How to Set Up a Lean Factory That Works, Part 1

Lean manufacturers have a leg up on speeding products to market, reducing costs and keeping customers happy. In this overview, I’ll share how to engineer, set up and manage the project for a lean factory that works for your specific requirements.

Why set up a lean factory?

A lean factory, or lean-oriented production layout, creates a seamless flow of people, material and information. Well-designed lean factories prevent the build-up of inventory and excess equipment. Lean layouts facilitate visual management. They provide a safe, clean environment to expedite work, regardless of the finished goods being produced. Lean environments can have a positive effect on workforce morale. And it’s all about effective use of time. It is easier to clean and straighten the worksite when there’s little in the way of excess equipment, tooling, and inventory. A well-designed layout will contribute to the ease of maintaining a safe and effective workplace. And, if it’s easier to maintain, it will be maintained!

Two approaches, similar issues

Some companies choose to align operations into a value-stream layout within the same facility. This is called a brownfield approach. Others choose to move into a completely new facility, a greenfield approach. While the greenfield approach is preferable to most everyone, it’s not always practical or affordable. Greenfields have their own series of pitfalls. While it is almost easier to have new machinery installed in a new plant, that’s rarely the case. Can you accelerate the production process to create a window of down time to move equipment? Can you outsource some of the production to another facility or supplier?

Here we’ll discuss the brownfield approach, as it’s more typical and can be more challenging.

Regardless of the location and goals, your lean factory team must consider important operational and policy issues. They must establish and follow concepts that are relevant to your situation. And they must use the right implementation tools.

1. Get the right people

The project team will be tasked to re-engineer one or more facilities to support your company’s vision of a lean enterprise. The project team should be led by your lean leader. There are three ‘sub teams’ for the effective lean factory initiative:

1. The core team your company selects for the lean factory transformation must be able to dedicate themselves full time to the project. They will be responsible for completing several team based activities, such as value stream maps, collecting and compiling machine and equipment information, and constructing the product quantity process routings (PQPR) for each value stream. The typical team members for the core re-engineering team are the lean leader, the production or manufacturing engineer, a working leader or supervisor, a senior level machine operator or assembler, a representative from the quality organization (inspector or quality engineer), and a representative from the materials/logistics organization.

2. The support team should include critical personnel who can’t be dedicated full time, such as the facilities manager, cognizant value stream manager, the value stream accountant and the union representative (if your plant has a represented workforce.) Support team membership will evolve throughout the project, as requirements for each phase are different. But when nominated for the support team, all members should expect to meet daily with the core team.

3. Senior leadership must clearly communicate why and how the facility layout must be re-engineered or moved. Setting clear objectives such as milestone dates, can’t-miss requirements and budgets for expense and capital are essential for complete and thorough planning. The project manager – your lean leader – must remain in the forefront of managing these activities. The lean leader must be able to communicate all planning and implementation elements to the core team and the support team. As the task unfolds, budgets will be refined and expenditures will need to be measured against progress.

It’s critical to schedule production around facility preparation and machine moves. Sub-contractors may have to be secured to keep production from missing customer due dates. This is often overlooked and is not considered until the first phone call from a customer looking for product. By then, it’s too late to plan – you can only hit the panic button and react, stalling the entire effort. Sales needs to be aware of the impending upheaval and should provide guidance and assistance on scheduling changes.

It’s also important to keep an eye on future business. You don’t want to be limiting the resources dedicated to a value stream where the products or services will outstrip capacity in the near term.

The project’s lean leader should understand the lean principles relevant to factory layouts. Project planning is important, as milestone dates get pulled in or pushed out. Awareness of budgets and financial planning is essential to effective management of the project, internal resources and contractors. The lean leader will also be the intermediary between senior management’s weekly updates and the daily work of the plant layout team. The senior leadership team may want to bolster this role with the use of a consultant with experience in facilitating factory re-engineering projects.

In the initial phase, the project team (comprised of the core team and the support team) focuses on preparatory and planning work. This team can then disperse, with intermittent involvement at key milestones in the project (these will be the “tollgates”). To reinforce the lean concepts and goals driving the project, regular lean training and refresher sessions should be scheduled.

Training should be conducted for all team members, including the executive sub-team. While training may seem redundant to organizations that recognize the need to re-engineer a layout, it can provide a refresher that gets everyone thinking of how the project ahead will need to be completed. More importantly, training can help everyone focus on how to make the project itself ‘lean’. The training should include a lean overview, value stream mapping, visual factory and 5S, standardized work and total productive maintenance. Interactive exercises to reinforce those concepts can help to initiate the project. The training may include other topics, but it should be task-focused and relevant. Other training in team building and problem solving should be included as the project rolls out.

