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

Pawn Sacrifice

Recently I saw the movie Pawn Sacrifice, the story of Bobby Fischer’s epic 1972 chess match with the Russian World Champion Grand Master Boris Spassky. I grew up during that period and remember the match because it was considered to be a sporting spectacle (as only chess can be!) and because of the political implications of a Russia vs. America contest.

One of the things I found most interesting was how both players (and all good chess players) could visualize their moves in advance, seeing five to eight moves ahead of where they were. In one scene Bobby Fischer makes a move and Spassky stares at the board, breaks into a smile and stands to applaud Fischer, knowing that Fischer’s move would lead to victory.

In business, the ability to visualize results is key to success. Having a framework that lays out strategy and next steps for your people and helps them see where you’re going (and why) creates the foundation for success. Do you have a framework for success? Do your people know where you’re going and why? Help them visualize your next moves.

© 2016 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved


It’s Not Whether You’re Picked, it’s What You Make of It

I remember in grade school playing sand lot baseball or football with my friends. We’d select sides by picking two captains who would alternately select their teams. It was hard when you ended up being one of the last people chosen and it was tempting to sulk and not play your best.

Aiden Schneider graduated from Grant High school in Portland, Oregon and wasn’t sought by any Division One colleges for football, so he walked on at the University of Oregon and became the Ducks’ placekicker. After his sophomore year, he was given a full scholarship because he’s now one of the most accurate kickers in Football Bowl Subdivision, kicking 62 of 62 extra points and 20 of 22 field goals.

It’s not whether you’re selected, but what you do that counts. In my college ROTC days we learned about an officer who was assigned to the base cafeteria. He could have sulked and performed poorly, but he rose to the occasion and built one of the best cafeterias in the Air Force. He was rapidly promoted and he handled every command he was given with the same dedication.

As leaders, always lead to the best of your ability, regardless of the assignment. Time passes quickly and you’ll be given new and better chances to lead and grow if you make the most of your opportunities. Great leaders attain the results needed to accelerate profit and growth.

© 2016 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved



Inputs vs. Outcomes

In her article, Is The Billable Hour Obsolete, Leigh McMullan Abramson writes about how law firms are beginning to move from the billable hour model to one of fixed fees. She mentions that the “power has shifted away from law firms and toward clients.” Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

As a consultant, I know my role is to improve the client’s condition. In so doing I’m fairly compensated for the value I provide, but the whole arrangement is about the client.

But there’s an even bigger issue here. Professionals and management should focus on the outcomes, not inputs. Executives in companies are paid for results, not activity, and billable hours are the epitome of activity. The client doesn’t care what the inputs are, they want results – and fast. The concept of billable hours puts the professional’s best interest at odds with the client’s. The professional wants to charge as many hours as possible to increase their income, while the client wants a solution quickly. One could argue that this puts the professional in an ethical dilemma – whose best interests should come first?

In business, executives should look at results, both financial and non-financial, to measure performance. I remember one company president who told me he was disappointed that there were so few cars in the parking lot at 6pm. I asked, “Who’s the better employee, someone who can get something done in one hour or someone who can get it done in 10 hours?” I propose that if there are a lot of cars in the parking lot after 6pm, something is wrong.

Focus on results and outcomes, not inputs and billable hours. Whether you’re a professional or an executive, results are the keystone to improved profitability and growth.

© 2015 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Are You Passionate About Your Business?

I recently visited Grand Teton National Park and the Wind River Range to the east. This area was frequented by the mountain men in the 1820s and 30s for trapping. The fur trade was a major part of the US economy at the time, providing furs for men’s hats, among other things (think Lincoln’s stove pipe hat), and for export to Europe.

The mountain men faced a number of challenges including bears, loneliness, cold, starvation, and so on. It was a tough life and many didn’t last very long. What I found most interesting in the materials I read at the park visitors’ center was that most of the mountain men weren’t in it for the money; they did it for the beautiful environment, the adventure, the freedom and individuality, and the camaraderie of annual rendezvous where they traded their furs for supplies to get through the next season.

What makes you passionate about your business (other than profit)? Does it bring you camaraderie, challenge and fulfillment? Passion yields better results (not to mention more enjoyable days) than duty or obligation. If you spend a significant part of your life on something, let it be as fulfilling as the wilderness was to the mountain men.

