Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sustain and Control



A young student entered a small garden.  It was his sensei’s back yard, and it was there where he was to learn his new lesson.  Yaguchi was excited.  For six months, he was pushed toward exhaustion repeating kihon and kata.  Any deviation from his challenging workout sessions was welcomed.  As he entered, the Japanese style garden took his breath away.  It was well manicured, healthy full of color and life, the fragrance sweet with a burst of fresh energy.  He thought of what it would take to create and maintain such beauty.

“Yaguchi!” the voice came from a small tool shed.  It was sensei Tanaka.

The young student hurried to the shack and discovered his sensei with his arm buried into a tub of water.

“Sensei,” the boy said, “would you like me to help?”

“Please come here and see what I am doing.”

The boy stepped closer to find that his instructor was holding down what appeared to be a round ball. 

The sensei pulled his hand out and it was then that Yaguchi saw that the round ball was in fact a basketball as it bobbed up to the surface.  He also noticed that it glistened.

“That’s right.  It has on it generous helpings of petroleum jelly.  Now come on, you try.”

“Try sensei?”

“I want you to push the basketball down the bottom of the tub, and hold it there.”

“Is there a special technique I should be aware of?”

“Not really."
Yaguchi knew that this was a test.  He had to perform this small task to go to the next level and learn new martial arts techniques, possibly a weapons form.  The thought excited him.  He touched the ball that was indeed slippery but not unreasonable.  He knew the task would be a challenge, but nothing that could stop him.

He tried attempt after attempt, each resulting to back to back failure and frustration.  The air made it difficult enough, but the petroleum jelly made it impossible.  “Sensei,” Yaguchi said.  “It’s very difficult.”

“Then let me help you,” sensei Tanaka said as he helped steady the ball underneath the water.  “Now hold it firmly in the center and do not allow it to move.”

Yaguchi complied and, though difficult, was able to hold the ball steady. 

“What did you learn?” the master asked.

“I learned that basketballs aren’t made to be in water.”

The venerable master stifled a laugh but shook his head.  "Yaguchi-san," he said, “Was it easier to hold the ball down and keep it steady?  Or was it easier to start when it was on the surface?”

“In its present position, it is much easier to contol.”

“And that is your lesson,” the aged sensei said before walking back into the beautiful garden.

“Sensei?”

“Sometimes, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to reach a certain point in our lives.  It may take help even from others, but when you reach that place, it is much easier to maintain and control that momentum than to let go and start over.”

"Hai, wakirimaska," Yaguchi said and bowed.

"Good," the master smiled, "I think this is a nice place for us to continue our kihon and kata training.  What do you think, master-in-training?"

Yaguchi almost let out a groan, but instead, bowed and said, "Os!"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Snap Selling

Today’s subject: Snap Selling by Jill Kornrath. A compelling read, I was so impressed that I put its concepts to practice with amazing results.

Jill Kornrath is a top notched, old fashioned, by the numbers, by the book, copy machine sales person who wrote the book as a result of poor numbers and  consequential loss of income. By exercising her own Kaizen, she was able to overcome her demons and failures.  She "defined the problem"  "identified the process" and "determined root cause," after which realizing that tried and true methods and techniques of past were useless and ineffective in this new business environment that faces dire economic challenges, newly structured LEAN management practices, added responsibilities, and electronic wherewithal.

A new set of rules for buying requires change.

Currently I'm responsible for purchasing quality material from the lowest bidder on a "Just in Time" (JIT) basis. Stories where manufacturing scheduled production within hours of a truck rolling in with the raw materials championed this Lean cause. JIT, however, has its consequences and not having when machine and labor are in midstream production is more destructive than having idle job stacks available weeks in advanced.

With that said, Ms. Kornrath says that companies with Lean infrastructures and controls utilize less employees to perform similar functions. One buyer said his staff was reduced to two when, in the past, required six to do the same work.

