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Showing posts from August, 2013

Do You ‘To Do’?

A good friend, and colleague, of mine confessed the other week that he had only just started to use ‘to do’ lists. He was almost evangelical about the use of such a tool.
I thought that pretty much everyone uses a tool like this. I then thought about this for a bit longer, and I have met lots of different businesses that don’t capture all of the items in their working lives.
They may have a main system, such as MRP / ERP, but it’s the little things that trip them up. The promise they made to a customer, a report to print off for a senior manager, specific preparations for a meeting.... or whatever.
Being able to capture these items, process and prioritise them, and action them is a skill.
I have a feeling that a lot of people see just how much stuff is on their lists if they do compile one that they feel overwhelmed. Is discarding the list the same as ‘burying your head in the sand’? I think so.
If you have read my book ‘Office Productivity’ then you will know my views already on thi…

Are You Wanting For A Written Plan?

Having a written plan can be a very useful tool.
Just being able to capture your ideas, put them into a sequence and then work on them can make a huge difference to your ability to implement changes.
When I talk to businesses I often find that only their big projects make it into a project plan.
What about the smaller items, the mini-projects that only have a few tasks associated?
From my experience I see a lot of people in business decide that they can remember the tasks, or that it isn't worth writing the tasks down.
I suggest that if this is you that you reconsider. I don't think that every plan should be a bit ornate project plan with a Gantt chart; I think that committing your notes to paper is the point. A sheet of A4 with a heading and a list of tasks is all you need to get started.
Our days can be busy and tasks can be forgotten. Even the most informal of project plans will likely give you a benefit in your quest to improve your business.

Giles Johnston
Author of '…

Who Is Doing What?

A factor that can derail progress on an improvement project is a lack of clarity around who is meant to be doing what.
When creating a formal project plan this is usually not an issue. You assign owner's to each element of the plan and it becomes crystal clear who is doing what.
The problem, as I see it, is when the project moves out of scope into less formal project areas. You know that something needs to be fixed / improved upon that is related to your project, but no one knows who is responsible for that area. This can obviously lead to confusion and delay if it is not agreed.
Having clarity around the business of who owns what process is vital. Communicating this formally is incredibly useful. Most times this kind of ownership is linked back to 'roles and responsibilities' type documents. For many people these are not visible documents and so a way around this is to create a family tree (organogram) to map out people's responsibilities.
If there are any gaps then …

What About The Total Time?

If you have read some of Dr. Deming's ideas about total cost you will be familiar with the idea that the idea of the cheapest supplier often hides other costs (re-work, transport etc...).
In a process the same can be said of time. If you want to find the quickest way to complete a process then you need to educate your team to look for the total time. Sometimes the fastest way of completing a specific step can cause problems elsewhere in the process. Likewise a slower looking idea can save a lot of time elsewhere.
By reviewing the process from end to end you can find better solutions than when you look at elements in isolation.
Next time you are reviewing specific parts of your process try to keep them in the context of your overall process and look to make the biggest overall process improvement.

Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

MRP Book Now Available For Free On Amazon

My latest book 'Making MRP Work' is currently available for free on Amazon, via the Kindle reading app.
I spend a lot of my time helping businesses to improve how their MRP system is set up. The book is aimed at the manager who is tasked with making MRP work, or who is being measured on their on time delivery performance and has a system that is in a mess. 
The book starts off looking at how to configure key elements of the system and then focuses on the managerial approach of running a system effectively.
The main links to the book are:
UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00E9SHAN4

US - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E9SHAN4

...or find it directly through the Kindle Store.

The book will be free until midnight Sunday (11th August) PST.


Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

When Smart People Are A Nuisance

We all like smart people, right?
The purpose of this article is to share a word of caution when undertaking new continuous improvement projects; sometimes the situation to be improved can be made artificially complex. Many smart people like complicated things. However, complicated problems and complicated solutions can make life unnecessarily difficult.
When a situation is difficult to manage and needs to be improved you can often find yourself looking for solutions that will take every last detail into account and provide a robust solution. What if you don’t need to undertake all of these details? What if they are symptoms of something else?
If you find yourself in this position then it might be a good time to undertake some root cause analysis, to find out what is real and what is a knock on effect from some other activity. Root cause analysis can be very simple to undertake and one of the most popular options is ‘5 Why’. This approach is widely used to dig past the symptoms of a p…

What Is Your Improvement Theme?

Day to day working can get in the way of your improvement projects. You start off with good intentions and then find yourself getting caught up with fire fighting and day to day issues that just have to have your attention.
Does this sound familiar?
When your plans are detailed and rigid in terms of what you have to get done by when you can often find that the smallest bump in the road can derail your plans. I recall reading a book once that talked about the difference between and map and a compass (I think it was one of the Stephen Covey books) and this is the same as top level planning for your improvements.
If you segment your year up into sections (quarters for example) and choose a theme for improvement in each segment then you will always have something to refer to when / if you get knocked off track. Using this as your compass can make your focus for improvements easier when you need to get focussed again. It can also help you when you complete one project and need to develop …

Making MRP Work: A Practical Guide To Improve Your System’s Performance

Is your MRP system helping your business to perform, or is it just creating more work for you?
‘Making MRP work’ is a practical guide aimed at Operations Managers and business directors who need some support with their MRP / ERP system. If you are operating an existing MRP system but feel that it could be doing more for you then this book can help you to identify the changes you need to make.
Many businesses find themselves with similar problems. Materials being ordered too late, confusion on the shop floor and spreadsheets are used rather than the system. Does this sound familiar?
The sections of this book take you on a journey from the style of approach in using MRP, through the fundamentals and into the effective management of your teams to get the most from your system.
Each section concludes with action steps to help you develop your own improvement plan. The final section of the book looks more generally at business improvement projects, with the aim of helping you to create an…