A Strategic Approach To Problem Solving

If one regards the Plan as “doing the right thing” the execution of the plan is “doing things right”. It's vital as a manager that one is capable of distinguishing between the two, particularly when it comes to an analysis of why your enterprise is not performing to expectations. I view the development and execution…

If one regards the Plan as “doing the right thing” the execution of the plan is “doing things right”. It's vital as a manager that one is capable of distinguishing between the two, particularly when it comes to an analysis of why your enterprise is not performing to expectations.

I view the development and execution of a strategic plan as analogous to the construction and operation of a wagon wheel. A wagon wheel has four basic components – a hub, spokes, a wooden wheel rim and an outer metal band that forms the contact between the wheel and the surface upon which it is rolling.

This what we are going to do

The hub represents “this is what we are going to do”. It combines the markets that the enterprise elects to serve, now and in the future, the products and services that it provides to these selected markets, the activities that the enterprise carries out to provide those product and services, a competitive strategy – the game plan – and the identification of its competitive advantage, something that makes it different and better than its closest competitors.

This is how we are going to do it

The wooden wheel rim represents the Support Functions, every function with the exception of HR and Finance that is needed by the organization to implement the hub – this is what we are going to do. It is separated from – but at the same time connected to – the hub by the spokes.

Each of the five components of the hub are considered in turn and the question being raised for each component is “what are the implication on every Support Function of providing products and services to the selected markets, using this competitive strategy and exploiting this competitive advantage” ? Once the responses to these questions have been agreed, the enterprise is in a position to assess the impact of the Support Functions on the two key Enabling Functions of HR – people – and Finance – money. Without people and money, no plan can be implemented.

The initial Action Plan

The enterprise is now in a position to develop an initial Action Plan – the equivalent of mounting our finished wagon wheel on an axle prior to operating it. Remember that strategic plans are developed from above but implemented from below. And the five key requirements for effective execution are

  1. organizational alignment,
  2. management of change,
  3. leadership,
  4. teams and teamwork and
  5. employee engagement

PLUS f. communication – the grease on the axle that keeps the wheel rolling with the minimum of resistance.

When planning and implementation is separated into these three components, a strategic approach to problem solving is now possible. The process begins by identifying the cause of the problem through the use of established techniques such as 5 Why, Fishbone diagrams, Mind mapping or suchlike.

Having neglected the cause or causes, one can begin the process of categorization beginning with the Execution requirements. If the cause is associated with poor alignment, inability to manage change or low engagement levels, then this is a problem associated with “doing things right” not “doing the right thing”.

Furthermore, because each of the five key requirements for effective execution is dependent on the factors that preceded it, management knows that it can not address an absence of teamwork without first addressing deficiencies in those factors that come before it.

If the problem is associated with a lack of organizational alignment that leads to uncertainty about the goals and people's roles in achieving them, then this is a problem associated with planning but still one of “doing things right”.

If the cause of the below par performance is associated with one of the Support or Enabling Functions, be it Sales, Distribution, Pricing, Information systems, Operations, HR or Finance etc, one has to determine whether the origin of the problem is within the power of the enterprise to correct or totally outside the enterprise's ability to influence. If the former, the solution may be a combination of “doing the right thing” and “doing things right”.

The belief that strategic plans , once formulated, are immutable is an outdated one. The goal might remain the same but the organization needs to be responsive to wind changes and make the necessary course corrections. And as an engineering friend of mine says – it's easier to change direction when you are moving than when you are standing still.

Developing the hub of the plan involves making certain assumptions – there will be no major change in exchange rates or no new major direct competitors will enter the market or that finance will be available at a certain interest rate. But what if the cause of the performance being below expectations is that an assumption made at the time of the strategic plan's formulation no longer holds true? What's more – it's a factor over which you have no influence. In these circumstances, you have no alternative but to revise the hub of the plan to account for this particular development. To solely focus on “doing things right” is a recipe for failure because if you are not “doing the right thing” how well you do it is immaterial.

A celebrated example of the need to review the hub of the plan happened to Virgin Australia in 2001 when Ansett collapsed and left Virgin to inherit one half of the aviation duopoly with Qantas. Being the third LCC (low cost carrier) focusing on the leisure market was no longer a tenable long term strategy.

Of course, it's rare that an enterprise's fortunes, good or bad, can be attributed to a single cause. More likely there is a combination of reasons for the change in performance. But they have to lie in three broad areas. If it's in the area of ​​execution, then the answer is to do better what you already do – “do things right”. If the problem lies in the Support and Enabling Functions, it is likely to be a combination of “doing the right thing” and “doing things right”. If the cause is traced right back to the hub of the plan, then each component of the hub requires reassessment to make sure the organization continues to “do the right thing”.

Taking the time to adopt a strategic approach to problem solving will result in much greater clarity of analysis and shorten the odds that the cause will be addressed rather than the symptoms.

If It Is To Be It’s Up To Me And The Company Is Me! A Talk As We Set Goals

How every moment is a chance to increase your and your company's success! In the past, you did not have to have much concern about the company you worked for or if you were an owner or stockholder, concern for the people that worked for you. In general, over the past 70 years, it has…

How every moment is a chance to increase your and your company's success!

In the past, you did not have to have much concern about the company you worked for or if you were an owner or stockholder, concern for the people that worked for you. In general, over the past 70 years, it has been rather easy to succeed here in the United States. Our country was, during that time, the absolute number one economic power. We had very little competition here or through the world. Demand for products and services were back then constantly increasing. You really did not have too be concerned about the quality of product or service you provided.

Demand was so high you could afford to loose a customer or two because others kept on coming in. As we all know, times have changed. We are in a service economy rather then manufacturing economy. Through deregulation we have seen many companies buying each other out and the smaller independents becoming more and more of a rare breed. Those with high paying jobs cling to them because these jobs have been reduced by the millions and new ones are at the Wall Marts or McDonalds. Most of the new jobs created have little or no benefits. They tend to be part time, unpredictable and unstable. The US, instead of being the world's absolute economic power is now one of a number of economic powers. All of this you've heard, and have obviously been concerned about.

