The advent of a new year inspires a great deal of reflection and anticipation. Many of us will evaluate our personal and professional progress over the past 12 months and set new goals for the upcoming year. The same is true for “The Third Degree;” this installment will look back at some posts to provide additional resources related to the topics discussed. It will also look ahead to preview topics to be covered in future posts.
In “6 Tips for Working with an Operations Consultant” (17Jan2018), I suggested that “No-Go Zones” be identified to avoid wasting time on efforts that would ultimately be rejected. A related concept is detailed in “It’s Time to Tackle Your Team’s Undiscussables” (MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2019). All “Four Layers of Undiscussability” are relevant to a successful consultation, but the “thinking-saying gap” is most closely correlated with the “No-Go Zone” discussion. If client-team members are not forthcoming with information regarding limitations and challenges to the project, both client and consultant will suffer from the reduced effectiveness of the partnership.
The debate surrounding the “skills gap” rages on. The number of voices encouraging companies to take responsibility for employee development seems to be increasing, but we are not yet a dominant force, despite this approach providing a competitive advantage. My perspective was presented in “The Skills Gap Fallacy” [Part 1: “How the Skills Gap Grows” (7Feb2018), Part 2: “Local Solutions to a National Problem” (14Feb2018), Part 3: “Skills Gap Assessment and Closure” (21Feb2018)].
“Is There Really a Skills Gap?” (Education Week, 18Jul2017) provides a useful summary of the debate. Other articles that add to the discussion include:
“Where Should Workforce Development Start?” (South Carolina Manufacturing, 23Aug2018)
“Throwing Money at a Talent Problem Won’t Solve It.” (IndustryWeek, 25Sep2019)
“How to Create Excellent Employees.” (John Fairchild, 9Apr2018)
“Don’t Let Knowledge Walk Out the Door.” (IndustryWeek, 30Oct2018)
“Your Two Options for Talent Shortages.” (Plant Services, Nov. 2019) [Also relevant to “Avoid the Spiral into Oblivion” (28Feb2018).]
As the onslaught of “You’re Not Reading Enough Books, Dummy” articles continues, I am happy to share one with similar sentiment to that in “Why Reading 100 Books per Year is the Wrong Goal” (16May2018). “Too many books, not enough time: Here’s a solution” (Glenn Leibowitz, 29May2018) tells us to read what makes us happy. Novel idea!
In “The Most Important Members of Your Project Team” (30May2018), I shared some benefits that optimists and pessimists offer their teams. For a deeper, more scientific, discussion, see Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD. The “Why Pessimism?” and “The Balance Sheet: Optimism vs. Pessimism” sections of Chapter 6, “Success at Work” (pp. 107 – 115), provide an overview and references to other parts of the book for further inquiry.
“The Power of Asking Pivotal Questions” (MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2015) lends credibility to “The Art of Asking” (22May2019) by citing background research. The general sentiment of both is succinctly summarized by Watson’s statement in Social Psychology (pp. 122 – 123): “One of the differences between the novice and the expert in any field is the questions each asks. Getting the right question may be more than half of the process of effective problem solving.”
“Is World-Class Good Enough?” suggests that organizations reconsider how they evaluate performance in comparison to others. In Selecting the Right Manufacturing Improvement Tools (p. 17), Moore offers a warning: “Be cautious about using benchmarks… Simply obtaining a comparative set of numbers from other companies and then making arbitrary decisions about achieving those may actually be detrimental.” He goes on to provide four additional cautions about benchmarking.
Watson’s Social Psychology supports Moore’s admonitions with research results. In a section titled “Mutual Influence” (p. 28), he explains the “a psychologist showed that a young man, in competition with a weak rival who could pull only 16 kg., himself pulled 22 kg.; the same young man, competing with someone who was his equal, pulled 27 kg. A runner makes better time if paced by someone who is faster than he is.” Choosing the wrong comparator can lull an organization into becoming “good enough.”
Around the time that “Factory Tourism” (17Jul2019) was written, IndustryWeek presented its “Fifty Factory Tours that Make America Great” (2Jul2019) slideshow. The sportsman is well represented, with Buck Knives Factory (Post Falls, ID), Hornady Bullet Factory (Grand Island, NE), and R.L. Winston Rod Company (Twin Bridges, MT) featured. The environmentalist outdoorsman can learn about biomass recovery and alternative fuel generation at Entsorga (Martinsburg, WV).
“Beware the Metrics System” [Part 1 (28Aug2019), Part 2 (11Sep2019)] discussed proper and improper use of metrics. Warnings and guidance continue to emanate from a variety of sources; the trouble with metrics systems does not appear to be abating. Two recent articles discuss specific department-level issues. “The Company that Hit Its Numbers – Until One Day, It Went Out of Business” (IndustryWeek, 8Nov2019) details problems with the most common metrics used in purchasing, while “Planning’s Top KPI is an Awful Metric” (Plant Services, Nov. 2019) addresses a recurring nightmare among maintenance professionals.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a poignant cartoon worth?
A discomforted laugh and a sigh of resignation, perhaps?
Looking ahead to future installments of “The Third Degree,” readers can expect several characteristics to persist. Leadership, organizational culture, customer satisfaction, lean and continuous improvement, mentoring, and employee development will be enduring themes. The use of analogy and metaphor to explain concepts and the presentation of heterodox views will also continue. The bias toward practical information, with a bit of wry humor, will prevail. That is, the style of “The Third Degree” is unlikely to change.
The treatment of some subjects will be expanded and we will explore new topics. Discourses on problem-solving, decision-making, error reduction, and useful applications of statistics are forthcoming. Explorations of leading-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality are also in store.
If any of the topics mentioned has piqued your curiosity, feel free to contact us with questions or suggestions for future posts. If another topic has your attention, feel to free to suggest that instead. Anything in the areas of quality, cost control, productivity, customer satisfaction, or sustainability relating to manufacturing or service operations is fair game.
May you remember 2019 fondly and anticipate a healthy and prosperous 2020. Happy New Year from JayWink Solutions!
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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