How Do Sound Processes Save Money?

Over the weekend I bought a Hampton Bay Ceiling Fan Light Kit from Home Depot. The colors of the finishes in the bedroom where the ceiling fan is located are all some sort of antique brass. The metal finish colors intentionally don’t match in the room. I didn’t want to spend life hours searching for the exact shade of antique brass so I decided to go with an eclectic look that would hopefully, thoughtfully coordinate.Hampton Bay 2-Light Ceiling Fan Light Kit

My previous experience when buying products with finishes is there will be a hand-drawn check mark in black marker, checking off the box that indicated whether the finish color was () white () antique brass () polished brass () black or () satin nickel.

I saw the colors listed on the box but no black check mark. “Uh oh”, I thought, “which color will it be?” I opened the box. From past experience purchasing products with the hand drawn check black marker checkmark, the color marked on the box and the color inside did not match requiring a drive back to Home Depot.

I found that all the finishes were included. This took a few seconds to comprehend, it was so odd and different from my previous experiences. Not quite believing it I looked back at the box to see which finish was indicated to be in the box. I confirmed they all were included. Wow, this solution gives me lots of options. I can change the color if and when I choose to. If the antique brass color is not quite right, I can make an in-the-moment decision to choose another finish. There’s minimal risk my finish will not be included in the box, saving me time and minimizing frustration.

Here’s my guess on how this process improvement occurred:

  • someone listened to the customers who complained they didn’t like the finishes, or they were wasting time exchanging mismatched boxes, or the finish they wanted wasn’t available. Someone listened.
  • Someone listened to Home Depot, the distribution channel, that was receiving complaints and other feedback. Someone listened.
  • Someone measured:
    • the time and cost it took to physically mark the box with a black marker
    • the savings of minimizing the labor to mark the box and the expense of procuring the markers
    • the cost of having product taking up shelf space because the finish color was not the desired color
    • the cost of re-stocking when the finish color was not right
    • the cost of dissatisfied customers
    • the cost of monitoring which trends in light kit finishes would sell
    • the cost of damaging relationships with distributors

Someone calculated the cost of:

  • including four finishes in each box

Someone asked if the cost if the increased cost of including four finishes was justified in hard dollar cost savings, minimized consumer complaints, maximized consumer satisfaction, strengthened the relationship with the distribution channels and would be the manifestation of the brand they want to be known for.

My guess is that including all four finishes does accomplish all those things. However, Hampton Bay can’t stop now, they need to keep asking . . . and listening.

Education vs. Learning

I recently took a course in renewable energy at NYU. As I signed up for the course I received 20 or so emails containing different promotional announcements. After the first email which provided the details of the course, I did not open the remaining 19 or so messages. This is unfortunate for me as one of the emails contained the syllabus that listed the pre-reading for the course. I received that email the day before directly from the instructor. I spent the entire day consuming hundreds of pages of data. This oversight was my error, I just didn’t have the time to filter through the emails to determine which ones were relevant to me and which emails contained information that I might want to review at some time.

It was also announced in one of the unread emails that NYU would be changing their certification course program, eliminating certifications now calling the courses Career Advancement Courses. I loved it. After one or two courses I would have enough information and connections in the any given field to pursue my interest in that field. If I want to or if it’s necessary I can pursue an advanced degree in this discipline. As is true with any change, many students did not value the certification and many were disappointed that the certifications was being eliminated.

Gift vintage certificate / diploma / award border template in vector

I congratulate NYU for taking this bold move. If a university the caliber of NYU has the courage to make such a decision, others will follow. That’s impressive leadership. NYU made this decision by evaluating the data of students that took their courses. They learned most took one or two courses but did not complete the certification. Non-certification courses are also less expensive and more accessible to a wider audience. The goal of the courses is career advancement, so they decided to call the classes what they are: career advancement courses.

As I work on large, complex transformations business architects assess the resources of: People, Processes, Technology and Information. (PPTI) When evaluating the resources of the People we have today and the talent we need to implement a transformation, education and certifications can become a barrier. The current staff, while functioning adequately, may not have the required education. If they are not functioning sufficiently and need to develop new skills quickly the time it takes to earn a certification or advanced degree is just not agile enough for the goals of the project or to remain competitive. The available talent pool may not have the required formal education but might have transferable skills.

