Friday, 12 June 2015

Running in New York for the Alzheimer’s Society

I have been lucky in obtaining an entry to the New York Marathon on the 1st November in the public lottery. For the first time in years I am going to use this event to raise money for charity and I have chosen the Alzheimer’s Society. Alzheimer's Society is the leading UK care and research charity for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, their families and carers.

Dementia is a collection of brain diseases, over 200 separate diseases in fact, that affect over 850,000 people in the UK today. To me that feels like Cancer did 40 years ago and I hope that if we raise money for research and support we can tackle this problem and stop it becoming such a burden, especially to the elderly and their carers.

I have set myself a target of raising £4,000. I know from the Society that just £50 can provide the chemicals and consumables to allow a PhD researcher to research the causes of dementia for a day.  £350 can pay for someone with dementia to attend a Dementia CafĂ© for an entire year, where they can meet others with dementia and gain knowledge that can help them cope better in their daily life. And £650 can pay for a brain scan in studies looking to improve diagnosis.

If you would like to learn more about dementia, there are one-hour dementia friend courses run all round the country. I went to a course in Leicester. It's fun and you'll learn a little more about how to live and care for those affected. Just put "dementia friends" into Google to find the right page about it. Or Click here.

If you do go to a course you will learn that dementia is not just a part of growing old and that it’s not just about losing your memory. You’ll also learn a little about how you can help people to have an active and happy life with the disease.

If you would like to donate having read this blog I would be delighted. It is easy to donate online through my justgiving page here.

Thank you for reading, please share if you know others might be interested.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Three (and a half) rules: Book review

First published in 2013 and out now in Paperback, "The three rules- how exceptional companies think" by Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed from Deloitte is well worth a read.

To contrast with quite heavy statistical analysis are several graphs that support some surprisingly simple conclusions. The authors set out to find the few rules that identify exceptional companies in the US. Rather than use the case study route or select well known exemplars, they have crunched years and years of financial data and subjected it to analysis, looking for significant, statistically significant, differences.

And the results? Well exceptional companies should follow these rules when having to make decisions on resourcing, strategy, structure:

1 Better before cheaper. So don't compete on price, compete on value.
2 Revenue before cost. Drive profitability with higher revenue, not lower cost.

Their analysis supports these rules, and in searching for further rules, they could not find any others that withstood a rigorous analysis, and hence the last rule is:

3 There are no other rules. Change anything and everything to stay aligned with the first two rules.

Now although there are only three rules, looking simple, following them isn't. In particular that phrase "change anything and everything to stay aligned", means just that. Everything is up for grabs, nothing is sacrosanct. Divisions can be bought or sold, markets conquered or exited.

Intuitively the rules mean that exceptional companies must deliver products or product/services of high value, bought for their high value, and at a higher price point. And when you have done that, driving for more revenue through price or volume should come before cost cutting to improve returns.

The final twist that the authors have identified in the last few years and is explained fully in the Deloitte Review Issue 16 asks the question of how companies reach the level of exceptional in the first place. Reviewing the data and tabulating the results they conclude that when a company is performing poorly and certainly sits in the lower half of the competitive landscape, they should cut "other costs", costs that don't impact on gross margin.

As they rise towards excellence and strive for a return on assets ratio that makes economists salivate they should turn their attention to gross margin, by creating high value propositions. So I would propose the rules can be modified to read:

If performing in the lower half of your peer group sector, cut non-direct costs. Overheads, SG&A need to be brought into line with sector norms.
Better before cheaper. So don't compete on price, compete on value.
Revenue before cost. Drive profitability with higher revenue, not lower cost.
There are no other rules. Change anything and everything to stay aligned with the first two rules.

Read and enjoy.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Pan for Starter/Finishers not the Completer/Finisher

Completer/finishers are always in demand. As project managers, salesmen (deal closers!), writers, craftsmen etc.

However a much rarer and more valuable group of people are the starter/finishers. Now I know that finishing requires a lot of qualities such as perseverance, attention to detail, focus, but starting requires all that and more.

