If you have ever been to Hawaii, you know that everyone (at least those of us on vacation) makes time to watch the sunset. As the sun begins falling, people start making their way to the beach. During our honeymoon over 15 year ago, my husband and I witnessed people blowing into conch shells in honor of the sunset.
A few years ago, I read that the most beautiful things in life are boring. I remember being very disturbed by that comment. But, upon further reflection, I have to concede it is true. Think about what you consider beautiful in life: a sunset, the mountains, friendships, or even a healthy marriage.
Our lives have been completely transformed since Covid-19. I have spent less time traveling, less time with friends, and a whole lot more time at home. I asked my husband when the shelter-in-place started if we would still like each other when this was over. After mulling it over for a few hours, he said yes. (I’m still curious why it took him so long to answer?!)
For most of us, life (pre-Covid) was full of activities and busyness: work, sports, friends, meetings. But I wonder to what end? Were we running from something? Are we afraid of what we might find when we slow down? Think about it: how many of those activities seem to have lost their importance now that we can’t participate in them?
Whatever the answer, we have been forced to slow down and face a slower daily pace.
I believe this has allowed us to find a new rhythm to life. And without all the distractions, we can now find the beauty in it. Yes, most of us have had to face some challenges, including adjusting to work from home, home/remote learning, or even the loss of our jobs or shuttered businesses. But those things don’t stop the rhythm of life. They simply alter it.
The same can be said for our businesses. A successful business settles into a rhythm that produces a consistent outcome on a daily basis. There is nothing exciting about cars rolling off an assembly line, properties being bought or sold, or metal being poured (although I have to say that for me, watching metal being poured never gets boring). The point is that successful companies have figured out how to produce their product in a consistent way. This approach may be contrary to our society’s habits, as we tend to value the output, and not the discipline behind the output.
The same principle applies to successful people. They have figured out what needs to happen on a consistent basis in order to reach their goals. In his book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield writes that “we have a right only to our labor, not the fruits of our labor.” We just need to show up and do the work. Since the work is different for everyone and every business, you need to identify what your work is, and then do it consistently, every day.
If you find that your business or personnel aren’t creating the output you desire, I’d love to help you. Together we can instill a rhythm into your daily practices and put you on the path to creating something beautiful.
On Mother’s Day eve, I became a chicken mama. Our friends brought over two hens and three chicks and put them in my chicken coop.
On Mother’s Day morning, we opened up the chicken coop door and out came five very scared chickens.
By that evening, however, we had less than five chickens.
Here is the daily morning count of our chickens: 5, 4, 3, 4, 0, 5, 0, 0, 5, 0, 5, 5, 0, 5.
Here is what we learned:
- Chickens can fly better than we thought
- Chickens can and will roost in a tree
- One of our hens has figured out where to lay her eggs in the coop, but I do believe we will need an egg hunt to locate the other hen’s eggs
- I need to redesign my whole plan for having free-range chickens.
So how does this relate to our current life? Our economy is slowly starting to move toward the next phase of the pandemic – learning how to re-open businesses while keeping people safe. This process will change the way we do business, both as we interact with our customers and how we do our work internally.
If you looked carefully at your current processes, you would probably agree that there are some inefficiencies that, if addressed, could lead to increases in productivity. In our pre-COVID-19 life, this may not have been a top priority, but now we are forced to make changes in order to protect the health and safety of our employees, customers and stakeholders. I believe we can leverage this as an opportunity for growth.
Consider a few of these ideas:
- Employ a Kanban scheduling system to reduce interactions between departments and employees.
- Use process mapping to highlight non-value-added steps in your process. Then redesign your new layout or flow to eliminate or streamline those steps.
- Implement a visual workplace that outlines product flow, departmental goals, and performance metrics.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the changes you need to implement in your business, let’s connect. I have spent my entire career streamlining processes of all kinds, from tortilla chip manufacturing to metal casting to sales. My brain is hardwired to find the inherent opportunities in a process and leverage them to maximize productivity, reduce waste, and increase profitability. My clients have seen an average a five times ROI on the work we have done together.
I welcome the opportunity assist you in maximizing the output of your business. And if you have some tips on how to be a better chicken mama, I’d welcome your input.
Imagine how hard it would be to focus if you had a bunch of balls floating around your head, all fighting for your attention. But most people describe their typical day just this way: constant movement trying to keep all the balls in the air. This results in reduced efficiency, higher stress and a lower quality of work. So what’s the solution? Focus: If you grab one of those balls and schedule time to work on it, that is one less ball floating around. Then grab the next ball and schedule time for it. One by one, each ball gets a place on your schedule. Over time, this leads to a reduction in the chaos, which increases your ability to focus on the important tasks at hand.