In planning a brownfield plant layout, avoid the creation of what are known as “roots and vines.” These are structures, such as machine foundations or overhead cranes, which would make it prohibitively expensive to move an operation or machine should the process change. Sometimes roots and vines are unavoidable. For example, specific foundations are often required for heat-treat furnaces or chemical processing equipment. For every piece of equipment, the team should seek options that will meet requirements, are compact and can be logically co-located within the business unit or profit center.

2. Develop a tollgate process for the project

Many lean companies use the tollgate method. It focuses on a specific, standardized approach to project management, such as new product design, or in our case, a significant re-structuring of operations.

While a comprehensive discussion could be initiated regarding the tollgate process, let’s take a “learn as we go” approach for this article. I’ve provided examples below of how a tollgate process works. Customize each of the tollgates to meet your specific facility or process requirements.

A minimum recommended list of tasks will need to be completed for each tollgate, with descriptions of those tasks. You may find it’s necessary to add tasks specific to your company’s operations. Be sure to include an element of safety in all tollgates. What’s a safe practice on a machine shop floor would be unnecessary in an administrative office.

The tollgates are milestones, with prescribed elements that must be complete by the tollgate meeting date. If any task is not complete, then the project is delayed until that task is complete and ready for review.

Tollgate meetings may overlap – one project may be at tollgate 2, but another might be nearing completion and the review for a tollgate 5 might take place at the same review meeting. Full attendance of the review team is essential for tollgate meetings. There’s no ‘catch-me-up later’ opportunities for the project’s successful on-time, on-budget completion.

Tollgate meetings are a great way to ping the C-suite and stay in touch with senior management. Are there any plans for growth or product expansion? Does the team have enough substantial direction to undertake a continuous flow assembly process, or will the company want to retain the stepped or phased assembly process? Will the company be in-sourcing any processes? Will any insourced process be outsourced? This two-way information exchange is essential to the tollgate meeting.

The tollgate method is the disciplined approach to a project plan. This plan must have dates and milestones for the production surge; the infrastructure upgrades and improvements, and a sequence for the machinery moves. Training, orientation and familiarization for the workforce that has not yet participated in the process is important – and now, timely.

Work resolutely to the plan. If something is delayed, can you work around it?  Should the plan be revised for another series of equipment moves? Or, is the delay a showstopper? Risks need to be identified up front so when a situation arises, the plan proceeds seamlessly with little time lost. Each task within the tollgate checklist should be assessed for risk, whether it’s a schedule, cost or technical element. Questions should be anticipated and alternatives should be prepared in advance of each tollgate meeting.

Three rules for a successful tollgate process

  1. A “no-go” on only one task will cause the entire tollgate to be a “no-go.” If a budget line item is expected to be exceeded and the budget is not approved, then the entire team is sent back to their respective activities to refine their tasks and prepare alternatives or justify the additional expenditure. If the technical/engineering team didn’t provide solutions adequate to the executive team, then back everyone goes to the drawing board.
  2. Once a tollgate is reviewed and accepted, the “go” decision is made. There’s no revisit of a task at the next tollgate. For example, if a decision to go “greenfield” is made at Tollgate 0, the executive review team will not be able to second-guess the decision at Tollgate 1.
  3. If a project is deemed too risky or too expensive at a tollgate meeting, the entire project should be immediately tabled at that tollgate. Why? When the project becomes relevant or is able to be taken up again, all the work that brought the project to a particular tollgate is already complete. If run correctly, the preparatory work and the go-no go decision usually happen within the first three tollgates, before the real work and corresponding expenditures begin.

Part 2 of the lean factory series of articles will share a sample tollgate path for reworking your facility’s layout or setting it up from scratch.

About the author: Daniel Penn Associates Senior Consultant Tom Voss has developed and implemented lean enterprise solutions for more than 25 years. Trained and mentored in Lean concepts by the founders of Shingijitsu Company, Ltd., renowned experts of the Toyota Production System, Tom held engineering, operations, finance, human resources and new business development positions at General Dynamics, United Technologies-Pratt & Whitney, JDS Uniphase and Franklin Products. His experience spans chemical, industrial, aerospace, automotive and telecommunications industries as well as insurance, banking and public sector services.

10 reasons why employees don’t follow organizational processes

Processes are an integral part of all enterprises. If processes are not instituted, modelled or followed properly then the results in myriad types of issues impacting all stakeholders of an organization.

