Monthly Archives: July 2015

Where is your hidden zone?

Where is your hidden zone?

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire at Lauras International

Four eggs in egg cups

During a recent management training course I was asked if an individual should focus on improving their weaknesses first or developing their strengths. It’s a bit like ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’

You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your weakness is something you need to use in your day to day life, being your weakest link is probably having a significant effect on your overall effectiveness. Our strengths, on the other hand, form part of our Unique Selling Point (USP). Continually developing our USP to ensure it remains unique is important, isn’t it?

We all prefer to work on what we enjoy and what we enjoy is almost always something we find relatively easy or we are good at it. Investing in your weakness, therefore, is likely to be more time consuming, more frustrating and will require more effort.

There is no straight answer but what is clear, our first task is to understand ourselves not only from our perspective, but from the perspective of others. We all have ‘hidden’ zones, things people see in us that we are blissfully unaware of. For example, jangling change in your pocket, or saying ‘Umm’ repeatedly during presentations. Once we truly understand our strengths and weaknesses we can make an informed decision on what to invest our time and effort in, and can look for alternatives to help. One of the best ways to overcome our weaknesses is to work with someone who has that as their strength, learning from them. An alternative may be to delegate or even outsource a task that require us to use our weakness.

In truth we will need to develop both our strengths and weaknesses but for the most efficient outcome we not only have to fully understand ourselves, but also the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. Need help with your chicken and egg? We can help you build your unique development plan then work with you to excel.

For more on our Aspire coaching and mentoring programmes for Front Line Managers, get in touch.

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Slay your “Corridor of Uncertainty”

Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, Lauras Internationalcricket_image

I was watching the recent Test Match between England and Australia when Ricky Ponting, the ex-Captain of Australian National Cricket, was being interviewed about his experiences as an international cricketer. The interviewer enquired about the biggest changes Ponting had witnessed during his career. He explained that he had started his playing career during the Semi-professional era of the Nineties, through the Professional era and latterly into the Ultra-professional era. What did he mean by this, the interviewer asked…?

With the increase in the number of TV cameras at matches and the proliferation of companies providing data and statistics on all elements of the game, Ponting explained it has become increasingly common for teams to use this data to identify the weaknesses of opponents. With this information teams have been able to develop more effective tactics to defeat an opponent and thus make their path to success more likely. As a consequence, individual players have had to focus their attention more and more effectively on their own areas for improvement, reinventing themselves each year in the face of fierce competition so that they are able to survive and succeed at the pinnacle of their profession.

Having worked in both the food and drink markets, I know from experience how important it is for businesses to use their scarce resources wisely. In the competitive market places that we all operate in, no-one can afford to waste valuable resources on areas that are not priorities. We must deliver sustained improvement in our operations if we are to deliver long-term success.

Like the international cricketers, it is vital that we capture detailed information about our priority areas so that we can recognise areas of strength but also areas for improvement, e.g. once we have identified the bottleneck of a process we can begin to capture data about how effectively it runs. Using simple data capture sheets and proven analytical techniques it is possible to identify the biggest causes of lost production, be it speed, downtime, or quality related. Now we are able to select suitable methodologies and people to deliver the identified improvements. By implementing solutions that are effective for a hundred years we are able to then move onto the next biggest problem without needing to return to the original issue. As we deliver improvement upon improvement our performance begins to accelerate and we develop a culture of success in which our people and business are able to realise their full potential.

Like the international cricketers we have a decision to make. Do we want to rise to the challenges of an increasingly competitive market-place and become recognised for excellence, seizing the initiative and striving for improvement. Or do we stand still and ultimately no-one remembers us?

5 ways to identify opportunity

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

Taking cost out of your manufacturing operation so that your unit can stay competitive will help you win your contracts again when they come up for tender – but how do you know what is the right amount of cost to take out, and from where?

Here are 5 ways to identify opportunities to take cost out:

1. Make sure your plan covers all 3 areas of major spend.

Direct Labour, Raw Materials and Packaging, and Overheads are the 3 major areas of manufacturing spend.  Your manufacturing ‘Overhead’ spend is probably mostly on Engineering, Salaries, and Energy. Does you plan cover all these areas, or are you missing a whole area of opportunity?

2. Measure your plans against ‘True’.
Your standards were useful for the costed submission that won your factory the work last time – but they’re no good for knowing what you can do in the future. Ensure you have an opportunity matrix that identifies opportunity against maximum run speed of the bottleneck, not the standard speed.  Don’t fool yourself that you’re doing well if you have a positive material variance, when the standard allows for 8% waste.

3. Set the right technology benchmarks.
You’re never going to achieve 100% – unless you haven’t followed point 2. So what is possible? 75%-98% depending on what technologies you are using. Could you achieve 98% with a technology change?

4. Understand how much of the gap you can close. 
40% in the first year is possible.  Have you allocated the resource to get you there? Is your improvement team skilled and efficient and able to close the gap?

5. Align capital plans and non-capital plans.
Invest your capital allowance for improvement in equipment that is going to increase the bottleneck rates or reduce headcount.  Investing in replacing performing equipment is simply trying to run away from root-cause problem solving, and increasing your depreciation to simply stay still in terms of unit cost – which could leave you in a nasty place in the future.   

 

Check out this video to see how we help FMCGs identify Improvement Opportunities with an onsite assessment.