According to Kornrath, this new customer finds his/her time more constrained (Reference VOC). Decision makers are now “frazzled," and have very short attention spans. A sales person, when in the past was trained to go through this whole “needs analysis” question and answering session, complete with “death by Power Point presentation” and binders of information, has only seconds to get his/her point across. She uses terms like “20 second rule” and “get to the net” to explain this process.  For example when a sales person makes a phone call to a prospect, the customer most likely has a person in his room, is staring at a computer, writing on a note pad, and thinking about who to lay off this week so that he can meet budget, while trying to get home early enough to catch his son's soccer game.

As a buyer, I see myself in the same position, spending less time with sales reps; and if immediate solutions aren't available during that phone call, the discussion ends.  I don't mean to be rude, but there's just way too much to be done in a day's time, idle talk or long winded sales pitches not in the schedule.

Kornrath in her book introduces the acronym:  SNAP.

Simplicity
iNvaluable
Alignment
Priority

Keep your presentation SIMPLE;
Make sure that your pitch has VALUE;
That what you present is in ALIGNMENT with what the buyer needs;
That second…right now…immediately (PRIORITY).

She said that if a salesperson makes the mistake of attempting anything different he/she will end up in the dreaded “D” zone; “D” meaning “decide” “delay” “delete” “diminish” “don’t know” "don't call me, I'll call you."

As simple as it sounds, the process is not easy. It takes work. A salesperson has got to be:

More organized;
Prepared to add more steps to his already lengthy sales process (especially in the ALIGNMENT and PRIORITY phases) to include strategic e-mails, faxes, mail-outs, webinar invitations, newsletters, copies of appropriate news articles, voice messages, references;
Creative with a "less is more" attitude; and
Able to communicate clearly and to the point, recognizing the best and right time to ask for the order (VSM).

Sales and marketing have a great deal to learn about SNAP Selling as it provides a distinct solution to their “D” diminished sales. (Reference: Define the problem/identify the process (which could be broken); Measure the CTQ factors; Analyze root cause (current arcane sales methods); Improve by implementing SNAP principles; Control by sustaining gains from new sales.

A must read for success in this new business world.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brainstorming

It’s said the best ideas come from those whose hands are the dirtiest. Unfortunately, these people are likely not to share ideas in fear of reprisal, fell their ideas aren’t worth the effort, or didn’t think their words would be considered much less heard. Discussion and conversation are part of a process called communication. It requires open and impartial observation, the less influence the better. This is where brainstorming comes into play.

 Brainstorming is perhaps the most useful and underrated tool in Lean. I’ve read different methods, participated in both personal and group sessions: Had many benefited, seen some that ended up in disaster.

 Asked the question, how is this possible?

 Simple.

 Make sure that brainstorming is just that: Throwing ideas out without prejudice and structure. I call it throwing dirty socks on the wall. Doesn’t matter which sock or how destructively filthy it is. What matters is that it’s thrown on the wall, any part of it that makes a statement: good, bad and indifferent.

My worst brainstorming experience came when the proctor who lead the group manipulated the session so that it sway an outcome .  For example, the group would throw out suggestions, good, bad and everything in between. He would write it on the board and prejudice the answer by either writing it small or placing it far away from the center or not near a group of ideas that he felt were important. Note the words “he felt were important.” I’ve seen it where the proctor would write in bold letters and circle an answer. Others were written but selectively set apart as if errant red headed step children. I believe that mind maps, fish bone analysis can follow the same caustic paths.

Key is that the team leader who stands in front of the white board offers no opinion. I participated in a session where no one was allowed to speak in the first phase. Instead, participants were to write their ideas on a piece of paper. These ideas were thrown into a box. The participants were then asked to pull a piece of paper out of the box and then write the idea on the board where it could fit on the fishbone diagram. No one was permitted to speak until all of the ideas were on the board, spaghetti written, somewhat chaotic, but on the board with no ego controlling the flow. As the board fills, creativity mind melds among the participants and the real discussions begin.