With an objective to ensure consistent product or service quality, organizations spend a lot of time and resources to embed processes in their functions. To demonstrate their commitment they get certifications such as ISO 9000, ISO 22000 etc. However, despite all these efforts, there are still countless incidents of employees going rogue and not following them. Sometimes these non-adherences have a detrimental impact on customers, cause regulatory violations and even sully the company’s reputation. We’ve all heard of product recalls, rodents in foods, quality issues in pharma products and what not. One major reason for such failures is employees’ non-compliance to processes.

This non-compliance manifests in various ways: not following stipulated steps, skipping steps, accidental omissions, performing activities without authorisation, doing additional activities etc..

Whenever such incidents erupt, the typical reactions of business leaders are to put together a task-force, coming up with technical-reasons (that don’t look at human psychology), fire those associated with the process or sending employees for training. However, I believe they could take far more constructive steps if instead of jumping to action they try to understand why employees did not follow the laid down processes. This will not only give clarity on the right action to take, but will also ensure that similar cases do not occur in the future. As someone who has been involved with process over the last 25 years, I can tell you with confidence that addressing the following issues will reduce the incidence of non-compliance.

So, here are 10 reasons why employees default in following processes.

1. Not believing in process

When there is a mismatch between what one believes versus what one is told, it causes an inner conflict or cognitive dissonance. This is clearly a reason for employees not following processes. This is where communication plays a role to convince people why they need to do what they need to do.

2. Not seeing the impact of their work on customers

This is especially true about employees who work behind the scenes in production factories, back-offices, warehouses etc… far away from the sight of customer. These employees go to work, just do the piece of work entrusted to them and after that they have no connection with the customer’s experience. Hence he/she could be oblivious of customer needs, pains and concerns. Sometimes employees are a bit lax about process adherence because they think or don’t realise their work’s impact on customers.

3. Not having a sense of ownership

When those running the process are involved in its design, they have a sense of ownership. They know their inputs and concerns have been addressed, and they take extra care and are more disciplined. This reduces the chances of non-adherence. So next time you dump a process onto an employee and tell him to follow it, remember his ownership will be minimal and there could be chances of his not following it. Try to make processes in collaboration with employees instead.

4. Thinking they can get away with laxity

If there’s a lack of punitive action against employees who have been careless or violated processes wilfully, it will embolden other workers to be non-compliant. They will feel as if they can get away with it. Try to institute a culture wherein they know that consequences can be serious.

5. They want to innovate

Sometimes process non-compliance happens when employees want to innovate the existing way of doing work—their behaviour has a positive motive. Nonetheless, while an entrepreneurial mindset is to be encouraged, employees need to be told what is allowed and what is not. If they want to change or better the existing process it should go through a formal authorisation process.

6. They are not trained

When employees are not trained in a process, there can be mistakes. Training people on the process is a critical element for process compliance. Of course, when there are process violations, you will often hear of executives sending their employees for more training as if “lack of training” is the only cause for process non-compliance. But yes, it is one cause out of many.

7. Not seeing the impact on the big picture

All employees want to do something meaningful and see their work having a positive impact in the company. As we have learnt from Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Emil Frankl, if people find meaning in their work they will go above and beyond to accomplish it.

The worst thing that can happen to an employee is to feel that his work is not meaningful for the company. This can lead to their being disinterested in work and being frivolous with process compliance.

8. Employees are disengaged

A Dale Carnegie study found that engaged employees feel enthusiastic, inspired, empowered and confident. It further found the drivers of engagement to be their relationship with the boss, belief in senior leadership and pride in working for the company. When employees are disengaged it can lead to process non-adherence.

9. Complicated processes

It’s human nature to take short-cuts. So if an operator sees that a process is too complicated he may try to take short-cuts and do what does not require effort. Humans like to take the path of least resistance, and this may mean violating processes that are too complicated.

10. Managing deviations demanded by customers

With a positive intention to help an external or internal customer, employees may end up deviating from the process. Hence, organisations should also have processes for work-arounds or deviations from the normally followed steps. Often these are overlooked as the deviations are far and few.

How Six Sigma Can Measure your Process Waste Level

Within Six Sigma are a few methods that most practitioners will follow. Of course, everyone requires different outcomes from their process improvements and thus will use different sets and combinations of methods and tools. However, Six Sigma has one key underlining task that almost every organization strives for – reducing waste. This can range from having too many parts for your production line to long assembly times. To combat this, Six Sigma offers the Lean methodology to help measure and reduce your process waste level.