Now you, me and this company as a whole face two paths we can take in facing an unpredictable future. The first path is the old path of conflict and blame that our ancientors actively participated in. We can blame someone else or organization for our troubles. We can focus on things with an attitude of “what's in it for me.” As owners, we have at our hands the option of using the times to really push fear motivation with a message “improve or else.” We can push fear motivation and take an attitude that people are replaceable. Or as employees, we can leave the organization and blame our problems on the wealthy or dumb bosses and trying our luck finding a better job. One can see this with the politicians to see a whole lot of this blaming and positioning going on with much viciousness.

This path creates nothing but conflict, chaos and disorder within the organization and in our society. Yet there is another path, a path that is much harder to travel, but as we walk on it, it benefits not just one person, but each of us together. Following this path leads us to a world of security, and growth. The path provides growth in income for us, our families and our company. The name of this road less traveled is IF IT IS TO BE IT'S UP TO ME! And that THE COMPANY IS ME! IF IT IS TO BE ITS UP TO ME means is taking personal responsibility for your success and the company's success. It means allowing you to set individual goals for the company's improvement. It also means a commitment solving your own problems rather then waiting for someone else to solve them. It is recognizing that the only one responsible for our future success is us, because we are the company.

No one can help us but us. No outside forces can be expected to help us so we must help ourselves.
THE COMPANY IS ME ME that that each of us has a large stake in this company. When our company succeeds, we succeed. We share the victory and gain the thrill of self-improvement. When we move the company forward with our thoughts, ideas and actions the company moves forward as does our security and future. IF IT IS TO BE IT'S UP TO ME THE COMPANY IS ME MEANS that in order for each of us to continue improve the strength of the company each of us must commit to taking personal responsibility on our own continuing success and make commitments to do that on an ongoing basis. To do is, instead of putting the blame at others for our unhappiness we must point the mirror in our own face. Asking: “Were can I improve.

What part can I play in making this company lasts on, even after I am gone?

We do this, together, not only for our own individual gain but also for the community in which we live. Believe in the company and that it does a lot better job for our family, friends and neighbors then a faceless multicultural would ever do.

If each of us has goals we are working on to continuously improve ourselves, our company will move forward at a rapid rate. We have no idea what the economy will be doing in the future. What we do know is that we are here together, in a company with unlimited power and future. Let's make that first step now in setting our plan to UNLEASH THE POWER OF our company. In committing to take the attitude that IF IT IS TO BE, ITS UP TO ME AND THE COMPANY IS ME there will be no one that can stop us and nothing we can not accomplish since they are united together taking total responsibility for our own success. LET'S DO IT NOW!

Implementing Strategic Plans

The five requirements for successful strategy implementation are as follows: Organisational Alignment Management of Change Leadership Teams & Teamwork Employee Engagement Organisational Alignment Barrier to success – There are different views on where the organization is “now” and this has claimed in varying levels of commitment to the implementation of the Plan The order is…

The five requirements for successful strategy implementation are as follows:

  • Organisational Alignment
  • Management of Change
  • Leadership
  • Teams & Teamwork
  • Employee Engagement

Organisational Alignment

Barrier to success – There are different views on where the organization is “now” and this has claimed in varying levels of commitment to the implementation of the Plan

The order is critical since each of these five factors is dependent on the ones that precede it. That being the case, what – you may ask – is Organizational Alignment dependent on? That's dependent on the quality of the planning. It may seem an obvious distinction but whereas planning is all about the analysis of environments, markets, products, IT, functions and processes, implementation is all about people.

If you make a machine redundant, it does not have to find another job to feed its family. If you install a new software package, the computer does not need to be given the reasons for the change. If you move your manufacturing offshore, no industrial action will be taken by the weaving looms that suddenly find themselves out of work. And this is perhaps why organizations often handle execution so poorly.

The management team is so fixated on finding a cerebral solution to the challenges facing the organization that they neglect the human mental, physical and emotional factors involved in the Plan's implementation.

Organizational Alignment may defined as follows:

  • Everyone understands where the organization is now
  • Everyone understands the destination and the journey
  • Everyone understands their role in getting there

Here is the process by which a plan is developed is just as important as the plan itself.

Management of Change

Barrier to success – Management adopted the attitude of – do it or else – there was no consultation, no feedback, nothing!

Research has shown that 70% of people prefer the status quo but will change given a good enough reason to do so. That's a high percentage, particularly in the light of the fact that of the remaining 30%, only 5 – 10% will actively resist change.

In order to achieve alignment, those charged with the responsibility for execution of the Plan will have already been involved in determining what changes are required and will be familiar with the rational behind those changes. However, this is still not enough to execute change. Before one can manage it, one has to understand change and one of the best models for understanding change is Claes Janssen's “Four Rooms of Change®”.

With the understanding imparted by Janssen's model, one can then manage change – not by forcing change upon the organization – the do it or else approach – but by decreasing the resistance to change. Again we have a model of how to implement such an approach – the concept of Force Field analysis developed by Kurt Lewin.

As for the 5% – 10% who remain resistant to change the amount to which they impede the changes required depends on their position of influence and authority within the organization. Perhaps surprisingly, they are more likely to come from the upper echelons of management since in so many cases where change is necessary to execute the Plan, the people at the top of the management hierarchy believe they have most to lose. If such people do not leave their own own accord, their employment must be terminated.

Leadership

Barrier to success – Strong leadership at the top is not mirrored by good leadership at lower management levels – the pressure to mange “things” leaves no time to lead people

Despite the millions of words that have been written and spoken about Leadership; despite the DVD's and the training programs, I believe that the standard of leadership has fallen. Management knows what to do but too many just pay lip service to what leadership is all about. Leadership is a selfless exercise and good leadership takes time – two requirements that are in short supply in most organizations these days.

Simply because leadership is lacking, there has been an upsurge in leadership programs but for the participants in such programs to successfully implement what they have learned, there needs to be a strong sense of Organizational Alignment and an understanding of what changes are necessary to execute the Plan and how such change should be managed. Leadership behaviors need to be encouraged and the manager's ability to manage his or her reports should be given the same prominence as his or her ability to manage the “technical aspects” of the job.

Teams & Teamwork

Barrier to success – Our organization has embroidered the concept of teams and teamwork but their establishment was seen as an end in itself rather than a means to an end

Teams and Teamwork is another area that has proved very fruitful for consultants and trainers alike. But repeatedly the emphasis is on interpersonal relations, conflict resolution, active listening, assertiveness and the like whereas the fundamentals of Teams and Teamwork are a team purpose and goals that are aligned with the purpose and goals of the organization as a whole and a structure that sets out clearly the role that each team member plays in the achievement of the team goals.

