A Great Question: Why?

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“Why” is a great question. Do you wonder why? The answer is simple: it puts things into context. It shows the future and sets the stage for people to understand the reason or purpose for their actions.

Take metrics for example. Many companies develop metrics because it seems like the right thing to do. They usually develop them by deciding how much – how much inventory, how much profit, how much overtime – but they rarely set them in the context of the ends they are trying to achieve.

First ask yourself “why?” It sets the reason for having metrics. What behaviors are you trying to change or encourage? What strategy are you trying to support?

Next time you are trying to improve almost anything, the first question to ask yourself is not “how much” but “why?”

© 2019 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Be Succinct

I recently saw a blog post that discussed taking notes electronically, on an iPad, rather than on paper in order to reduce handling and administration. I tried that approach a few years ago, but I’ve now found that a simple 3 by 5 note card is even more effective for several reasons.

First, I walk around manufacturing and distribution facilities a lot, and often see things that I want to remember. Carry an electronic note taking platform and trying to actually take the notes can be problematic, but writing down a brief memory-jogger type of note on the card allows me to act on the observation when I’m ready to deal with it.

Second, I tend to restrict my note taking to only those points that drive objectives and change. Even in my interviews with executives during my projects, instead of trying to capture every word, I write down only those points that are highly relevant to the issue at hand. I find now that I’m much more efficient, and more importantly, I remain in the moment and actually hear those few important points that can lead to major improvement.

Stay in the moment, focus on objectives and key points, and only write down those things that really drive change.

© 2017 – Rick Pay – Al Rights Reserved


The Sooner You Start…

…the sooner you get results. Many companies have great plans, ideas or desire to improve, but they put it off. Often when they make plans, they over analyze and set time frames way out into the future (e.g., five years).

When they are considering making changes in the organization or using outside resources such as consultants, they often say something like, we need to wait for our sales to increase, or our cash flow to improve, or for better staff availability and so on. What happens is that any benefit they might achieve from the changes is delayed. What they don’t realize is that the competition is not waiting.

Why Wait?

Time and money are both a matter of priority. Companies have all the time there is, and the money or budget is simply a matter of prioritizing the results. If a project or other expenditure has a high return on investment, why wait?

I mentor consultants, and often hear consultants say that while they want to grow their practice, they think they’ll wait three months, or until they get the next project, or some other reason for delaying. What I find is that my fees are often paid back multiple times within the first couple of weeks of the mentoring relationship. Why postpone the opportunity for success and increased profit, especially when competitors are frequently moving forward with great enthusiasm? I suspect this has to do with low self-confidence, especially when they see that moving ahead has a high ROI.

The Time is Now

Many executives, managers and consultants fall into the trap of procrastination. If you have the opportunity for success, no matter the type or circumstances, don’t wait! Make it a priority. The time to take advantage of high ROI is now. The sooner you start, the sooner you get results.

© 2016 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Help…My Business is Doing Well!

Success can be the kiss of death for businesses. Many businesses suffer from what I call “profit disease” – sales are growing, profits are good, but often that’s when they become complacent. Things are so good (compared to the past) that executives begin to believe they are smarter than their competitors, or even invincible. There’s a law of physics that will bring them back to reality: the second law of thermodynamics.

Commonly known as the law of entropy, the second law says that when left alone, systems will decline. If you aren’t continuously trying to improve your business and reach for innovative approaches, your business will decline. Keep in mind, your competitors are probably trying to improve, and even if you’re currently out front, they can still pass you by.

Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel said, “We all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. The person who is the star of a previous era is often the last to change… and tends to fall harder than most.”

Avoid the fall. Seek out innovative thinking and change agents that will continue to drive you forward and upward…and stay ahead of the competition.

© 2014 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Can Quality and Continuous Improvement Get Along?

One of the main drivers of the quality revolution in the 1990s was the term, “Do It Right The First Time.” The concept was that quality was built into products and processes and that we should eliminate the need for re-work. At the same time, continuous improvement taught us to be accepting of mistakes, so long as they served as a foundation for learning and improvement through root cause and corrective action.

Are these two concepts incongruent? Not at all. Doing things right the first time doesn’t just happen – it’s part of the evolution of continuous improvement. The goal of doing things right the first time drives improvement so problems don’t reoccur. Quality should always be the highest goal, because without it your customers will go elsewhere…and then the rest doesn’t matter.

© 2014 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Without Discipline, It Won’t Happen

We all know we need to lose weight, stop smoking, write more or make improvements in our businesses. In many cases we even know how to do it, yet we never seem to get it done. Why? Simply, we don’t have the discipline to carry it through. Actually doing it is the hard part and best intentions are not sufficient.

So, how do we develop discipline? There are four steps:

  1. Set clear objectives – this is often the “vision” or target state describing where you want to end up. For instance, you may want to lose weight, but put a number to it, for example, 25 pounds this year, or 10 pounds by Christmas. Notice not only the amount, but also a deadline. You can make it a stretch goal, but make it achievable or you won’t follow through.
  2. Develop a plan – decide how you are going to approach the process in a way that is engaging. If you hate going to the gym, maybe walking in the forest would help you persevere. If you don’t like the small meals provided by some weight loss programs, you may prefer an Atkins or Mediterranean approach. To look at this in a business setting, if employees don’t want to remove waste to help the company, maybe they would do so if it would make their jobs easier.
  3. Do it regularly – and most importantly, put it in your calendar. Set aside a regular time for it. If you go to the gym, perhaps 7:00 AM every other day, or if you want to write more, perhaps the first hour in the morning. Regular short times are much better than infrequent longer times. Schedule it and it will be come a habit.
  4. Measure the results – weigh yourself regularly. Track the number of articles or blog posts you write each week. Measuring becomes its own reward and shows that you’re making progress.

Most of all, don’t give up. Things often get worse before they get better, so give it some time to start showing results. Then as the changes become habits, you will enjoy the new you and reap the rewards of your efforts.

© 2011- Rick Pay – Al Rights Reserved

Be Proactive

If you want to be successful at just about anything, whether it be marketing, supplier management, cost reduction, revenue improvement, or innovation, it helps to know the situation and understand the details. Let’s take supplier management for example. For many companies, materials are the largest expense. Yet many materials professionals issue purchase orders to the low cost supplier and fail to follow up to see if the materials actually arrive. Supplier management is loose at best.

Know What You Want

There are three vital areas to knowing the situation and the details in supplier management. First, you have to know what you want. This involves clear specifications, expectations for performance in quality, delivery and cost, and knowing the supplier’s capability. Even knowing who the top suppliers are is a challenge for some companies.

As part of my supply chain evaluations, I analyze the supplier base using a descending year to date payments report. During the final presentation I ask executives who their top five suppliers are and you would be surprised how often they don’t know. That is knowing the details.

Measure It

Measuring supplier performance is the second key. For top suppliers, performance should be measured monthly on the metrics of delivery on time, quality, cost reduction and other subjective factors such as how easy it is to clear up invoice issues. I have often found that not only do companies not know how their suppliers are performing, but often the suppliers themselves don’t know either.

Sharing Information

This brings me to the third point which is communication. Internally, communication is comprised of clear specifications, clear expectations, and clear feedback. Externally, suppliers need to not only get their performance report, but quarterly review sessions should be held with top suppliers to review performance, new opportunities, cost and lead-time reduction activities, etc. In addition, annual supplier meetings should inform suppliers of planned new products and other opportunities for them to grow their business serving your company.

To improve supplier performance and relationships, know the situation and dig into the details. What you find may surprise you and save the company a lot of money.

© Rick Pay 2011 – All Rights Reserved

An Action Imperative View of Leadership

There is no shortage of articles on what makes a great leader, and most focus either on innate personality traits such as maintaining high ethical standards, having strong personal discipline, and essentially being a person that others want to emulate, or practical behaviors like leading by example and demanding quality results. Other ideas that crop up in the leadership literature include difficult-to-define ideals such as the ability to motivate others and the ability to exemplify a personal or corporate vision.

Taking an Action Imperative view on leadership, the following ideas are the most relevant. We can call these three key points vision, innovation, and relentless improvement.

  • Effective leaders focus on the big picture, understand their vision and set goals to reach it. They carry out those goals themselves while ensuring that others do the same, using objective performance indicators.
  • Good leaders encourage risk-taking and innovation, but expect real results, not just idle experimentation. They delegate and empower others by giving them responsibility and the freedom to carry out their work in the way they choose.
  • Excellent leaders keep everyone moving forward by setting new and higher goals for themselves and their organizations rather than resting on their laurels and maintaining the status quo.

© 2011 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Authors: Paige McKinney, Rick Pay