When we do find the talent that meets all criteria they may not want to do the tedious work that is necessary as it may be vastly different to the reward and experiences they had in academia. Compensation may not be available to adequately counterbalance the investment the student has made in their education. While the candidates may have the education required, they may not have the skill further delaying progress.

There is a gap.

Victor Saad created his own solution to the large investment in education and the lack of guaranteed employment as result of the education in the Leap Year Project. This is not an accredited program yet but I hope one day it will be. Mr. Saad is sharing his process with the creation of the Experience Institute.

Why do we now rely so much on education and certifications? My view is it is the path of least resistance. When hundreds maybe thousands of resumes are received for a position it’s easy to electronically cull the universe and make it more manageable by dismissing any resume that does not have the required education. It also, on the surface, relieves the responsibility of hiring managers and leaders of critically assessing talent and being accountable for their results.

What talent are we not considering by relying on education alone? Those over the age of 50 that have had long-term careers? Those that have worked in non-competing industries in similar functions? Veterans that have skill, discipline and leadership skills that are needed but don’t easily translate? Those educated outside of the country that have the skill but their education is not accepted in the US?

It would require time, leadership, communication skills and critical thinking to evaluate the current and potential resources of People.

Some will argue with me that there are laws that prohibit them from considering other talent and they cannot incur the legal risk. This is sometimes true but not always true. My opinion is we do not allocate enough time to hire talent. Once we do hire, we are reluctant to have uncomfortable conversations and invest in those we recruited so diligently.

If we recognize the accurate amount of time it takes to recruit and to develop people as well as having the courage to have uncomfortable conversations; we will readily identify we are surrounded by a pool of potential talent.

Leadership

I gained a deeper understanding of Leadership while working on an assignment at a financial services company that serves the military and members of the military community. Like many people I thought Leadership means that the person in the corner office does the right thing for the benefit of the organization’s mission and for all, while giving clear direction. I thought Leadership meant that Leader had personal integrity and could be trusted. I learned the military professes we are all Leaders. We demonstrate our Leadership every day in our actions, our decisions, and our interactions. In today’s competitive, ambiguous, fluid and transparent world personal Leadership skills are increasingly important.

 

As a consultant, there are times, when I’m asked to weigh in, in confidence, on the behaviors of those I work with. I take the responsibility seriously and give my answers thoughtfully and carefully. I know that my answers have the power to help the person we are discussing succeed or can sometimes even influence their exit. I personally believe that every person comes to work every day to give the greatest contribution that they can. If, for some reason, they are not doing the right things, they have not been given the proper direction or support. They may be working with broken processes. When I’m giving tough love to clients I’ll tell them “you get what you build”. If your employees are cynical and not contributing to their best ability –” you built that.” If your employees are motivated, engaged, and contribute beyond your expectations, “you built that too.” If you want different behaviors, you must conduct some critical self-assessment and ask yourself what you and your organization can do differently.

 

A manager brought me in his office to ask about one of the employees I was assigned to work with. The employee did not acknowledge my emails, if he showed up for meetings he showed up late. He was often un-prepared and un-informed although this employee was pleasant, knowledgeable and well-liked.

 

Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

 

“Alicia, what do you think of John? Is he pulling his weight on this project?” (I hear the subtext here, the manager is not asking an exploring question, he’s leading me to validate his opinion the employee is not pulling his weight)
My response, “John is very bright, he has a lot to contribute, I do, however, think he can work on his leadership skills.”
The manager leans forward, not expecting this answer. “John’s not the leader on the project.”
I reply, “True, however he’s an important team member. Emails are often not consistently answered in a timely manner, if at all. He does not regularly attend meetings. If he’s absent from meetings, he does not send a delegate or ask for meeting notes. His input is critical. We won’t be successful without him. By raising the bar on this behavior, we will run a more efficient project and manage resources more effectively.”

 

The manager leans back in his chair with a new awareness and is now armed with information to better help his team member achieve greater success, through improved leadership skills.

 

We are all leaders. We demonstrate it every day in all we do.