Research has shown that the most effective catalyst for team development is a “significant performance challenge” where teams are seen as a means to an end and where teams simply represent the “way we do things around here”.

Employee Engagement

Barrier to success – The general view among employees was that their knowledge, feelings, needs, aspirations were being ignored by senior management

Employee Engagement is in last place because it's the most dependent variable of the five. If the structure and realism of the plan and the process of planning results in Organizational Alignment; if the organization knows what changes are required and how to manage them; if Leadership is practiced at all levels of the organization; if the raison d'être for Teams and Teamwork is a “significant performance challenge” then one can almost guarantee that employees will be engaged – that their emotional connection to their employer is such that it will result in greater discretionary effort.

The converse is also true. It is impossible to engender Employee Engagement in an organization where Organizational Alignment is lacking, Change is poorly managed, Leadership is non-existent and Teams and Teamwork are seen as an end in themselves rather than the means of achieving significant performance challenges.

If you take the “O” in Organizational, the “M” in Management and the “E” in Change; if you take the “LE” in Leadership and the two “T's” in Teams & Teamwork, and finally the “E” in Employee, what do you get? OMELETTE of course. That's a pretty handy mnemonic for not only does it act as a memory hook but it also acts as a metaphor for great execution – its impact is far greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

What You Permit, You Promote

In the business world, culture is an important thing that we spend a great deal of time talking about. Every company has a culture. We hear things about successful businesses and the credit they give to the culture they have in place. They have shared to the public what makes their company successful, but they…

In the business world, culture is an important thing that we spend a great deal of time talking about. Every company has a culture. We hear things about successful businesses and the credit they give to the culture they have in place. They have shared to the public what makes their company successful, but they may not be as open with the measures they have in place to ensure these aspects are part of the company.

They are not being covert, but there is only so much about your internal training process that you want to share with the general public. In fact, many businesses go to great lengths to keep their training and techniques a secret. That is not why we are talking about them. We are talking about them because they have successful practices that have helped the company progress and reach goals.

When companies have a system in place to generate ideas, keep focus on important areas and innovation, they get great ideas from employees, have employees that are focused on important areas and are able to bring innovations to their roles and to the company as a whole .

This is not only a policy, it is a system. It is a series of steps that continue to bring activities and results that help the company. The exact steps, while important to the process within each company, are not as important to us as outsiders looking at the concept. What is important to us is the fact that the process is in place and more importantly, the results that come from this process.

When a company puts a process in place, they get results that directly correlate with the actions that their employees are taking. The actions depend on the area of ​​focus. The area of ​​focus depends on the desired outcomes. Each company has desired outcomes. What they do to see those outcomes coming to be reality is simple: They create a system.

As a system gets up and running, your company identifies those actions that need to be taken. You see what actions employees need to do. You also see what actions will lead to problems. If an action leads to problems in the system or bring results that do not meet the desired outcomes measure, they are specifically called out and said to be unacceptable or even against company policy.

This is has been going on since the beginning of business. The company handbook is full of acceptable and unacceptable actions that are all spelled out for each and every member of the company. They are clear, simple and to the point. When you look at any part of business, you see clear expectations and clear instructions on what to do … and what not to do. These are spelled out because your company knows that if an action is detrimental to the company, it should not be done and it certainly should not be repeated. This is where a policy or specific training is required to ensure compliance and continued improvement to get actions in line with desired outcomes.

In healthcare, we are not seeing many desired outcomes. Health is declining while costs are increasing each year. Businesses are struggling to wrap their heads around the process as it just keeps getting more and more costly to provide care. The biggest problem is the health that is leading to the increased need and therefore increased costs as claims outpace premiums year after year.

The solution is to improve health. The best way for companies to improve employee health is to treat their healthcare plan as a system in the business. Health is nothing more than a series of actions. When employees engage in healthy behaviors, these are simply actions that lead to desired outcomes for your company. When employees are engaged in unhealthy behaviors, these actions lead to undesired consequences and bigger problems for your business.

Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and lack of exercise are causing problems for all businesses. The companies that create a system to promote healthy behaviors are the ones that are seeing a positive impact and of course desired outcomes. Companies that do not, are simply seeing more and more unhealthy behaviors and the results that come with them. They are not actively supporting unhealthy behavior, but if they are not putting focus on the actions that lead to success, they are supporting the actions that lead to failure. In other words, what you are permit, you promote.

Taking Your Own Business Online

Running a business is rewarding if you know how to do it right. With such a fast-paced market and a high-level of competition, it can be hard to remain successful. This is why you should aim for constant innovation and stay up-to-date with the changes in the marketplace. Consumer behavior is one thing you should…

Running a business is rewarding if you know how to do it right. With such a fast-paced market and a high-level of competition, it can be hard to remain successful. This is why you should aim for constant innovation and stay up-to-date with the changes in the marketplace.

Consumer behavior is one thing you should think about if you want your business to become successful. You have to recognize their changing needs and demands. A clear understanding of what they need should help you design better services or create more suitable products.

It is also important to note that their needs and demands may also change over time. One of the most significant shifts in consumer behavior is the preference to shop on the Internet. With the introduction of computer and the World Wide Web, e-commerce suddenly became the buzzword. It has bought convenience not only for businesses but also for the growing number of consumers. Customers can now buy a product in the comfort of their homes. They do not have to drive to brick-and-mortar stores just to get what they need.

On the topic of convenience, online shopping may also help consumers save huge. Most products offered online are not as expensive as those from stores because there are no overhead costs. In addition, buyers also have the freedom to choose from a wide variety of options from different providers. This gives them a chance to compare the available products and find which one suits the need and their budget.

This trend also changed business practices. Almost all businesses today have websites. This is to reach potential consumers on the web. Websites serve as portals where businesses and their consumers meet. As a result, both parties benefit from faster and more effective means of trading.

There are many things to consider when making a website for your business. One is domain registration . It is the process of securing a website domain such as “http://www.yourwebsite.com.” The first step in the process is finding the right domain name. You may choose a name representing the nature of your business but with millions of registered domains on the web, you will likely find out that the name is already taken. It always has to be unique.

