If you survived 2020, that all by itself was a great accomplishment. It was a crazy year and devastating for people/companies in the live entertainment, food service and personal care industries. At the same time manufacturing companies around the world were faced with quickly developing safer manufacturing practices, labour shortages, disruptions in supply chains and amazingly the need to develop innovative new business practices/processes. A few manufacturing companies thrived during this period. What are a few questions deserving some reflection on your behalf to help your organisation survive and hopefully thrive moving forward?
Strategic: What must your company do to be successful in the post-vaccination and post-pandemic world? How strong is your underlying business model to sustainably innovate and grow? Amidst the changes created by COVID are you certain which customers you want to keep and how to reach new customers? Now is a good time to refocus your customer base.
Leadership: Steve Jobs once said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things, they never thought they could.” 70% of the work we do, people are willing to do it, they see it as part of the job. But 30% is optional and that is where the treasure lays. This treasure is available for a leader at any level of an organisation to discover including teams, departments and divisions.
20 years ago, I was coaching a company on how to do Kaizen Teams. At the end of the week and after a very successful presentation to the leadership team I asked the team members, “So what did you get out of this week?” When I came to Pearlie she said, “I’ve worked for this company for 25 years and it’s the first time they ever asked me to think.” She paused and went on to say, “And I really liked it!”
How are you developing the critical thinking skills of the people who work in your organisation and then listening and applying their knowledge to improve productivity, safety, customer service and employee engagement? How do you encourage workers to speak and share their ideas (which is both a cultural and process challenge)?
We all have this treasure in our companies but very few organisations treat their people with sufficient respect in a dignified way to find it. Given the changes we all experienced in 2020, there is now an opportunity to create a new normal in 2021. Front-line workers have the best perspectives on impediments to work-flow especially amidst the COVID-required changes in physical and virtual workspaces make use of their knowledge.
Customers: Given the supply chain disruptions in 2020 many companies will be looking for suppliers closer to their home base. If you are a company in India seeking to supply customers in the US or in Europe what can you be doing to make your operations and your information systems more agile? Have you developed the right metrics to monitor and adjust your operations? Applying lean manufacturing practices is a starting point, but not sufficient to go the distance. What differentiates your ability to serve your customers and are there things you should stop doing? In the typical manufacturing company 80% of their profits comes from 20% to 30% of what they make. What should you stop doing to permit a more laser like focus on meaningful growth opportunities?
Environment: What is being done from an overall perspective to reduce the supply chain’s environmental footprint? How can you as a supplier help your customers to be more environmentally efficient?
Digitalisation: How can you capture more useful information on your customers and business operations? Do you have an assessment process to look at potential new technologies and how they might be utilised to go after a targeted (specific) business opportunity?
We will not be going back to our old normal. The world has changed! Take time to reflect on your current situation. Find ways to change your perspective and see the world differently. That is one of the things I enjoy with doing Gemba Walks. If I’m patient and ask good questions I always learn something.