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Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's Been ONE YEAR

This is the team I am very proud to say I am a part of now.  It's been one year since I started this new journey at Ebsco and in a couple of words, "It's a BLAST!"  The Community Involvement Team paired Ebsco with a local event to support breast cancer research and this pic shows how everyone gets behind the team.

I wanted to look back and share some of the lessons and experiences I've had over the last year. It has been a unique opportunity.  Many of the things I had taught at my previous job for over 30 years were really put to the test at Ebsco.   I'm proud to say I have come along way since that first day I took the wrong turn in the warehouse and got stuck in a dead end and looked foolish, only to compound it by pretending to look at boxes on the shelf like I had a clue.  Oh I still do stupid things everyday but now the team has learned to expect it from me.

I have always preached that any team will look at leadership, decide if they are going to succeed or fail and then set forth making their decision a reality.  Their determination on the leaders fate is based on if the leader cares about them and has the entire teams best interest at heart.  I really do care about the pink mob pictured above and I think they all know it.  They have responded posting one of the best years ever at Ebsco and driven positive change to new levels.  They are making us a success.  It took a little time but when we develop a relationship on trust, they responded. When I asked for ideas on change at Ebsco they responded and responded and responded.  It wasn't necessary to sell change to them, my problem was keeping up with all of their ideas for change.

Another point I have always preached was that management was the same everywhere.  You do not need to be an expert on the industry, you need to be an expert on caring and leading a team.  Again they have proved this correct.  I knew I didn't know anything about spring making when I walked in and the only progress I've made is to realized I didn't even know how much I didn't know.  That might not be completely true.  I found that people like to talk about their jobs and love to teach the boss.  They have taught me a great deal about spring making and Ebsco.  Now I might know a tenth of what they do, but they keep trying.

I read several books before starting my new position on manufacturing, lean, TQM blah blah blah.  what I found was none of the books had any answers.  What they did have was the questions.  They providing me with the right questions for the real experts, the Team Members.  The knowledge I gained from reading didn't apply directly to Ebsco but it allowed me to ask the right questions and they provided the answers. Reading can spark the imagination or start the kernel of an idea.  This is just the starting point.  People hold the answers.

I discovered that being a catalyst is an important trait for a leader.  Being inquisitive and asking why or why not sparks the minds of team members.  Those sparks lead to the fires of invention and unlimited potential.  When you can take the combined knowledge and experience of the entire team and create a spark, the results will often knock you down.  Coming in from outside gave me a real advantage at this.  I had a complete different wealth of experiences and didn't have the "we have always done it that way mentality".  This made it easy for me to "spark".  Now, what keeps me up at night is that I am becoming an insider and may loose some of that spark.  I have committed myself to continue reading, visit customers and vendors to see and experience new things.  I don't want to loose the spark.

I have discovered new perspectives of leadership.  In my new position I have the opportunity to see the mile high view.  At that level the details are very fuzzy and that allows the total picture to be very clear.  This is a big portion of my job.  I may not understand all of the details but I have the opportunity to see how the entire process works and the relationship between groups.  I have been able to relieve the boss of some of her day to day activities and allow her to step back even further.  I think this has helped her with some big decisions that have really impacted Ebsco.  I can't take credit for the ideas but hopefully what I have done has contributed to her being able to take a new perspective on things.

Organizational skills have turned out to be essential.  I've adopted a saying "Baby Steps... One Million at a Time"  To keep those million steps in line takes organizational skills.  A little OCD isn't a bad thing when herding this many projects.  Outlook has become my best friend.  i have always utilized planners but in this job it's my life line.  Without it, most things would just fall through the cracks.

So to recap, what have I learned.  A great deal and nothing at all.  I've learned allot about manufacturing, springs, ISO, Job Boss and many other specifics.  Generally though, I've learned nothing new, just reinforced what I knew all along.  "It's People Stupid"  With all the technology and management theory it boils down to that one simple phrase.  PEOPLE.  I'm lucky I have the people at Ebsco on my team. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Critical Mass

Critical Mass is the point when you have enough of the right materials, put together in the proper way to create a sustained nuclear reaction.  It's the point when it all comes together to make the BIG BANG.

Ebsco is reaching critical mass.  All the ingredients are coming together to create our Big Bang.

Ebsco listened and surveyed our customers to find out what was important to them.  What did Ebsco need to offer to create a Big Bang as there partner. This is what our customers told us were the right ingredients;
  • The Best Quality Springs
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Short Lead Times
  • Responsiveness to Needs

We then looked at what our competition was offering and set our goals to reach critical mass by exceeding what they had to offer. Ebsco fared well against the competition but nothing short of "World Class" was going to be good enough. We are going to reach critical mass.

The entire Ebsco team looked at every aspect of our company, searching for improvement. Communication and cooperation between every department reached new highs.  Employees took ownership and greeted the challenge with enthusiasm. Working together, with everyone's input we are finding new and creative solutions and I must add, having allot of fun along the way.

Every aspect of quality is constantly monitored, recorded and communicated.  Anything short of perfect is analyzed and corrected.  The Quality Control department is now Quality Assurance, as everyone has taken on the role of Quality Control. Specifications are checked and re-checked by several team members throughout the process.  When something doesn't meet our standards, everyone is involved in finding a solution.

Our team constantly evaluates every step of the process from the initial phone call to customer delivery. We look for more efficient ways to operate and reduce costs.  Beyond simply eliminating waste, we look for any opportunity to improve the process.  Our key to success is our team work.  Looking beyond ones specific job into the whole process is illuminating several new opportunities.  As we become more efficient we have been able to pass along savings to our customers in the form of better pricing.  Even with drastic material cost increases we have been able to hold many prices to our customers.

Our biggest successes from our team members has been shortened lead times.  Team members have followed work orders through every step of the process looking for wasted time.  Working together they have found new methods that have reduced lead times up to one half.  New technology has been implemented to focus these gains and continually monitor our efforts.

Customer responsiveness has always been a priority but like everything else you don't find opportunities unless you take a critical look.  We have looked and improved several areas.  From the first call from the customer (to a team member, no automated systems here) to our reply, a new sense of urgency exists.  We strive to respond to any customer request, "NO PROBLEM" and make that response quickly.

We are proud of the improvements the team has made at Ebsco and are closing in on the "World Class" status we have targeted.  We realize we haven't arrived yet but if you truly want to be World Class you will never arrive because it requires continual improvement. We are at a point that we can stand next to any competitor and say "We Are Your Best Choice" without hesitation.

We are extremely confidant in the abilities of our team to provide the BEST to our customers and now need to spread that word.  We have recently added a marketing department to support our sales department.  In addition to spreading the word about Ebsco, they will work with our production and process teams to produce and distribute valuable tools to our current and future customers.  These tools will assist them in cutting costs in design and engineering. 

Ebsco has reached critical mass and is about to make a BIG BANG in the spring industry.

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