© 2015 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Higher Purpose

Why do so many Lean implementations leave executives with an empty feeling? I’ve spoken to a number of people in various types of organizations over the past few months who’ve been trying to implement Lean, and it hasn’t produced the sustained results they’d hoped for. They’re not alone; according to several surveys, Lean “fails” as much as 70% of the time.

For Lean to provide rich, long-lasting results, it needs to have a higher purpose. That can be growth, profitability, cash flow, innovation, or cultural enhancement. Lean can’t be successful if it’s just another tool to improve productivity. It needs a context or framework: the higher purpose.

Does your company have a higher purpose framework that provides context for Lean and other improvement methods? If not, you may find that in a couple of years your company’s Lean performance is declining. Define your higher purpose first, and then determine which tools and techniques to use to get there.

© 2015 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Focus On Process

One of my favorite television shows is CBS Sunday Morning. I like it because it shows a series of short stories about people, places and events you might not see anywhere else. Recently they had a story about Matthew McConaughey, the award-winning actor. When asked how he acts, he responded that he focuses on the process, not the result.

Businesses should consider that approach as well. Many businesses focus on results only to find that they come up short. Great process produces great results. As you develop your new processes, you need to be sure they in fact produce the results you are looking for, so measurement and accountability are key to success. But too much focus on the result will often end up sub-optimizing or totally missing the results you strive for.

Think of an athletic team that has a game plan that gave them a solid lead going into the fourth quarter. Then they change to “protect” their lead (the result) only to have the other team come back to win the game. Does your team focus too much on results only to fall short? How are you developing great process?

© 2014 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

It’s Usually Not The People

My sage mentor Alan Weiss always says, “don’t assume the client is damaged.” Many times when companies are looking to solve problems, they fall into the trap of incorrect assumptions like these:

  • The people are the problem
  • If the people would just follow the standards, the process would work just fine
  • People make mistakes, don’t work hard, and cause low productivity, quality problems and late orders

What I find is that those people problems are often the effects of the issue, and the real root cause lies elsewhere.

A common issue in process and productivity improvement is that companies assume the effect is equal to the cause. A useful tool to be sure you are dealing with causes is “5 Why.” Ask “why?” five times to determine if you have gotten to root cause and to be sure you’re focusing your efforts on permanent solutions to problems rather that short term bandages. Visit the resources/tools section of my website to see 5 Why in action.

Most of the time it’s not the people, it’s the process. When we avoid assuming that the people are damaged, we can solve the real root cause of problems and get sustainable results.

© 2013 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Operations Discipline

I am developing a new area of thought I call Operations Discipline. This area of thought comprises those elements required to most efficiently and effectively execute the key aspects of manufacturing, distribution and service operations. Operations Discipline includes the elements of systems/processes, constructs/rules and behavior/accountability. These elements are all within a framework of continuous improvement.

A strong culture of Operations Discipline results in a highly profitable operation with strong customer service and effective use of assets such as inventory. Weak Operations Discipline results in not only the antithesis of the above, but also low morale.

There is another similarly named area of thought called Operational Discipline, but it tends to focus more on safety and environmental issues particularly in process industries. Operations Discipline deals at a much more strategic level, affecting the very culture of an organization and its ability to carry out its mission. I will be writing more on the elements of Operations Discipline in future postings.

Operations Discipline

© 2010 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Operations Discipline – Water Slowly Boiling!

There is an old story that if you drop a frog into boiling water he will jump out. But if you put the frog into cold water and turn up the heat, he will slowly cook to death. While somewhat gruesome, that is an apt description of what happens when organizations lack Operations Discipline. They slowly die due to increased costs, increased inventory, employee frustration and weak customer service.

So, what is operations discipline? It is the willingness to create and follow processes/rules and hold people accountable for performing them. In lean speak, it includes standard work. In standard work, each process is defined and performed the same way every time. This takes randomness out of the process which improves quality and provides a foundation for continuous improvement.

Recently I have seen a number of companies whose culture does not hold people accountable for following process. Things as simple as having standard part number structures are either non-existent or are not enforced. The result is excessive part numbers, increased inventory, increased costs, increased obsolescence and other things that look like the frog slowly cooking. Turn the heat off – implement operations discipline.

© 2010 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved