By Theresa Heitman
I worked in “Corporate America” for 30 years of my career. I actually liked working in this environment as I have found there are more resources available for personal development. I am curious and love to learn, so this works well for me. However, one big drawback to working in “Corporate America” is that the talents of the employees who are not located at headquarters are not fully utilized.
My experience in two different companies is that it was challenging to communicate with the people at headquarters due to the separation by distance. Without strong communication systems, ideas and information flow were inhibited. I believe that the communication challenges led to headquarters being interested in transferring people to their office where communication was easier. Not being able to transfer to headquarters often reduced your opportunities for advancement and robbed the company of the contributions you might have made.
Working at a remote site was always challenging when it came to communication. We had conference calls from the beginning, but they were nothing like being able to be in the same room. Many dollars and personal travel time were spent to have face to face meetings. This was hard on remote workers because they were the ones that almost always had to travel. Statements were even made such as, “We need everyone to be at headquarters because the real communication happens in the hallways!” Yikes! Is this really the system! With both companies it became very clear that if you were not transferrable (eventually to HQ), your career advancement was limited.
As a remote worker, I was very frustrated with not being “in the know”. I suggested many times that we design a communication system to connect remote workers to be able to contribute more. Since these types of decisions are made at HQ and this would not be an easy task, there was very little effort directed to this need. When I was the only employee on the team that wasn’t at HQ, I experienced the feeling of not really being part of the team anymore. After 12 years of employment, this ultimately led to a decision to leave the company.
Along comes Covid 19. Now, most everyone is (or was) working remotely. Covid 19 really leveled the playing field when it comes to remote working. It suddenly didn’t matter if you were at HQ or Portland, OR. Everyone was in the same boat. What a great opportunity for people to get creative about how to keep everyone connected! I certainly hope that the focus we have today on inclusive communication and accommodating remote workers is retained in our organizations. Out of crisis comes great creativity! Here’s to capitalizing on all ideas and talent in your organization. It’s worth the effort!
What improvement model should I pick?
This is one of the top questions I am asked. As the creator of The DMAIC Way®, I am a little biased. The best answer is really based on a few questions:
1) Why are you picking an improvement model?
2) What are you looking to accomplish by picking an improvement model?
If your answer to these questions is “because my competitors are doing it,” “my customer says I have to,” “to save money,” etc., then my response is typically, pick any of them….in the end it won’t change much. While all of these are good reasons and make sense from a business perspective – ideally the goal is to learn and get better.
Whether you select Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, PDCA, PDSA, or The DMAIC Way®, it is the thinking process that you are after.
What is our situation? à what put us in this situation? à what are we going to do to get to a different situation?
This is the thinking process that brings improvement methods to life.
By Scott Burgmeyer
How can you become a memorable leader in a positive way? This is a great question especially when looking at engagement data and the connection to your leadership. Some tactics you can use to truly be memorable:
Using these 7 methods can boost engagement, build leadership capacity, and have an overall positive impact on your team. Try them and reflect on how you are doing…then keep getting better.
Building culture is one of the most important things leaders do. The key is whether the leader builds the culture on purpose or by accident.
When building a culture of improvement, 6 key steps can get you there:
Using these 6 steps, you can build a culture of improvement.
A thought leader is an individual or organization that is recognized as an authority in a specialization. This typically leads to that individual or organization being sought after to share their knowledge, skills, or abilities.
Why does an organization pursue Thought Leadership? From my perspective, there are three core reasons:
1) Be recognized as an expert and share your expertise.
2) Build a brand – being a thought leader allows your brand to be regarded as a top performer in that classification.
3) Add value to your customer: through #1 and #2, you can provide more value to your customers.
As an organization or individual, what would people say is your Thought Leadership?
By Sarah Blakelock
After meeting with dozens of IQC clients, we learned that working with IQC leads organizations to discover new ways of becoming more efficient and effective.
It is a wonderful tradition to make a resolution and break it in the first week!! If you are like me, I have broken several over the years – exercise more, eat healthier, balance work-life, so many that it is a little embarrassing to write about. I do find it to be exciting this time of year to think back over the year…where we have come from and where we are going next.
In late 2019, the IQC Board of Directors asked if I would be interested in serving in the role of Executive Director of IQC. Honored to be considered, I began digging in. I reflected on being a long-time customer of IQC and I wanted to ensure that we could provide other individuals and organizations the journey of learning and growth I had experienced.
