Alternatively is it a new, unproven piece of work? Do you want to be the first implementation? If the resourcing is high on the first roll out you might be a winner. However do you want your people and processes to be the pilot, the sandbox?

Is the timing completely wrong for your site, can you push the roll out back with plausible reasons? Is the incoming a reason to address some SG&A support?

So as they appear, you and your team have a number of responses to consider. I mentioned above “appear on the horizon”. You and your team need to be tuned into what is likely to be rolling out from corporate HQ. Look out for new functional appointments, corporate announcements. The earlier you can spot them, the greater your reaction time. A responsibility you have is providing air cover for your people, managing the incoming initiatives.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Corporate Initiative: Virus or Vaccine

For global giant companies, full of corporate structures with VPs, how do you initiate and prove global change? 
There you are, the Global VP of ??????????? (Insert Compliance, Talent Management, Ethics, Continuous Improvement, Sourcing.... etc). Your boss the CEO wants a significant reduction in costs/increase in performance of your chosen field across all Geographies. How do you do it?

Many take the route of launching a global initiative. Elements might include:
  • A single contracted in service (recruitment, lean six sigma)
  • A set of standardised methods, PowerPoint slides
  • Regional appointees to manage the process through
Such an initiative is then "Rolled out" across the business onto the divisions and units that are delivering the business. Cynics might say "Rolled over".

So a healthy but hard-pressed body (the business) is faced with the initiative. Now would you liken it to a Vaccine, described as:

  • "A mixture that is given to help stimulate the body's own immune system to produce antibodies to fight a certain disease"
Or a Virus:

  • "the causative agent of an infectious disease"
Of course the metrics of success can be highly visible, such as training courses run, projects completed, savings made at the Corporate P and L level. However the benefits can be harder to nail down and recognise at the local level.

So taking a challenge and making it into an initiative may not always be the best route... Will it be the equivalent of a corporate Vaccine, strengthening internal processes, adding to resilience, fighting off competition, or more of a Virus, creating a sapping debilitating disease that weakens the organs? 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Urgent v Important in Operations

Operations is the most difficult environment in which to balance the Important v the Urgent. The cries of customers are near and vibrant, the pull of the shipping date insistent and the financial sword of Damocles swinging ever lower. The urgent just has to get done; the implications of failure are so visible and so immediate.

The Important on the other hand can wait a while, but the implications slide up to you. You can wave pieces of paper at it, promise plans, projects, to do’s, next week. Of course the Importants are just that, they include:

  • Compliance, both to internal and external standards
  • Personnel issues, reviews and appraisals
  • Procedures being updated and reviewed
  • Checking non critical documents

Eventually these are the tasks that can put you out of business. So it isn’t just a customer order that is missed but everyone’s pay packet.

Solutions to this include herculean efforts, Time management courses, blocked out time and I am afraid to say in some cases fraud.

A management team that understands and can balance the urgent and the important is a sight to behold. Find them, nurture them and reward them, especially for doing the non-urgent things.