Thursday, 30 May 2013

Updated On Time Delivery Presentation on Slideshare

To coincide with the revised free report I have updated the presentation on Slideshare. An embedded copy is below.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Revised and Updated Free Report

Just a quick note to let you know that our free report 'You're Late!!!' has been updated today.

It now includes expanded action points to help you improve your on time delivery performance.

To get your copy either:

1 - Go back to the link in your email and download the new version.

2 - Sign up for the free report by clicking here.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Notes and Comments on Time Management

Recently I was asked for my comments on time management whilst working with an Operations Management team.

I thought it would be worthwhile sharing my notes on this blog.

  • Time expands and contracts to fill the time available – schedule the important tasks early into your day.
  • Time management is not just about where and when, but what and why. Deciding what tasks will give you the biggest payback in terms of results needs to be considered when planning your day / routines.
  • Hence, know what is important and what is trivial.
  • Planning – what needs to be done in what sequence.
  • Scheduling – when the planned items needs to be done.
  • Routines yield consistency and help you to be proactive in your role.
  • Important and difficult tasks should be tackled first.*
  • Effectiveness first, then efficiency. Once you have the right tasks you can then find a better way to do the tasks to free up time.
  • Once the routines are complete you can move onto (mini) projects, whether this is managing a handful of ‘problem’ production jobs or continuous improvement activities.
  • Use your team, that’s what they are there for. Support goes two ways; support them to be better at supporting you in achieving the business’ objectives.
  • If in doubt – ‘does this task help me to achieve the results I am tasked with?’

If you are struggling with your time management then I hope it helps.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

* Thanks to the Brian Tracy book - Eat that Frog for this one.

Friday, 24 May 2013

How to Stop Improvement Projects From Stalling

Have you ever felt the frustration of watching an improvement project stall, fall over and the benefits never being realised?

I’ve seen quite a few projects over the years stalling.  Thankfully I have been able to help get them back on track, allowing my clients to get the results they wanted. Just recently I was involved in another similar project, one that was going off track. This got me thinking about the way I fix this particular problem. This month’s article covers the main steps I follow to get projects back on track.

Step One – Clarify the Objectives

Probably the biggest offender is the lack of clarity around the specifics of the project. Vague objectives lead to confusion. Reducing or confirming the scope of the project, and getting detailed on what you want to experience once the project is completed, can make a big difference. Put it in writing for reference.

Step Two – Clarify the Mechanics / Top Level Plan

How the project will unfold and what will need to happen in what sequence is vital. I’m talking about the phases of the project, or the large chunks of a project. I suppose this would be considered a more strategic review of the project, keeping it at a high level. For example, do you need the data cleansed first, or do you need the report written first? Those kinds of questions are the ones I am referring to. Milestones can then naturally follow on once you have a good feel for how the project needs to happen.

Step Three – Create Mini Projects

It is easy to get lost in big projects, so mini projects can be really useful for two main reasons. Firstly, as long as the mini project fits into the overall scheme of things (see Step Two) then you shouldn’t get lost, you will always have your point of reference. Secondly, most people find small projects less daunting and easier to get started on. They also find them easier to plan out and take ownership of.

Step Four – Check Your Resources and Schedule

Knowing how much time you have available leads on from our last email. Each mini project should be able to be scheduled so that you can comfortably fit your normal day to day working alongside your mini projects. If there are problems with fitting them together, you need to inform the top level plan (see Step Two again). However, and this is another plus point of mini projects, they often tend to be easier to shoe horn into your working week.

Step Five – Link to Daily Routines

To keep your finger on the pulse, you need to find a way of tying in the activity in the mini projects to your working day. If you have a start of day meeting then add in the next milestone as an agenda point. Short mini projects should have a completion date / milestone in the immediate future and this can really help to keep your focus. The overall project may take many more months from now to be completed and daily achievements will get you there.