Now, what should you do if your target domain name is taken? Use a lookup tool to know the registration information of the domain and then send the owner a proposal to sell it. This might cost you more but it pays off if you think the domain name will give significant benefits for your business. If that does not work, just think of another name.

Look for a reliable registrar after finding a unique and relevant domain name. It is wise to work with a service provider that will not only register your domain but also include domain hosting in the deal.

This could be the start of bringing more success to your business so make sure to work with the right service providers.

A Simple Tool to Conduct a Team Review Process

Group review and reflection tools ORID is a process used to reflect on a session, meeting or event. It's based on the experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 1984) and is used to encourage participants to process the session (rather than simply summarizing it). O reiter to Objective – What do you remember? Were there any key…

Group review and reflection tools

ORID is a process used to reflect on a session, meeting or event. It's based on the experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 1984) and is used to encourage participants to process the session (rather than simply summarizing it).

O reiter to Objective – What do you remember? Were there any key words for you? What did you do?
R is for Reflective – What did you enjoy? What were the highlights? Where did you have difficulty?
I is for Interpretation – What did you learn? What insights did you have?
D is for Decisional- What can you take back to your workplace? What did you learn here that will be relevant to your job? How can you put this into practice?

Why do we reflect?

Working with a group after a session, the facilitator gathers the participants' reflections. This allows group members to develop and reflect on their shared (as well as their individual) experience and helps each person to understand what happened.

If time is short, you could ask one table or group to take one aspect of ORID, work on it for a few minutes, then have each small group contribute to the whole group reflection. Another alternative is to set up four stations (butchers paper) and rotate four small groups around the whole room. Again, each group contributions.

How Else Can I Use ORID?

As a reflective tool, ORID is often used as a vertical tool to enable participants to evaluate a shared event or session.

ORID can also be thought of as a horizontal tool to enable participants to 'tell their story' over a period of years or decades. This approach is the basis of the “history trip” technique outlined by Marvin Weisbord in his seminal work Discovering Common Ground: How Future Search Conferences Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation, Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action, (Berrett-Koehler 1992) ) and used extensively by Ross Colliver of The Training and Development Group in the 1990's.

How to use this approach

Set up a series of flipchart sheets on whiteboards or a wall, in front of the participant group. Arm yourself with a series of different colored marker pens.

Context the session by explaining to participants that it is important that they are able to 'tell their story' to build support from community members, potential funders or other stakeholders.

Objective

Begin by asking: “When did this all start?”

Seek several responses to ensure that you are getting back to the earliest point (often one person will nominate a date or place and then an older member will say “Oh no, it began much earlier than that, it really started in …) .

When you have some sort of consensus on a starting date, write that date at the top left of the flipchart papers. Prompt the group:

“What was going on then? Who was involved?”
“What happened then?”

Jot down key phrases. Keep moving across the sheets, not a new date or decade as the conversation flows on. Halt the Objective phase just before the present date.

Reflective
Ask participants to look back over the journey and indicate:
“Where were times good?”
“Where were times tough?”

Make a highlight mark on the sheets for highs and lows.

Interpretive
Flow on to asking participants:
“What was really going on here?”
“How would you describe these times?”
“Why was this an important point?”

As the key phrases of meaning start to appear across the journey, look for the graphical pattern or line that connects all these events and summarizes the highs and lows of the journey to date.

Draw this pattern onto the sheets with a bold fluorescent marker.

Allow participants to reflect on their journey.

Decisional
Ask the participants:
“From this history, what is important for us to keep or hold onto?”
“What needs to happen right at this time, as we look forward?”

Create the transition to planning, goal setting or project management by thank participants and setting out the steps for the next session.

What are the benefits of this approach?

It is participatory and engaging because it is about them, not about you;
It provides a respectful role for old timers and elders to tell it as it happened;
It enables newcomers to understand the history and culture of the organization or group;
It is verbal and thus inclusive of people with low literacy levels or cross cultural issues;
It provides a narrative that the group often returns to in future sessions;

How a Just-In-Time Inventory Method Can Boost the Profit of Your Business

If you are still chasing to increase the profit margin of your business, do not overlook your inventory management system. The just-in-time inventory method may be what your business needs to boost its profits. Indeed, the ultimate goal of any business is to generate profit. This is accomplished when revenues exceed all the expenses needed…

If you are still chasing to increase the profit margin of your business, do not overlook your inventory management system. The just-in-time inventory method may be what your business needs to boost its profits.

Indeed, the ultimate goal of any business is to generate profit. This is accomplished when revenues exceed all the expenses needed to sustain a business activity. Financial analysts have many ratios at their disposal to measure how well a business is performing. Return on Investment (ROI), defined as the “net income divided by the average of total assets,” is by far the most important ratio used to measure the profitability of a business. The ROI ratio basically measures how much profit a business is able to generate with the assets it has available within a certain operating cycle. If this concept looks strange to you, just imagine two companies, A and B, which manufacture the exact same product. If the only difference between the two companies is that company B needs to utilize more assets to generate the same amount of profit (because it operates more plants for the same production output for example) it becomes clear that company A is more efficient and profitable than company B.

Inventory is an important portion of any business' assets. In the manufacturing industry, inventory is usually divided into three separate segments: raw materials, work-in-process and finished products. Because inventory is often a company's largest asset, the way it is managed can greatly affect a company's return on investment. Generally speaking, with all other things being equal, a company can increase its ROI by keeping its inventory low. Why? Because inventory is an asset item computed in the denominator of the ROI ratio. Any reduction of the denominator will increase the ratio.

The amount of inventory that sits on a company's shelves also affects the company's profitability in other ways. For one, inventory ties up capital that the company can no longer use elsewhere. When raw material is purchased on credit, the company will incur an unnecessary interest expense. Second, excess inventory will also cause an increase in the inventory carrying costs, which are costs associated with holding an inventory. Carrying costs can range between 15% and 25% of the inventory value. It is comprated of storage cost, handling cost, utility costs as well as insurance and taxes to be paid on warehouses. Finally, an inventory can also become obsolese, meaning that the parts held in storage are no longer useful (and salable) if the company decides to manufacture a new line of product in order to keep a competitive edge in the market. Obolete inventory becomes waste which translates into loss to the company.

