Monthly Archives: May 2011

Humility and Transparency

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

A reference made during the conference was from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great.”  The book is a great insight into leadership characteristics that help companies move past the good enough stage to the great status.  The leadership characteristic that was referenced during the conference was leading with humility.  Great leaders are humble.

This characteristic is one the lean community talks about quite a bit.  The humbleness to continue to learn and not know everything.  The humbleness to give credit where credit is due.  These are aspects of the respect for people pillar of lean.

Where does transparency come in to play?  How does it tie to humility?

Too many times I have heard companies say they don’t pass information, especially bad news, down the organization because they are trying to protect their people.  Not passing down the information is being opaque, not transparent.

Isn’t this the opposite of humility?  Who are we to think we know best on how to protect employees?  Deciding what is best for others, doesn’t see like a humble thing to do to me.

Humble leaders are transparent with what is going on in the company, whether it is bad news or good news.  A humble leader doesn’t try to protect employees by hiding information but tries to protect them by being open and honest.

I don’t believe humility and transparency independent of each other.  A leader can be transparent and have no humility, but a leader can not show humility without being transparent.  Transparency can be an indicator of a humble leader.  And humility is a quality we look for in leaders from a lean perspective.

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Think Technology Last in Process Design

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

At the conference there were a few software companies that presented keynote speeches (IBM, CCI, and AspenTech) and breakout sessions (AT&T, Vecco International, and Llamasoft).  During these sessions I heard a lot of the right things.  They would explain that technology is not a silver bullet that will solve a companies problems.  Technology enables a process.  It isn’t the process.  Organizations should put in technology only after it has established a process.  In fact, Shekar Natarajan, from Pepsi Bottling Group, was asked what Pepsi did differently to win a national award for technology implementation.  His reply was, “We considered technology last.”

It was said that a technology company should not sell a more advanced solution than what the client needs.  Sometimes the client may not truly understand their options and want more than they are ready for, but the technology company should’t sell them that advanced solution because it will cause more problems.

Right on, right?

While I agree with what is said, that is not what I am seeing in practice.  Why is this?  I can think of two root causes for this: metrics and ignorance.

I am assuming the sales team has metrics that drive them to sell such as revenue generated or number of new clients.  In my experience, sales teams are happy to sell the client whatever solution they want whether they need it or not.  I assume they are afraid of losing a sale if they tell a client they need something less or the smaller sale will make the numbers harder to reach their metrics.

What about a metric for the sales team that has to do with the ease of implementation?  Or customer satisfaction with the technology installed?

Second is ignorance.  Ignorance by the company buying the technology.  The company may think they know what they need based on their paradigms.  In reality they are just covering up a symptom and not digging to the root cause of their issues.

It could be ignorance of the technology company, also.  The people speaking at the conference are Vice Presidents and Directors.  Maybe they don’t know what is actually happening in the field.  Maybe they haven’t directly observed the behaviors and interactions at the client.

Whatever the case, what is said and what I have observed is not matching.  Technology can be a great enabler if we put it in the proper context.

OpsInsight Forum

Last week I attended the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.  Here is the link to the website.  It was a two day conference addressing trends, opportunities, and thought leaders in operations.  Topics ranged from lean to logistics to software options.

It was a very good conference.  It was small.  Only about 80 attendees.  I found that I liked the small group because it allowed for good conversation even during the keynote speakers.

I plan to post some more of my thoughts and reflections from the conference over the next week or so.  Obviously, all will be connected to lean, but on subjects like software implementation, innovation, as well as other topics.

Overall, it was a very positive experience.