Types of Waste

For Lean Six Sigma, there are two definitions for “wastage”. First, it can be necessary for a system to function normally. Second, it can be unnecessary for a system to function normally. Regardless of your organization’s definition of waste, you can use Lean Six Sigma to measure and analyze it critically. Taiichi Ohno, one of Toyota’s Production System leaders identifies a total of seven different types of unnecessary waste.

  1. Transportation – parts and materials that move in between processes.
  2. Motion – movement of parts and personnel.
  3. Inventory – any excess of materials, work-in-progress, or finished products that do not add value.
  4. Waiting – this refers to people, parts, or products that must wait for a process to be complete.
  5. Over-production – when you produce more products faster than customers demand.
  6. Over-processing – all work that is being performed outside of customer requirements.
  7. Defects – products that are being manufactured that customers would reject.

Measuring Waste

As you can see, there are many areas where you may be producing waste in your business processes without you even knowing! Lean Six Sigma aims to help reduce and minimize your production waste by measuring each individual process. Although this may be time-consuming compared to other methods, this is the most effective way to reduce your overall waste. First, you must decide which processes you want to measure. Then, for each process, you will need a metric to measure. These metrics can vary, depending if you’re measuring transportation, inventory, defects, or any of the seven types of unnecessary waste. You must collect and log data manually by carefully observing each process for a specific amount of time.

Using Your Data

Now that you have your data, it’s time to analyze it. When looking to reduce your process waste level, you should have a clear goal in mind. Do you wish to decrease your transportation time? Do you want to produce only the exact number of products that customers will want? You end goal will help determine what your data set means. Although numbers alone will not mean much, your data set allows you to find trends and detect sources of problems. For example, if you notice that one process requires three times the amount of time that the preceding system, your goal is to decrease the process’ time requirements. Having both an understanding of Lean Six Sigma with basic data analysis will help you reduce your overall process waste level.

How Six Sigma Can Improve your DIFOT Rate

Organizations use Six Sigma methodologies for any number of reasons. However, most methods are used primarily to improve business processes. These improvements come in the form of increasing efficiency, decreasing production delays, and most importantly, deterring manufacturing defects. Yet, Six Sigma is just relevant outside your organization as it is from within. For every company, customers are the center of most goals. Why you decide to make certain products or offer specific services is based on the demand from your customers. In other words, your customers influence how you operate your organization.

What is DIFOT?

When providing a product or service to you customers, the delivery time estimation is critical. Some customers may depend on your product deliveries to restock their shelves, influence their own operational processes, or manage their supply chains. Because of this, it’s important that your organization calculates and understands its Delivery in full, on time (DIFOT) rate. Your DIFOT rate answers the questions “Are your customers receiving the products or service they requested when they want them?”. Of course, there are multiple factors that can influence or delay a delivery. Yet, your customer will look to you when their product is late, missing, or damaged.

Six Sigma and DIFOT

As a process improvement methodology, Six Sigma commonly uses Lean and DMAIC methods to deter hindrances to production. Whether this includes cutting down on waste or increasing production speed, the main objective is constant improvement. Like how you search for the root cause of a production defect, it’s important to find what causes delays in delivery of your products. The source may not always be directly within your control, i.e. a courier service or third-party delivery service. Yet, it’s still critical to consider what causes your products to arrive either on time or late to your customers. To look into this, you need a variety of Six Sigma professionals. Specifically, Green Belts and Black Belts.

Calculating your DIFOT

When calculating your DIFOT, you must collect raw data on your products and their shipments. The exact formula for DIFOT is the units delivered in full, on time divided by the total number of units that you shipped. In the end, you will receive a ratio. For most successful organization, this ratio should not be less than 95%. While this formula may be simple, collecting the data can be more challenging.

First, you must be able to track your orders either in person or by an automated system. In either case, Six Sigma Green Belts will be responsible for collecting and organizing the data. Because Green Belts do not manage projects, they must provide their managers, Black Beltswith the appropriate data. Once collected, Black Belts can analyze the data and see where delivery inefficiencies may be. Solutions for these inefficiencies depend on the source of the problem. If you notice that all your products are shipped on time but arrive late, maybe you should hire a new courier service. Likewise, if you are not shipping your products on time, you might need to reevaluate specific manufacturing processes.

DIFOT is an easy to use key performance indicator that not only puts your customers at the center of your attention, but also shows where you can improve delivery processes.