The just-in-time inventory management is a strategy that was developed by the Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota in the 1970s, where the inventory is kept at a minimum. The objective of a just-in-time inventory is for a company to acquire only the exact amount of raw material needed to manufacture the exact amount of finished goods for direct sale. This inventory management has been summed up as “having the right material, at the right time, at the right place, and in the exact amount.” This inventory management requires that a company maintains long-term relationships with reliable suppliers and maintains a very accurate production and inventory information system. When properly implemented, the just-in-time inventory system will effectively increase a company's return on investment and boost profitability by reducing inventory carrying costs and preventing capital and investment from being tied up in unnecessary assets.

Think You Know the Best Way To Grow Your Business? Think Again

A “SWOT analysis” – where you consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – is a common tool for planning and assessing your business. Most people look at these four areas in that order, but there's a more effective way of working through this process, and it's a powerful way to identify new potential products…

A “SWOT analysis” – where you consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – is a common tool for planning and assessing your business. Most people look at these four areas in that order, but there's a more effective way of working through this process, and it's a powerful way to identify new potential products and services.

Broadly, a SWOT analysis looks at the present (Strengths and Weaknesses) and the future (Opportunities and Threats). This is important, because it allows you to build on what you have while also planning for what is to come. But instead of looking at these in order SWOT, it can be more useful to go through the process in the order STWO.

Let's look at this for identifying potential new products and services you can offer to existing customers and clients.

1. Strengths

Start with your strengths – in other words, the reasons clients currently choose you, your products and services. This could include things like your price, personal service, unique offerings, trusted relationship with you, and so on.

For example, if you're a workshop presenter, you might know clients choose you because you have proven results working with their people in the past. As another example, if you're a financial advisor, your clients may choose you because of your long-term relationship with them.

2. Threats

A typical SWOT analysis now looks at your weaknesses. But to truly understand your weaknesses, you first have to take a glimpse into the future. That's why the next step should be looking at threats – in other words, things that are potential risks to your current position (despite the strengths of that position).

For example, as a workshop presenter, you may realize that Generation Y is a threat. Why? Because Gen Y employees are starting to move into management positions, and they do not want to learn in a typical workshop environment. They expect more interaction, more online features, more participatory learning, and so on.

For the other example: our financial adviser may identify an economic downturn as a threat. Clients may be demanding more from their advisers, not only in terms of their investments but also in the fees they pay for the advice.

When you look at threats, do not stop at the first – most obvious – examples. Dig deeper to identify as many possible threats and risks as possible. If they do not event, that's good news. But if you miss something, it can take you by surprise!

3. Weaknesses

Now that you know the threats, you can identify the corresponding weaknesses. This is simply a matter of asking why each threat is a threat, and that will point to the weakness.

For example, our workshop presenter's weakness is that his presentation style – presenting to a group of people sitting in a room – is out of date. It might have worked – and even was the best in the world – in the past, but it's no longer good enough.

Similarly, our financial adviser may realize she's not demonstrating enough value to her clients, so they resent paying for her advice.

4. Opportunities

Now that you have identified real weaknesses, they now point the way to potential opportunities.

For example, our workshop presenter can look at ways to change the format and style of his presentations – for example, with webinars before and after the presentation, a Facebook group for participants, a video e-mail course delivered directly to their smartphones, and so on.

Our financial advisor can also identify new products and services, and for her it's a matter of demonstrating more value. For example, she could run regular webinars for clients, publish a private blog, deliver ongoing education in quarterly seminars, bring in other experts to talk to clients, and so on.

What opportunities did YOU find?

Apply this version of a SWOT analysis to your current offers, and you're sure to identify some opportunities for growth and expansion. More importantly, you'll be creating new products and services that truly serve your clients and customers.

How to Set Annual Goals That You Will Achieve

Annual goals are a great way to realign your business and personal life every 12 months, and this time of year is the perfect occasion to get you back on track for the achievement that you seek. When done correctly, your annual goals will become the guiding compass for your year, trickling down to your…

Annual goals are a great way to realign your business and personal life every 12 months, and this time of year is the perfect occasion to get you back on track for the achievement that you seek. When done correctly, your annual goals will become the guiding compass for your year, trickling down to your monthly plans and daily actions. At the beginning of each new year, you need to set specific, realistic, annual goals which should originate from your vision and dreams.

So where do you start? Review your vision statement and dream list.

If you have never taken the time to draft a dream list or really convey your vision, it is imperative that you take the time to do this. Think of it as a fun, creative exercise where there are no limits. Use your imagination! Think of things that you have wanted to have, wanted to do, or wanted to be.

After you have completed or revised your dream list, you can move on to your vision statement. This statement should describe in detail a day in your ideal future 5-10 years from today as if it has already been achieved. You should be somewhat realistic, but be wary of limiting your potential. Ideally, your vision statement should be no more than one page long and should evoke strong emotion when you read it. There is something about building your vision statement into a description of a actual day in your life that brings your vision to reality.

Once you have your dream list and vision statement, you are ready to begin crafting your annual goals. Ask yourself what specific goals you can achieve that will move you closer to vision statement and dream list. Keep in mind that your annual goals should be attainable, specific, measurable, tangible, realistic, and have a target date. I recommend that you try and limit yourself to 1 to 5 annual goals since too many goals will distract your focus from the achievement of the most important goals.

Once you have set the goals you want to pursue and decided on your top goals, it is time to put an action plan together. The first part of your action plan is to write out any benefits or losses that you expect from the achievement of your goals. Next, write out any obstacles you might face as well as the solutions to those obstacles. Now you are ready for specific action steps.

For each top annual goal that you have set for yourself, write down the separate action steps necessary to accomplish that goal, making sure that each action step is specific – not vague. Enlist the help of a mentor or trusted colleague to help you fill in the blanks if needed. Each action step should have a target date for completion that gets transferred to the right monthly calendar. This assures that you will be reminded to follow through on your action steps as you make your monthly plans. In the same way, your daily actions should support your monthly plans, thereby bringing you closer to your goals, dreams, and vision for yourself each and every day! You will find yourself transforming from a just a goal setter into someone who, through the fulfillment of specific annual goals, is becoming a goal achiever.