I spent the next few months talking with board members, current clients, past clients, and staff to understand what makes IQC special AND in what areas IQC can improve. Starting in the 4Q of 2019, we identified the strategic direction for IQC and with the full support of the Board of Directors, began a great journey in 2020. Some of the key items we accomplished include:
Despite the pandemic, pivoting to nearly 100% virtual courses and several other major changes - I am immensely proud of what the team has accomplished in one short year.
As I look toward the future – in the near term, we have several new things coming in 2021 – new courses, expanding our website, and connecting with our fellow Iowans in new and unique ways.
We also have several amazing projects going on behind the scenes that I am excited to share with you soon.
I look forward to our opportunity to journey together. Onward to 2021!
It is that time of year when we celebrate and reflect upon various aspects of our life. 2020 may feel different –we see countless reminders of how unique, odd, rare (and many other descriptors) 2020 was. We learned many things this year – going virtual, being bolder by telling your boss – “I think you are on mute,” (or secretly wishing they would stay on mute). This year I have experienced things I never thought I would in my lifetime.
Thinking back on 2020, I want to celebrate a few things:
1. Forced Innovation – all the change brought upon organizations in a short time forced teams to manage innovation and change in a way never seen before. I hope we are able to manage that ability to change in the future paired with more planful timing to execute the change. That would be amazing for organizations to experience.
2. Growing and Nurturing Talent – I have been lucky in 2020 to have had the opportunity to meet, hire, and grow some amazing talent with IQC. When I see what has been accomplished over the last year, what the team is focused on now, and where we are going – I am lucky to have such a great team.
3. Creating New Traditions – working through the changes and with new talent over this year, I reinforced some traditions that I knew before. With #1 & #2 above, I learned that if you provide a direction and vision, give people permission, and get out of the way, they will do amazing things. Yes, this is a teaser for my New Year’s blog reflecting on the innovations and changes we implemented in 2020.
As you finish preparations for your holidays – what are you going to celebrate? Maybe you will start a new tradition, maybe you will continue with the traditions you have carried out for years.
In any case, spend time with those you care about, enjoy the time together, and give thanks for making it through a tough and unique year.
To learn more about the experience that people have had with IQC, I interviewed with dozens of IQC clients. During this process, I learned a lot about what IQC does, and how it impacts organizations. I also discovered a few consistent patterns in the feedback I was receiving. One of those is that people appreciate and find value in IQC’s commitment to understanding their organization’s needs and aligning solutions to meet those needs.
Find out more about this case study here
By Katie Freeman
When creating a brand-new production or assembly process, many things are looked at and studied to create the best capacity possible. Organizations consider what and how much equipment they will need, design jigs and fixtures to help mistake proof the process, define the order of operations, and determine what competencies are needed to perform the work.
Once the process is up and running and consistently producing quality product, it is generally not revisited unless there is a quality issue or a request for changes from the customer. Without an inciting event necessitating an examination of the performance level or capacity of the process, the process can, over time, become stagnant.
But is that a bad thing? Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?
There are many good reasons to occasionally revisit how a process is structured. One of those reasons is something manufacturers everywhere are currently dealing with, a reduction in work force due to COVID-19. Manufacturers find themselves in a position where they need to continue to meet the needs and demands of their customers while not operating with a full staff.
So, what do you do if you no longer have what is considered the ideal number of people to make the production processes continue to run as they always have? You can always throw money at it, buy more machines, put in some robots, or try to ramp up hiring. But there is another possible solution, to re-evaluate the current order of operations to see if there is a way to maintain the same level of production with fewer people.
An organization in Cedar Rapids found themselves facing this exact issue. They have an assembly line that is normally staffed with ten operators to meet the production needs of their customer. However, since the onset of COVID-19, they have been forced to staff the assembly line with only seven operators, which has delivered a huge hit to their part production numbers.
At first, the operations manager thought the solution was to create a specialized fixture or perhaps even purchase some specialized equipment to increase the production level at the presumed bottleneck of the process. However, after spending just a half day observing the line, they noticed a few things:
After the observation time, they made some simple changes in what tasks were assigned to which steps (also known as level loading), how parts were brought to and staggered at the line, and the roles of the people at the start and end of the line. These changes required absolutely no money. They implemented them within an hour and conducted some trial runs. The trial runs showed that these small and simple changes could increase productivity back to the level required by the customer, while maintaining fewer people on the line. An unexpected benefit was when they realized that they can grow capacity in the future by duplicating the new line set up while utilizing ten operators.
This organization reviewed this process because it was necessary in order to meet the demands of the customer. However, the operations manager admitted that he wished they would have reviewed the process years ago because that would have helped them put staffing in other places that needed it more.
The moral of the story is to take the time to review your processes regularly, even if there is no “need” to do so, because you never know what you will find!
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