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.