So, there you are, my five points to getting stalling projects back on track. Use this list and add to it as you wish.

If you are getting fed up with your stalling projects then contact me and we can have an informal chat over the phone to bounce round some ideas about how you can get things moving again.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Plant the Seed of an Idea

When you are discussing a potential business improvement idea it can often be worthwhile to put the idea in someone's head and leave it there for a while.

The mind usually solves problems at its own rate, and giving people enough time to mull it over can usually produce better improvement idea results than when we force people to agree in a meeting situation.

Developing the ideas in a two part strategy can appear to be slow and sluggish, but is another example of the 'tortoise and the hare' in action. Better solutions are worth the (short) wait.

Of course, don't employ the very common alternative (to the one off meeting approach) of the infinite meeting method. This is where you never close the loop to commence work on a project!

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Double Hockey Stick

If you have read other blog posts on this site you may have come across me writing about the hockey stick effect. This is the term often used to describe the uneven output many factory based businesses experience towards the end of the month.

Recently I have witnessed a couple of businesses who have a double hockey stick effect in their business. The order book is front loaded in the month (i.e. their planning doesn’t go much past the first week and a half of the month) and the output is back loaded in terms of what really happens.

There are two main things going on here. There is a lack of realism in the planning (let alone thoroughness) and there is a lack of control regarding throughput within the production side of the business.

A good way to prevent this situation from occurring is to implement a formal sign off process to the production schedule. Every business has some kind of ‘rule of thumb’ that can inform you whether your plan is achievable. It is very rare that a business can handle twice the volume of work without investing in equipment or undertaking some form of radical process improvement work.

This approach doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it does have to make sense and leave us with a workable plan.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Get Clear on the Specifications for Your Process Improvement

Having been involved with a number of process improvement projects over the years I find it quite easy to tell which projects have been clearly scoped out and have a clear specification.

Have you been part of a project that has developed ideas and new processes but never quite got to where it needed to be? If no one has clearly identified what the new process needs to do it can never be completed.


So, if you find your projects are meandering and failing to complete then take the time to have a look at the specification you are working too... and tighten it up if you need to.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Friday, 10 May 2013

Wrong Sized Processes

The other day I saw a business that used tools and processes that didn't match the size of the business, let alone the nature of what they were trying to achieve.

Instead of deciding what they wanted to achieve from their processes a member of their team, who was well meaning, created an absolute monster of a business system. Each process that made up their system was labour intensive.

Stripping it down to its basic components and determining the purpose of each process was the starting place for creating a simpler, easier to use and more effective system. Re-designing only works properly if you know what you are designing for.

Do you know the purpose of your business processes, and are they the right size for your business?

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Only One Vision of the Future?

When we are planning for our future states we can run into the problem of becoming single minded.

Being single minded is really useful at certain parts of our projects, such as when you have a project goal in your sights. It is less useful when we need to consider various options for improving how our business operates and it can be a simple process to determine just what constitutes an ‘optimal process’.

I wrote a short book on this subject earlier this year and you can get your free sample from Amazon here.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Friday, 3 May 2013

Stop Fighting Your MRP System

MRP systems have been around for a long time. The phrase MRP came into popular usage in the mid 1970s and although systems have gotten faster and more accessible they are still fundamentally the same. Sure, they have more bits and bobs connected to them now, but they still perform an aggregating function that can save many hours per day of laborious administration.

So why is it that we find businesses fighting their systems?

I find in many cases that the way the system is configured will determine how much you will have a fight on your hands.

If you set up the system to mimic what you do (providing you are sane of course) then the system will do your work for you in a fraction of the time.

If you set up the system in a way that doesn't incorporate your rules and logic then you find that the system is constantly trying to override what you are wanting to do. It’s like having two completely different people trying to do the same job.

Should the above sound familiar then it might be time to have a look at how your system is set up. It could be that you are sitting on a huge potential productivity gain for your business.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Avoid mistakes with your SOPs!