I struggled with this for a long time, finding myself unable to focus because I had so many things fighting for my attention. Realizing that this lack of focus wasn’t sustainable, I went searching for a solution. I found it in a book called Deep Work, by Cal Newport, which contained many ideas for becoming more focused and productive. I decided to try one of his suggestions and start scheduling my time.
But it wouldn’t do any good to schedule my time if I didn’t know what to work on. So I reviewed the goals I had set for myself and decided that I needed to structure my time so I could achieve them. I tend to set goals in various areas of my life to help promote balance. For me, those areas are personal development, financial health, business growth, professional development, relationship, family and spiritual life. I can’t work on all of those areas every day, but I can ensure that I am working toward those goals throughout the year.
Once I was clear on what I wanted to achieve, I started putting those activities into my schedule. At the beginning of each month, I would review my goals in each area of my life, then identify those steps that I needed to take to move toward achieving those goals. At the end of the month, I would review how I did against the steps, then plan for the following month.
However, I found this monthly review wasn’t enough to ensure I stayed on track. So I incorporated a weekly review.
For me, a week is a much more manageable timeframe than a month. By the end of the week, I typically know my schedule for the upcoming week, so I can establish what I want to accomplish and then schedule blocks of time to work on those goals, taking into account deadlines, obligations and special events. In addition to scheduling my time, I also reflect each week on what went well, what I learned and what I could celebrate from the previous week. As I mentioned in an earlier post on managing time, scheduling my time keeps me focused on the right things at the right time.
If I could recommend one thing that could improve your productivity and increase your focus, I’d recommend the weekly planning tool. If you want a copy of the template that I use, please send me an email and I’ll happily share it.
Did you know that your email inbox is a list of someone else’s priorities for you? Most people check their email first thing in the morning; nearly everyone checks it throughout the day, and for some it is the last thing they do before they go to bed. Do we really need someone or something dictating what we should be working on all day, every day?
I look at my inbox and feel overwhelmed. I have multiple email addresses for different businesses, and my personal email inbox contains over 6,000 unread emails (most of those are from companies trying to sell me their goods or services). I also feel I need to keep the entire archive of all my business emails, just in case I need to reference it in the future.
So what happens when I check my email? I get stuck looking at, thinking about and working on things that aren’t my current priority, which makes it nearly impossible to manage my time.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting a client and the Executive VP had 4 emails in his inbox. I asked him how that was possible, and he said he has a system for managing his email. Right then and there, I decided I needed a system for managing my email. And here is what I’m doing to take control of my email:
- I don’t check my email until I have my morning routine completed. My routine consists of a work-out, throwing the ball for my dogs, meditation, time in prayer and daily affirmations. I want to start my day focused on what is important to me, and when I do that, I am much calmer than I would be if I jumped directly into email.
- I started filing my emails into folders sorted by date, not subject. The folders are:
- This Week
- This Month
- FYI – which is like an archive for emails that I want to reference in the future.
- As I check my email, I move each message into one of those folders, which keeps the clutter out of my inbox. I then work out of the folder titled Today.
- I only check my email 3 times per day – morning, after lunch and at the end of the day.
- I have begun unsubscribing from emails that I don’t want or need. I also established a rule for my email program that automatically moves emails from people not in my address box into another folder, which I’ll check a few times a week. These two actions have substantially reduced the number of emails I’m getting distracted by.
This is a relatively new practice, and I’m still adjusting to it, but I’ve already seen improvements in how I’m managing my time and staying on task. I’m curious – does anyone else have some tips on how to manage email so that it can be a valuable tool and not a time waster? If so, please share!
Over the past few years, I have scheduled some grueling physical goals for the summer and/or fall. I have completed Hood to Coast, climbed Mt. St. Helens, survived Cycle Oregon, and this year I’m doing the last leg of the Camino Frances. Each of these events has been fairly challenging and has required a lot of additional training and conditioning. But having set a goal to complete them (without dying) gave me the motivation to stick with the training.
We have just over three months until the end of the year. Three months is enough time to train for a marathon! So, I’m challenging you to pick a goal or two that you can focus on in the upcoming months so you can complete 2019 with a true sense of accomplishment.
Share your goal for the balance of 2019 and I’ll share mine. Together, we can encourage each other and hold each other accountable!
Cheers to a strong finish in 2019!
LOOKING BEYOND THE MONEY
I think we can agree that most people work to make money. Of course, there are a few rare people who work because they enjoy it, but, most of them also use that money to further their personal interests.
But, beyond money what else motivates your employees? In his article, “The Ten Ironies of Motivation,” Bob Nelson stated “more than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.”
The sad reality is that very few people work for good managers who understand the importance of providing feedback and recognition. We all have our war stories of a terrible manager we worked for, but, what about a good manager? What made her so good?
I’m confident that the answer to that question was that he truly cared about his employees and took the time to hear their concerns and give feedback on a consistent basis.
