Friday, October 12, 2012

Common Sense

Over my career - I've met a lot of people, and spent a lot of time meeting and discussing problems and solutions in the different organizations where I believe I was able to make a difference.  Unfortunately, I find myself sometimes amazed by often a lack of initiative (we've always done it this way...); a lack of confidence (we know this works, why change?); a lack of measured risk taking (what if we fail?); a lack of foresight (if it ain't broken, don't fix it); a lack of ownership (I'm not paid to think... it's above my pay grade)... a lack of quality (it's GOOD ENOUGH);  and a what amounts to a LACK OF COMMON SENSE regarding the real impact of this type of misguided thinking.

I think common sense is something that is often missing in many organizations today - it's a common denominator, so lets discuss this further..  It's not obvious - there's often a culture that if you keep your nose clean, and fly below the radar, you can do your work and get out at the end of the day.  That's true -however flying below the radar often means a resistance to change, regardless of the "common sense" involved.  I've seen this numerous times over my career.  I'll cite a few examples...

  1. I once worked for an organization that would spend $100 trying to  find an an account out of balance by $.02.  The reality is that although perfection is admirable, it doesn't always make good common sense... or business sense.  If you found your bank statement was off by $.02, and needed the banks assistance, and they invoiced you $50/hour for their help... how long would you spend to find your $.02 reconciling error - exactly - pick up the pennies in the parking lot and let it go... you're further ahead.
  2. I directed Information Technology for an organization that wanted to automate everything.  Automation and computerization were a huge competitive advantage - and we were very successful with automation of our complex pricing, shop floor, manufacturing processes automation, engineering, bar coding, invoicing, product design, and product configuration initiatives.  One of the key targets we hadn't automated was the loading dock.  The company was rapidly growing, and the manufacturing process for their products allowed them to turn things around in a day or two - so the dock was always full and picking the products for the trucks was always a burden on staff.  The "batch process" for production was designed to optimize the manufacturing process and minimize waste.  It was extremely efficient.  However, when you organize a truck, your goal is to minimize freight costs, and this was accomplished by placing all items heading to customers in the same geographic area on the same truck so that the order packed was the reverse of the order unloading at the customer site.  Well, the loading dock staff had to walk up and down the isles to see where each of the custom products was located and then pay attention to the order which they placed them in the truck.  The Operations Manager wanted an application to track the location of every item on the dock - and all were customer specified sizes and options..  His goal was to barcode them and track each foot of the floor as a different container... and if they moved, to relocate them and rescan them.  I spent some time on the dock, watching the process... and I promoted the idea of using a whiteboard on each of the manufacturing carts to keep track of which batches were on the cart - and then to organize them by batch on the dock.  Since the picking tickets were by batch - this streamlined the process.  The whiteboard was on a post, so it was easy to see looking down the isle, and it was higher than the custom products.  No technology needed... no need to track every inch of the floor... and every single movement of every product.  IT effort and cost - idea generation.  Implementation cost - melamine white board, steel posts, and some fabrication time for maintenance - result - priceless!  The savings could be measured in hours each day.
  3. As I mentioned in an earlier post - a company with no background in project management tried to manage projects based on each person having the same nine months to complete the effort - rather than relying on a critical path.  Would you have the excavator, roofer, plumber, bricklayer, landscaper, and framing contractor all show up on the same day?  That's what happened - then the roofer was to blame because he didn't get his work done.  Common sense?  None.  Success with projects without using project management techniques and critical path - None - they were always late.  After this was implemented, their next product launch was completed successfully, and for the first time... on time.
So back to the "under the radar" concept.  Here's a news flash - YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR COMPANIES SUCCESS.  If there's a better way to do something - do it if you can... or present it if you want / need buy-in and acceptance from others.  Most companies, and most people want to succeed.  They may be risk adverse - that's why risk needs to be managed... by... you guessed it... BY COMMON SENSE.  Using common sense is called MANAGED RISK.

So, when you go to work today... ask yourself...if this was MY COMPANY, and YOU ARE THE LEADER... WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?  Move past the obvious... fire John Doe... Ok, so we all know the people who are a #$#%@#@... and even if you owned the company, you may not be able to fire them.  The sad reality is... if you owned the place, it'd probably be your cousin, brother-in-law, or inept relative you can't fire in good conscience - our your spouse wouldn't let you fire.  If you turn your mindset - and stick your neck out (just a little)... be a leader from ANY LEVEL... with common sense... managed risk... and good project management... who knows... you may be recognized for it!  You may not get that fat raise or promotion.  You will have the satisfaction that you made a difference... and this could be contagious to others.  YOU MAY JUST SAVE YOUR COMPANY FROM BEING MOVED OVERSEAS, OR SAVE YOUR JOB OR DEPARTMENT FROM  ELIMINATION OR BEING DOWNSIZED.  The reality is that other countries have eaten our lunch for a number of reasons... lower wages, less environmental regulation, lower taxes, less labor laws, no benefit charges, more automated factories, etc.  They may have these... they DON'T HAVE YOU.  BE YOUR OWN COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE!  BE A LEADER AT ANY LEVEL!!!!

Go forward... lead with common sense... logical project management... and make a difference!