Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

By: Akhilesh Gulati

As a manager, one might imagine being a rider atop a horse. You cannot expect to force the horse to win by constantly pulling the reins, neither can you expect to win the race consistently by pushing the horse beyond its capability. The rider needs to influence its performance to win the race; after all, the horse is much stronger than the rider. “Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one’s horse as he is leaping,” state Julius and Augustus Hare in Guesses at Truth (Macmillan, 1882).

How does this apply to our organizations? We can think of the horse as our workforce and the potential it has to produce extraordinary results. We often find ourselves frustrated as we push people to produce results, trying to stay on top of daily issues, controlling, directing, complying, and making deliveries. Other times we provide incentives to achieve more and then pull in the reins just as the workforce is ready with new ideas.

Organizations have realized that to achieve extraordinary results their employees must show initiative, collaboration, enthusiasm, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Powerful brands can drive success in competitive markets and become the organization’s most valuable assets. Wikipedia suggests that, “Brands were originally developed as labels of ownership: name, term, design, and symbol.” Today, how brands reflect and engage people and how they define people’s aspirations matters much more.

Clarity
A muddled corporate identity can hinder success in the marketplace. A confusing corporate identity can adversely affect a manufacturer’s success. In contrast, well-known corporate identities, including graphics, design, and color components demonstrate successful corporate branding. These elements translate into a quantifiable quality control consistency that drives predictable sales processes, including a shorter sales cycle because of familiarity on the part of the potential client.

Step-by-step methods for conducting initial communication audits are critical in the same way a kaizenblitz or other lean manufacturing methods are used to evaluate and measure the efficacy of the plant floor. From industrial firms to consumer-products companies, the metrics that determine corporate image affect the company branding as consistent or confusing; it’s vital to the sales process.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Accounting techniques such as budgeting, sales projections, and financial reporting are supposed to help prevent business failures by giving managers realistic plans to guide their actions and feedback on their progress. In other words, they’re supposed to leaven entrepreneurial optimism with green-eye-shaded realism.

At least that’s the theory. But when Gavin Cassar, a Wharton accounting professor, tested this idea, he found something troubling: Some accounting tools not only fail to help businesspeople, but may actually lead them astray. In one of his recent studies, forthcoming in Contemporary Accounting Research, Cassar showed that budgeting didn’t help a group of Australian firms accurately forecast their revenues. In a second paper, he found that the preparation of financial projections added to aspiring entrepreneurs’ optimism, leading them to overestimate their subsequent levels of sales and employment.

“It’s been shown in many studies that people are overly optimistic,” Cassar says. “What’s interesting here is that, when you use the accounting tools, the optimism is even more extreme. This suggests that using the tools, which a lot of academics and government agencies say is good practice, can lead to even bigger mistakes.”

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

In the first quarter of 2007, my company conducted a complex-manufacturing research survey of 1,473 senior management level executives (CEO, COO, CFO, vice-president of operations). Complex manufacturers were defined as those employing “other than exclusively repetitive manufacturing processes” including engineer-to-order, made-to-order, and assemble-to-order. The data include a wide range of industry cross-sections, geography, public and private companies, numbers of employees, and annual revenues, and revealed a clear change from a similar survey done in 2000. The statistically significant difference from the identical 2000 survey to the current 2007 survey is that the complex manufacturers face increasing business and global requirements. There’s also an increasing international diversity of customers, suppliers, and partners.

Complex Manufacturers

 

2000

2007

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

In the first quarter of 2007, my company conducted a complex-manufacturing research survey of 1,473 senior management level executives (CEO, COO, CFO, vice-president of operations). Complex manufacturers were defined as those employing “other than exclusively repetitive manufacturing processes” including engineer-to-order, made-to-order, and assemble-to-order. The data include a wide range of industry cross-sections, geography, public and private companies, numbers of employees, and annual revenues, and revealed a clear change from a similar survey done in 2000.

The statistically significant difference from the identical 2000 survey to the current 2007 survey is that the complex manufacturers face increasing business and global requirements. There’s also an increasing international diversity of customers, suppliers, and partners.

Complex Manufacturers

 

2000

2007

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

As is the case with any lean implementation in a traditional environment, culture change is the most difficult obstacle to success. A company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and begin lean initiatives, but if it only talks the talk, the initiative soon becomes just talk.

The transformation to a lean enterprise isn’t easy. Senior management, while being driven by the labor force, must lead the process. More importantly, employees between these two levels must focus on using the tools and training provided on a consistent, daily basis to enforce the concept of culture change. They’re truly the change agents.

This is a weakness in many implementations. Department supervisors and managers receive useful training, yet fail to transfer the knowledge to real-work events. The causes for this may be numerous and valid, but they can’t be accepted. Why does this happen? Can it be prevented?

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

As is the case with any lean implementation in a traditional environment, culture change is the most difficult obstacle to success. A company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and begin lean initiatives, but if it only talks the talk, the initiative soon becomes just talk.

The transformation to a lean enterprise isn’t easy. Senior management, while being driven by the labor force, must lead the process. More importantly, employees between these two levels must focus on using the tools and training provided on a consistent, daily basis to enforce the concept of culture change. They’re truly the change agents.

This is a weakness in many implementations. Department supervisors and managers receive useful training, yet fail to transfer the knowledge to real-work events. The causes for this may be numerous and valid, but they can’t be accepted. Why does this happen? Can it be prevented?

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Industrial-marketing programs must encompass the full range of activities needed to grow a business profitably, and often these programs neglect to cover the retention and expansion of a business with existing profitable customers.

In a global competitive environment, a lean industrial-marketing process must help to identify target markets, target customers, and target channels of sales and distribution. The program must focus on profitable growth and financial performance that matches the best-in-class global competitors. The assessment of an industrial-marketing program must include the determination and justification of new global markets with products that offer a superior performance advantage, including an attack strategy for countering foreign competition.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca once noted, “You can have brilliant ideas; but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” In their new book, The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas,Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor G. Richard Shell and management consultant Mario Moussa provide a systematic approach to idea selling that addresses the problem Iacocca identified. As an example of effective persuasion, they tell the story of rock star Bono’s visit to then-U.S. Senator Jesse Helms’ Capitol Hill office to enlist his help in the global war against AIDS.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Industrial-marketing programs must encompass the full range of activities needed to grow a business profitably, and often these programs neglect to cover the retention and expansion of a business with existing profitable customers.

In a global competitive environment, a lean industrial-marketing process must help to identify target markets, target customers, and target channels of sales and distribution. The program must focus on profitable growth and financial performance that matches the best-in-class global competitors. The assessment of an industrial-marketing program must include the determination and justification of new global markets with products that offer a superior performance advantage, including an attack strategy for countering foreign competition.

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