How to Know When to Expand Facilitation Skills

Facilitating group seminars requires a basic set of abilities, such as the ability to plan and execute an agenda, remain integral to the group's conversation, summarize key points at the right times, and manage time to keep the session headed towards a positive conclusion. Depending on their area of ​​proficiency, though, organizers also need specific…

Facilitating group seminars requires a basic set of abilities, such as the ability to plan and execute an agenda, remain integral to the group's conversation, summarize key points at the right times, and manage time to keep the session headed towards a positive conclusion. Depending on their area of ​​proficiency, though, organizers also need specific expertise. If considering expanding a company's service focuses to the disciplines below, also consider expanding the training skills through meetings training.

Strategic Planning. Every company makes strategic plans, which makes strategic planning facilitation one of the most sought after services around. To help businesses form effective strategic plans, the phases of the planning process need to be learned. These phases include the mission and objectives, environmental scanning, strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and evaluation and control – and how to navigate around setbacks and difficulties during the session to keep it on track.

Action Planning. Many companies have an action planning session before they embark on a project. As with strategic planning, action planning has a set process: defining the mission, gathering the data, eliminating success factors, establishing goals, establishing objectives, and solidifying a plan of action. If there is a lack of experience with the action planning process, meetings training that focuses on action planning will give the company the required skills.

Executive Retreats. Executive retreats have various purposes. Some are characterized by fun and games in the wake of a successful project (with a few business seminaries thrown in for good measure), while others serve as a way for executives to regroup their efforts to solve pressing business issues. The type of facilitation skills a business needs depends on the type of retreat gathersings it oversees. Learning to perform the other types of assistance on this list will prepare companies to oversee certain types of sessions at executive retreats.

Vision and Values. Sessions that focus on vision and values ​​may sound simplistic, but they often require subjective, abstract thinking from businesspeople that are used to thinking objectively. Whether a vision and values ​​session focuses on restating the vision and values ​​of the company, or extending them to a particular project, businesses must know how to help the group outline what the organization wants to be (the vision), and define the beliefs of the stakeholders of the organization (the values).

Conflict Resolution. Conflict resolution is perhaps the most difficult type of facilitation, as the facilitator often arrives at a point when productive communication among group members has broken down. Thankfully, conflict resolution has a four-step process (other steps may be included as well) that yields positive results: clarifying perceptions, defending individual and shared needs, generating options, and arriving at mutual agreements. Conflict resolution preparation will help businesses apply these steps through the facilitation process.

Conclusion

As long as they acquire the right facilitation skills, organizers can expand the focus of their services to any number weaknesses, including the ones above. If businesses need to acquire additional knowledge about group simplification, contact a provider of meetings training for facilitators today.

Choosing the Right Facilitation Training Course

Meeting facilitation is a broad discipline that includes different specialties and skill levels. For those who plan to make a career out of facilitation, identifying the right facilitation training course to pursue specialization or advance to the next skill level is the first step to success. If planning to advance a career as a facilitator…

Meeting facilitation is a broad discipline that includes different specialties and skill levels. For those who plan to make a career out of facilitation, identifying the right facilitation training course to pursue specialization or advance to the next skill level is the first step to success. If planning to advance a career as a facilitator through training courses, consider the points below.

Professional Experience. Not all facilitators use their job experience for facilitation assignments, but catering to a set of clientele who need assistance in an area of ​​professional expertise can put one's services in high demand. It may also help one perform some of the basic functions of facilitation, such as summarizing key points and guiding the session to a positive conclusion. If a facilitator has a professional experience in an area such as IT or business planning, it could become one of their greatest strengths as a facilitator.

Demand for a Skill Set. Some skills are inevitably moreought after than others are. For example, because every company engages in strategic planning, facilitation for strategic planning sessions remains in high demand. Every skill set is relevant to a large number of companies and organizations, but specializing in a skill set that is in high demand may improve a professional's earnings, reduce the need for additional skills, and affect where they must travel to find work.

Level of Advance. Meeting facilitation is often described as having three levels: basic, developmental, and advanced. At the basic level, facilitators help the client resolve a particular need, such as the need for a business plan. At the developmental level, they help the client improve a process, such as the strategic planning process. At the advanced level, facilitators help the client resolve complex issues such as conflict among group members. Because each level requires more advanced skills than the previous one, it is wise to train for the levels in success.

Combined Specialties. Using a facilitation training course to combine complementary specialties is a smart career move. For example, strategic planning and goal setting often go hand in hand, as do conflict resolution and mediation. Although having a diverse skill set is valuable, too, building a skill set that revolves around a general area of ​​expertise, such as planning or consensus building, is a viable way to become highly desirable in a particular area of ​​facilitation.

Experience of the Trainer. If planning to serve a particular segment of clients, such as companies in the IT industry, studying with a trainer who has direct experience in the industry is helpful. Such a person can go beyond the academies of facilitation and help professionals understand the finer nuances of working in the chosen area.

Conclusion

Meeting facilitation is a multifaceted discipline that incorporates several specialties and skill levels. The specialties and skills that facilitators acquire – and where they acquire them from – have a significant impact on their career. If planning to expand a career by attending a facilitator training course, consider the points above to assist in making the decision.

Consulting Skills Training: Key Skills Every Consultant Needs

For many professionals, relocating from their chosen career into a consulting career that draws on the knowledge of the former is an attractive option. After years of learning the ins and outs of their industry and area of ​​expertise, many professionals are in a good position to provide advice to companies that need executive guidance…

For many professionals, relocating from their chosen career into a consulting career that draws on the knowledge of the former is an attractive option. After years of learning the ins and outs of their industry and area of ​​expertise, many professionals are in a good position to provide advice to companies that need executive guidance – and are paid handsomely for providing it. Before they develop a client roster, though, potential consultants should receive consulting skills training to learn attributes that they may not have acquired in their previous profession, and strengthen ones that they already possess.

If planning on leveraging work experience into a consulting gig, below is a list of qualities that should be acquired, or strengthened, before doing so; a Group facilitation service is one place to do this.

Human interaction. Many people lead long, successful careers without possessing legitimate people skills. That is because some professions do not require a high level of personal interaction, either with clients nor collections. For consultants, however, human interaction is a constant necessity. As a consultant, the professional will spend a significant amount of face time listening to companies' issues and offering feedback on how to address them. If the professional is a natural people person, the most important qualities will already be accepted.