To start something often requires courage, especially if that something is new. It means raising your head above the parapet of comfort zones and safety. It means putting pen to paper or asking a question or creating an idea or enterprise and probably being wrong. We're all human and we can't be right all of the time, and that is most likely when you are the first.

Seth Godin, a renowned speaker and publisher wrote a book called Poke the Box in which he explores this with enthusiasm and wit. Look there or at his blog for more on that topic.

I'd like to return to the group name again though. Starter/Finishers (S&F) are essential. They get things off of the ground and almost as important they finish what they start. They recognise that starting with something that is good is more important that forever waiting for the perfect moment, design or graphic. In this instance perfection can be the enemy of the good. We have to know when to launch.

And then we have to use judgement about when something needs to be finished. If the starting falls flat on it's face, we will have learnt something, but maybe it isn't worth seeing through to the end. Of course if the starting worked, then finishing is what will make it successful.

So when you recruit, or choose leaders are you panning for rare S&Fs or mining for valuable completer/finishers?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Islands of Lean: Not a new holiday destination

Lean implementations can fall into many well trod and well constructed traps. Sometimes it starts at the top with a Lean VP, pushing down the latest company drive without proper engagement. Sometimes it focuses on the teaching of tools or the number of green belt projects completed.

Island to archipelago

A sadder trap though is when lean has been successfully implemented in "pockets". A focused improvement or Kaizen event takes a problem area to a new height of efficiency, reduced waste or customer response. Submerged like it is in an ocean of non lean systems and ways of working however the benefits don't drop to the bottom line, practitioners lose heart and the pocket becomes an island, maybe with others visible in the archipelago.

Crossing the ocean to create commerce

Taking the analogy further, the bigger body of water to cross is frequently the divide between supplier and customer. Here we have the meeting between two or more firms, trying to give valuable products or services in exchange for money. And of course we don't want it to happen for just the one transaction, it needs to be a continuing business: Commerce. Commerce is about setting up the systems and understanding that underpins long term trade, or in this case a business.

Servitization takes Lean into commerce

Servitization is not new, it was coined back in the '80's, but deals with the development of complex interactions between suppliers and customers. It often takes the form of providing advanced services in addition or in parallel to product transactions. For me the key focus of servitization is a business relationship in which customer value is transferred with the least waste possible. Lean therefore can see itself as a tool that reaches out towards the customer, blurring the divide and crossing the ocean. It can involve financing, maintenance, through life support and much more.

This and other developments of servitization will be the subject of the Aston Spring Servitization Conference 2015. Come along or contact me for further information.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Numbers, statistics and Innumeracy

Innumeracy written by John Allen Paulos is an excellent book on the lack of number use in modern society. I recommend it.

More or Less is an excellent Radio program and podcast about statistics, again top of the list.

The updated Machan Consulting website, well it has even more and updated numbers and I think you might like that.

What do these three things have in common?

Not all problems or opportunities can be measured in numbers (accountants, please take a breath). But a lot of problems and discussions can be better informed and resolved more quickly with good numbers, well researched and founded. The book and radio program explain this well and with humour.

For the last few years the Machan website has been designed with graphics and numbers in a number of fields. For 2015 they have had a refresh. We look at:

  • Medical Devices
  • Nuclear Power
  • Medicines
  • Food
While you may not win all of your arguments by referring to our numbers, it may provide context or a significant leg up, either at work or in the bar.

For example did you know that in 2013 the top critical/major defect area in UK GMP Inspections was the investigation of anomalies, at 6.5% with Quality Management second at 5.5%. Investigation of anomalies-CAPA was third with 4.7%. And that the Investigation of anomalies was the top area for the fifth year in a row.

So if you were dropped blind into a new medicines site and wanted to audit, re-organise, challenge, or improve it where would you start?

Or, that Nuclear sites may experience unplanned events that can described as anomalies (level 1 on the International Nuclear Events Scale), incidents (levels 2 & 3 on the INES) or accidents (levels 4 to 7) depending on their severity and that there was only one event in the third quarter of 2014, which was classified at level 1 on the Scale.

In the Pub banter, work or planning your strategy, numbers give you context and direction. With some work they are almost always available. So for starters... what was the food linked to the most cases of UK food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year? This one is easy, just click on Machan Consulting