Management Article

Multiple Authors
By: Thomas Malnight, Ivy Buche

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted different responses from company CEOs seeking to ensure their businesses survive. Keeping their employees safe has been the first priority, but beyond that, their task has involved understanding the situation, launching countermeasures, and trying to evolve ways of working to ensure their businesses can continue.

We spoke to the chief executives of three major companies in three very different industries. In their responses to the crisis, we found that Winston Churchill’s adage, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” was as relevant as ever, with businesses finding positives during the pandemic.

Accelerate strategy

Shipping giant A.P. Moller - Maersk embarked on an historic transformation in 2016 to become an integrated transport and logistics company—combining its shipping line, port operations, and freight forwarding businesses into a single entity. However, progress had been limited.

Tim Waldo’s picture

By: Tim Waldo

If you are like many small and medium-sized manufacturers, finding good help has been a pain point for many years, and it has become even more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic. The market forces driving that dynamic are not likely to change soon.

Your shop has had to become more adaptive and responsive in operations during this uncertainty, facing many challenges but also opportunities. You can take a similar approach to hiring and developing your people. The same principles that apply to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement in production processes also apply to recruiting, management, and performance of people. If you could improve your system, you can improve your performance.

What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking is a toolkit, or a type of language that describes how systems interact through various connections and feedback. Systems thinking is a holistic way to see connections through:
• Feedback loops
• Relationships (direct and indirect)
• Interactions and influences
• Systems within systems

Barry Richmond was a leader in the fields of systems thinking and system dynamics. He emphasized that people embracing systems thinking position themselves so that they can see both the forest and the trees, with one eye on each.

Multiple Authors
By: Phanish Puranam, Julien Clément

Covid-19 has dealt most businesses a heavy blow, but the pandemic has at least one under-acknowledged upside. By moving organizations from the office into the virtual space, the pandemic has cracked open a treasure trove of data that can be used to streamline and optimize how organizations operate. We wrote a (free) ebook to help you capitalize on it.

The inner workings of organizations used to be largely invisible. Before many of us started working from home, pivotal decisions were made around a conference table, at a restaurant over lunch, or even in the lift—where interactions are hard to track. But virtual work, largely conducted via digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, makes the intangible concrete. Chat logs, video recordings, and activity trails on collaborative projects form a comprehensive, real-time record of organizational activity, offering managers new levels of insight into everything from employee morale to how informal ties among employees affect the outcomes of business decisions.

Mark Schmit’s picture

By: Mark Schmit

As a kid I used to be confused by the so-called curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Wouldn’t interesting times be... good? Why would I not want to be interested? Then I got a little older, experienced a little more life, and I started to understand why “interesting times” could be a negative. Then the pandemic happened, and I began to wish for stable, comfortable, and predictable days in a way I never had before. There are always unknowns, risks, and challenges you can’t see coming, but the current health situation was so far outside my calculations it might as well have come from another solar system.

National conversations with manufacturers

It turns out I’m not alone. Manufacturers describe the months since the pandemic started, altered daily life worldwide, and threatened normal business operations as a test of leadership. And the test, they say, has been exhausting.

Natalie Weber’s picture

By: Natalie Weber

Unlike Covid-19, remote audits aren’t unprecedented. Remote audits didn’t start with the pandemic, although it has forced more companies to use them than previously. At MasterControl, we’ve been doing remote audits for years for our international customers. It saves time and expense, and it’s every bit as effective as an in-person audit.

However, this is only true because we operate in a digital environment. Using a paper system would significantly hinder remote audits.

This is largely still the case. The difference between pre-pandemic remote audits and those of the “new normal” is the sheer number that are being done, in many cases by those who have never done them before. Doing a remote audit is difficult to wrap your head around if your audit usually requires scouring binders for paperwork and completing a site walk. Mastering remote audits now will be worth it even after the pandemic is over.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Real-world, face-to-face communication—complete with eye contact, body language, and other important sources of information—is a rarity in business today, and the potential for failing to convey an intended message or giving the wrong impression has grown. Neuroscience research has uncovered specific ways that you can fine-tune your message—whether it’s giving performance feedback, persuading your team to embrace a change initiative, or selling a product or service.

Two of the most effective methods for connecting with your audience, whether an individual or a group, are making eye contact and mirroring (i.e., subtly mimicking the gestures of the other person). Both of these methods lead to synchronized brain waves, which are linked to engagement, learning, and good rapport. Both methods are much harder to do when you’re not meeting in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage. Try one or more of the following ideas to improve your chances of being heard.

Craig Tomita’s picture

By: Craig Tomita

Are the days of standard industrial robots numbered? Absolutely not. In part one of this series, we looked at the unique attribute of cobots. In this article, we’ll see how industrial robots do what they’re designed to do extremely well—high speed, high repeatability, heavy payloads, and more. There are many reasons why industrial robots are here to stay.

Klaus Wertenbroch’s picture

By: Klaus Wertenbroch

From a customer perspective, the only thing more frustrating than being denied a product or service is when that denial comes without a satisfactory explanation. As humans, our ability to deal with disappointment depends on understanding why it happened. Without an acceptable rationale, we’re apt to assume the worst: deliberate disrespect, and blind prejudice.

This aspect of consumer psychology may create problems for companies relying on decision-making algorithms for vetting purposes, fraud prevention, and general customer service. We’re seeing widening adoption of AI in fields such as marketing and financial services. On balance, this is great news, allowing companies to serve customers with unprecedented speed and predictive precision. However, while bots beat humans hands down at making accurate decisions at scale, their communication skills (so far, anyway) leave much to be desired. As algorithms assume a more prominent role as gatekeepers, where will rejected customers turn for an adequate explanation? And how can companies provide one without revealing too much about their proprietary algorithms—which are, very often, essential IP?

Sébastien Breteau’s picture

By: Sébastien Breteau

As commercialization strategies evolve amid Covid-19, and supply chains continue to trend toward diversification, the only way for businesses to control their destiny is to double down on quality standards. If cash is king, then quality is the king’s closest confidant since high quality protects and guides the bottom line.

To gain a competitive edge, many businesses are planning to digitize their supply chains so they can use real-time data to infuse quality safeguards into all the materials and products they buy, move, and sell through their entire supply chain. In a July 2020 survey of more than 200 companies conducted by QIMA, two-thirds of respondents reported that the pandemic has accelerated their company’s path toward digitizing their supply chain, including the use of new digital inspection and audit solutions.

Here are some of the ways digital transformation can help businesses enhance quality throughout their supply chain networks.

Identify quality challenges faster and reduce charge-backs

Consistently poor quality leads to exponential costs for a business, both internally and externally, and eventually hampers brand image, market share, and long-term growth if not properly addressed.

Jessica Ellspermann’s picture

By: Jessica Ellspermann

How you communicate a message is as important as the message itself. When it comes to internal communications, this certainly holds true. Company culture can give your organization a major strategic advantage in these changing times. But what your culture consists of—goals, values, and practices—must be effectively transmitted according to best practices if employees are going to understand and act upon them. Therefore, it’s essential to focus not just on what you’re communicating but also how you’re communicating it.

The 18 internal communications best practices below can improve your internal communications strategy and get your team connected, engaged, and motivated.

1. Envision, strategize, and plan communications

“Good ideas need good strategy to realize their potential.”
Reid Hoffman, founder, LinkedIn

What do you want internal communications to do for your team and your company? How will you get there? Where does your communication process stand right now, and what needs improvement? How soon would you like to reach your goals?

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