Active Listening. Although a person who interacted well with people would seem to be a good active listener, this is not always the case. Some people excel at giving speeches but he ears that that seem to be for decorative purposes only. The problem, of course, is that no one thinks that he or she is a bad listener, whether he or she is or not. Consequently, anyone who plans to be a consultant should take a training skills training course that deals with active listening.

Facilitation Ability. Some consultants also work as facilitators, and vice versa. If planning on diversifying a skill set by including facilitation among one's services, be sure to receive group facilitation training from a qualified provider. Some providers of facilitation classes also offer courses in consulting, as the two disciplines require one to possess many of the same abilities.

Reasoning Ability. Some past career tests may have measured the logical reasoning ability. While the level of logic involved in business consulting does not require professionals to hold court with Aristotle or Kurt Gödel, they should be able to figure out solutions that meet the needs and needs of the client using logic. To brush up on this reasoning ability, one do not need to head back to college for a logic class. Simply take a consulting skills training course instead.

Conclusion

Consulting is a natural career choice for many professionals after they finish their formal career. To make a smooth transition, though, prospective consultants should acquire the qualities listed above from a provider of group facilitation services. Depending on the area of ​​engagement, more specific qualities may be required as well.

Pathways to a Dental Practice Purchase – Proceed With Confidence!

Most practice sales are immediate sales. The owner transfers complete ownership to a purchaser and, after a short transition, leaves the practice. There is also a growing trend towards structured or delayed sales leading to complete or fractional ownership (partnership) after a period of association. Delayed sales add a layer of complexity, and accordingly, require…

Most practice sales are immediate sales. The owner transfers complete ownership to a purchaser and, after a short transition, leaves the practice. There is also a growing trend towards structured or delayed sales leading to complete or fractional ownership (partnership) after a period of association. Delayed sales add a layer of complexity, and accordingly, require a greater amount of preparation and exchange of information.

More than one prospective purchaser has entered a practice as an associate without a clear understanding of the terms of the future buy-out / buy-in. Unfortunately, negotiating purchasing terms after the period of association often ends in failure. After investing significant time in the practice and likely signing a restrictive covenant to not compete, the associate of future is suddenly in jeopardy. This can be avoided by sharing information early in the process.

Regardless of whether it is immediate or a delayed sale, a prospective buyer should expect to be furnished with preliminary practice information including the applicable business points for the intended association, purchase, and partnership.

Practice Information

The preliminary information should include, but is not limited to, the following:

Practice assessment. Regardless of whether you plan to purchase the practice immediately or in the future, the first step is to have a qualified party perform a practice appraisal.

Cash flow analysis. The practice must be able to generate enough cash flow after operating expenses to service the debt associated with financing the purchase and still provide a reasonable income. The projected income should be supported by historical practice numbers and not unrealistic future projections.

Fee evaluation. Determine whether the fees are in line for the area.

New patient numbers. An indicator of practice vitality.

Three years of practice financial records (tax returns and financial statements). This is essential to obtain an accurate picture of the practice's financial performance, including overhead and profit.

Patient chart audit. Verify the number of active patients and the number of patients on recall. Charts should have complete treatment entries, current patient information, and easily discernible treatment plans.

Facility evaluation. Is the décor up-to-date? Is the dental equipment in good condition or in need of replacement?

Lease evaluation. Examine the lease terms compared to the surrounding market. A lender will require a lease for at least the length of the note if third party financing is involved.

Treatment mix. Does specialized treatment combine a significant portion of the practice? Are you trained to provide this treatment?

Payer mix. Carefully evaluate all sources of income and any insurance plans in which the practice participates. Can these plans be transferred?

Recall. Ideally, 22 percent or more of the total production in a typical general practice is derived from hygiene production.

Compare major expenses to industry standards. The percentage of total practice income for major expenses (typical general practice): rent 6 to 6.5 percent, lab 8 to 10 percent, dental supplies 6 to 6.5 percent, office supplies 1.5 to 2 percent, and total staff expenses 30 percent or less.

Association Business Points

The following points should be addressed if considering an association:

Practice income. The practice should have the ability to provide an additional dentist's income.

Facility. Be sure the practice facility is large enough to support an additional dentist.

Staff. Be sure you have the total support of the staff.

Business relationship. Define the relationship between the owner / seller and associate / purchaser. The association can be either an employee-employee relationship or an independent contractor relationship.

Termination. Delineate the termination policy. Specify the causes for involuntary termination and the notice period for voluntary termination.

Compensation. Compensation should be clearly defined. Compensation based on a formula is typically a percentage of production or collections that may include a draft against future earnings. Alternatively, compensation may be set up as a base payment plus incentive bonuses. Ask for an illustration of the calculation for compensation.

Service parameters. Define service parameters. Specify whether the associate will devote all professional time to the practice, or whether he or she will work limited days or hours.

Expense allocations. Specify who will be responsible for the cost of professional licenses, dues, continuing education seminars, health insurance, malpractice insurance, benefit plans, dental and office supplies, laboratory expenses, and staff salaries.

Time off. Outline a time off policy. How many days will be allowed for vacation, personal time, or attendance at continuing education seminars? How much advance notice will be required for time off?

Covenants. Agree on any covenants. Restrictive covenants, such as non-disclosure of confidential information and non-compete clauses, are typically included in associate agreements. A non-compete clause may have a different effective date than the associate agreement.

Purchase Business Points

The following points should be addressed if considering a future purchase:

Practice value. It is not enough to know the current practice value if the purchase price will be different in the future. Agree in advance on exactly how the value of the practice will be determined in the future.

Assets. Identify the assets of the practice. All assets of the practice being sold should be identified. Assets excluded from the purchase should also be identified.

Asset allocation. Determine how assets will be allocated. The purchase price must be associated among the assets and reported consistently by both the seller and purchaser. This decision has tax consequences for both parties.

Leased and licensed assets. Determine what assets are leased or licensed. If certain assets such as dental software are leased or licensed, determine whether the leases and licenses are assignable. If there is a fee for transfer, specify who will be responsible for the fee.

Closing and transfer dates. Determine when the closing and transfer will occur. The transfer of physical ownership and control of the practice may take place at the time of closing, or at a specified date in the future. A closing date different from the transfer date is commonly used in a delayed sale.

Accounts receivable. Determine how accounts receivable will be addressed. The accounts receivable may be purchased or retained by the seller.

Covenant not to compete. The seller will be expected to agree to a non-compete agreement containing reasonable time and distance terms.