So, as 2016 comes to a close, think about ways you can provide more recognition and appreciation for your employees. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, in fact, I’ve put together a few ideas that don’t cost much at all:
- Write a note to one employee each week thanking them for their hard work
- Feature an employee in the company newsletter or meetings
- Ask the company president to reach out to an employee thanking him for a job well done
- Give out gift cards to employees who have gone above and beyond, or maybe “just because”
- Read positive letters from customers or clients in your staff meeting
- Allow employees to nominate each other for recognition
With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas looming right around the corner, now is a perfect time to show appreciation for your employees.
About Julie Markee: Julie Markee is a highly conscientious, detail-oriented consultant working directly with manufacturing companies as a part-time Process Efficiency engineer or a full-time Interim Operations Manager. She utilizes tools from Lean Manufacturing and 6 Sigma, along with her extensive process experience to reduce complex challenges into manageable steps resulting in stream-lined processes, enhanced employee involvement and increased profitability. Learn more at www.keyprocessinnovations.com.
Addressing the Gaps in Your Systems
Your plant has highly detailed procedures on how to do each job. The operators are trained not to deviate from the procedures. But, what happens when a conscientious operator notices as problem with a part. In order to properly process it, the operator must deviate from the procedure. Without a system which instructs the operator how to handle this situation, scrap parts may be made.
So, what does the operator do? Deviate from the procedure or blindly follow the process?
W. Edwards Deming, considered the patriarch of process control was quoted as saying, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” John Hunter, author of Management Matters summed this is up best by saying, “relying on heroic measures is a bad way to manage.”
If you want your people to be successful, you need to put the systems in place in order to allow them to do that. If you find your employees are making a lot of mistakes, perhaps the training system needs to be augmented in order to prevent mistakes from happening. If you find your employees aren’t consistently performing at the level that is required, maybe it is time to review the processes they use on a daily basis and address those areas that are causing issues.
I love super heroes, but, I wouldn’t want to have to depend on them every day to make my business successful!
APPLYING WHAT ATHLETE’S KNOW INTO EVERY DAY LIFE
The 2016 Summer Olympics are almost here! I have such respect for the hard work, determination and sacrifices that these athletes make on a daily basis. So, in honor of the Summer Olympics, I thought I’d share some motivational quotes from our US Olympians which we can apply to our daily lives.
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
–Jesse Owens, USA track and field gold medalist
“I learned that the only way you are going to get anywhere in life is to work hard at it. If you do, you’ll win. If you don’t, you won’t.”
–Bruce Jenner, USA medalist in the decathlon
“I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned about tomorrow, but with what goes on today.”
–Mark Spitz, USA gold medalist in swimming
“I like added pressure. It makes me work harder.”
–Mary Lou Retton, USA gold medalist in gymnastics
“There’s always a point where you get knocked down. But I draw on what I’ve learned on the track: If you work hard, things will work out.”
–Lolo Jones, Olympic hurdler
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
–Wilma Rudolph, USA gold medalist in track and field
“Focus, discipline, hard work, goal setting and, of course, the thrill of finally achieving your goals. These are all lessons in life.”
–Kristi Yamaguchi, USA gold medalist in figure skating
Go TEAM USA!
My big project for this spring was to build a new garden. Research told me that the key to a thriving garden is sunlight, fertilizer and water. So, I spent quite a bit of time picking the perfect location, building raised beds and moving over 5 yards of dirt into the beds (actually, my husband did most of that). Then I fertilized the dirt with bone meal, planted my plants and then fertilized again with fish emulsion. I even installed a drip irrigation system with a timer to make sure the garden had enough water. I did everything right this year – sun, fertilizer, water. Now, all I had to do was sit back and watch my garden produce all the vegetables I could eat.
Then I found cabbage worms in my cabbage and broccoli.
According to a master gardener, having a healthy garden is about weeding and pest control. Sure, a good foundation of sun and fertilizer is important, but, if you don’t pick the weeds and address those pests, even a garden with perfect conditions won’t thrive.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this over the past week as I weeded my garden and tried to kill those nasty cabbage worms and what I realized is that having a healthy work environment is a lot like having a healthy garden.
You can have the perfect team in your plant. They have the necessary skills, they are well paid and have the energy to do their jobs every day, but, if you don’t pick the weeds and deal with those nasty pests, your team won’t produce the results you desire.
Addressing pests and weeds require knowledge and skill. Knowledge to truly examine what is causing the problem and then the skill needed to address the problem(s). Regardless of the issue, addressing it before it over takes the whole company is critical. This may require training in conflict resolution, managing change or even effective communication (click to see previous posts on each of these topics). In extreme cases, you might even need to pull out the insect ridden plant and start over, as I did with my broccoli.
A healthy workplace requires daily care and attention. Look for subtle signs that a problem might be coming to the surface so you have time to decide how best to address the problem before it overtakes the entire garden.
For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.