Partnership Business Points

The following major areas should be addressed if considering a future partnership:

Decision-making authority. When matters arise that require input and approval from partners, they must usually be approved by a predetermined percentage of the owners. Depending on the matter, certain management decisions may require a simple majority, super-majority, or unanimous consent. Matters requiring different voting percentages for approval should be delineated.

Succession planning. What happens if one of you dies, becomes disabled and unable to work, becomes divorced, or decides to retire? Determine in advance the mechanism for the sale of a partner's interest for each situation. It is usually preferable for a buy out at death or permanent disability to be funded by insurance.

Profits and loss distribution. Partners should reach an agreement on how profit and loss will be distributed. Distributions may be made several different ways: pro rate to each partner's production, by ownership percentage, or by combination of the two. Some partners choose to use a detailed expense allocation to each partner's individual revenues to determine each partner's income.

The Greatest Impediment to Change

Effectively managing change is such an important issue in our world today – whether this means changes in your marketplace, changes in the global economy, changes driven by our competition, or changes necessary for your people to continue to be successful. The need for new, higher quality, and more valuable products, services and skills places…

Effectively managing change is such an important issue in our world today – whether this means changes in your marketplace, changes in the global economy, changes driven by our competition, or changes necessary for your people to continue to be successful.

The need for new, higher quality, and more valuable products, services and skills places a premium on effective change. In fact, the need for – and the challenge of – change is so fundamental that if we do not understand it and address it, we're going to have a hard time keeping up and succeeding. This is true for us as individuals and as organizations. Understanding the nature of how human beings function, think, and operate will dramatically change your level of success in these areas.

When you are working on any form of change or innovation, you are likely to run into a wall of resistance. I call this the “The Greatest Impediment to Change.” What do you think the greatest impediment to change is? This is a very important question for leaders, managers and change agents. My claim is this: Our greatest impediment to change is … habit. The way we think, shape our perspectives, and deliver our responses are generally habitually driven. We tend to think, react, and make choices in these certain consistent patterns – automatically.

Do you want to see how this operates at the simplest level of change that we could ask for? Take your hands and interlace your fingers. Once you've done that, notice whether it's your right or left fingers that are on top. Now take them apart and switch your fingers, so that the other fingers are now on top. For me, now it's my left fingers on top when I interlace them. Whenever people have done this for the first time, the typical response is: “it feels very weird, very uncomfortable, or odd.” However, this is about the simplest and least difficult change we could ask someone to make – and it generates a big reaction.

If this is uncomfortable or challenging, consider how you now have to address how to accomplish the kinds of important changes that help people move beyond their habitual responses. You have to reach a new territory of understanding, thinking, and action. Understanding the nature of and the impediments to change are vital to creating successful and sustainable change.

I believe that if you want to be fully human, you have to be able to create far more than one option or choice. If you only have one possible choice, you are completely stuck. If you only have two options, you have got a dilemma. Every truly high functioning human being – and leader – should be able to generate at least three choices when confronting a situation. Be careful when your habits and habitual responses are limiting your choices. It is absolutely critical to become a resourceful in your ability to generate high value options as a successful leader of change and service provider.

Stop and ask, “What are the limiting habits in my life and organization?” Watch those habits, and observe when and how you and your people get stuck in habitual patterns of reacting, limiting perspective, and / or focus in ways that limit the options available – and your ability to make and to effect lead change.

Learn to facilitate that level of observation about what stands in your way – and in the way of your clients, teams, and people and your path to becoming their indispensable partner in success just got much shorter – and much faster.

Until next time, Steve Lishansky

How to Grow Your Business With a Bad Credit Equipment Finance

There are times that businesses face difficulties with their finances resulting in bad credit. A bad credit history restricts your chances of approval for equipment finance regardless if the equipment will help improve business profits. Traditional lending institutions like banks may deny you the loan you need. But there are specialized loan companies who can…

There are times that businesses face difficulties with their finances resulting in bad credit. A bad credit history restricts your chances of approval for equipment finance regardless if the equipment will help improve business profits.

Traditional lending institutions like banks may deny you the loan you need. But there are specialized loan companies who can look beyond your bad credit. These lending institutions can give you a second chance at availing the equipment you need to grow your business by offering poor credit equipment finance.

Bad Credit Equipment Finance for Growing Businesses

Equipment Financing is short-term loans (about 3-5 years) extended to businesses specifically to purchase the equipment needed for its operations. Equipment financing is a collateral loan which means that the equipment you purchased could be repossessed in case payments go into default. Since the loan is released with a collateral, lending companies view it as low risk and may offer a lower rate of interest compared to a standard loan.

To qualify for an equipment loan, one must have a credit score of at least 600, being in business for at least 11 months, and generate around $ 100,000 in revenue. If you have a bad credit but meet the other two requirements, there is still a chance for you to avail of a finance. It really depends on the lender's assessment of your financial situation.

Equipment financing is an alternative for start-up and small businesses for growth and development especially for those who do not have sufficient capital to fund their purchase. And if you have a poor to bad credit score, being granted an equipment financing gives you the chance to improve your credit score.

How to improve your chances of approval for equipment financing permanently bad credit

You can increase your chances of an approval for equipment finance. By making ways to improve your credit standing and strengthen your application to lenders, there is a fair chance that loan companies will consider your loan application. Below are ways to strengthen your application.

1. Apply with a cosigner with good credit standing. Lenders can consider your application if you are applying with someone who has a better credit standing. The cosigner can provide security for the loan considering that the consignor has equivalent obligations as the borrower.

2. Present other assets for collateral. If you have other assets such as other types of equipment or even real estate property, you can offer it as a collateral. It strengthens your application to secure the loan.

3. Bigger down payments. Do you have enough cash to put as down payment to significantly lower your total loan amount? If you are able to present larger down payments, lenders may consider you a candidate for poor credit equipment finance.

4. Proof to show business is growing strong. Provide documents like bank statements showing a good return for the past months. Lenders like to see a growing steady business, therefore, it is essential to provide income statements and other documents to support your claim.

Seek professional help. With bad credit, lenders will give you a hard time acquiring a loan. They may even deny the loan immediately after checking your credit score. But with proper assistance from loan experts, you can increase your chance of getting the right lender who can look beyond your bad credit.