Interpreting Anomalies Correctly Can Help Avoid Waste

People say that Six Sigma is sometimes like using a rocket ship engine in an automobile. The techniques and statistical software tools are so powerful they can lead to anomalies in the data or produce “bad” results. These include:

  • Histograms that do not appear normal
  • Scatter plot diagrams that do not fit a straight line
  • Control charts that appear to be in control, but are not
  • Control charts reflecting a process not in control, even though it is operating within limits
  • Control charts with wide and highly irregular control limits

Without the benefit of extensive project experience and strong statistical interpretive skills, a Green Belt or even Black Belt may improperly diagnose these results, leading to poor decisions. Poor decisions waste time, resources and capital – specifically through re-sampling data, re-analyzing data and improving processes not in control.

Fortunately, there are some reliable, quick and cost-effective techniques that Six Sigma professionals can use in these situations to help them more properly analyze the data to make better decisions.

Histogram Anomalies

A practitioner has collected some data that represents average call-handling time for a help desk (Table 1).

Table 1: Samples of Average Call-handling Times for Help Desk
Minute Measurements By Operator
Sample Operator 1 Operator 2 Operator 3 Operator 4
1 9 10 10 5
2 4 7 7 6
3 5 11 9 7
4 6 9 12 12
5 7 7 8 4
6 7 4 5 11
7 6 4 4 5
8 5 8 9 4
9 2 12 7 8
10 7 10 9 6
11 8 8 8 4
12 11 8 9 7

Using a statistical software package, the practitioner produced the following histogram (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Average Call-handling Time for Help Desk

Figure 1: Average Call-handling Time for Help Desk

At first glance, the practitioner might conclude the data is not normally distributed. It does not have the classic bell-shaped, symmetrical curve. They may decide to collect more data or even perform another data sampling. But before going to such extremes practitioners should try calculating the measures of central tendency. In other words, determining how the data clusters or centralizes around particular values. There are three measures of central tendency:

  1. Mean – the sum of all the data values divided by the number of data values
  2. Median – the middle value when the data values are arranged in ascending or descending order
  3. Mode – the number that occurs most frequently in a data set

If these three values are equal or approximately the same, it is possible to conclude with a fairly high degree of confidence that the data is normally distributed. A quick calculation of the mean, median and mode in this case show they are 7.3, 7.0 and 7.0, respectively. Thus, the data is normally distributed.

Another simple but effective technique is to increase or decrease the number of classes in the histogram. In this example, reducing the class size from 6 to 5 produces the following normal histogram (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Normal Histogram

Figure 2: Normal Histogram

Sometimes practitioners will produce histograms that are skewed in either the positive or negative direction. Before jumping to conclusions and re-sampling the data, think about the type of process being measured. A positively skewed histogram could represent accounts receivables days outstanding or late deliveries, in which case a practitioner should expect the distribution to be one-sided with a tail to the right. Conversely, a negatively skewed histogram could reflect accounts payable days outstanding, where a one-sided distribution with a tail to the left could be expected.

Scatter Plot Anomalies

Simple linear regression is a great statistical tool to determine if there is a relationship between two variables. A scatter plot graphically shows this linear relationship through a straight line connecting the data points. The equation for that linear relationship can be determined as follows: Y = mx+ b, where Y is the dependent variable, m is the slope, b is the intercept and x is the independent variable.

If there is linear correlation (i.e., a straight line) it is possible to make predictions about Y given x. Correlation (r) ranges from +1 (perfect direct or positive relationship) to -1 (perfect indirect or negative relationship). Further, R2 (coefficient of determination) is the percent of variation that can be explained by the regression equation. A higher R2 value means that x is a better predictor variable of Y, and high correlation indicates a strong relationship. Taking the square root of R2 produces r.

Sometimes, however, the relationship between two variables may be represented by a curve instead of a straight line. Seeing the data is not linear, a practitioner may attempt to calculate more complex regression models such as polynomial, power or exponential functions. They might even conclude there is no strong relationship between the two variables, and, therefore, decide to select another input variable. Before going down these paths, practitioners should consider transforming the data to create a straighter line to fit the data. A simple yet highly effective approach to transforming the data into a straighter line is to square the x values and calculate new R2 values until reaching a point where the R2 is at a maximum.

Control Chart Anomalies

Control charts are powerful techniques to determine if a process is in control or out of control. Six Sigma professionals are all familiar with the general rules of control charts:

  • A process in control typically contains all of its data points within the upper and lower control limits. It is stable and predictable.
  • If one or more data point lies on or outside the control limits, the process is out of control (unstable, unpredictable).

Consider the control chart shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Sample Control Chart

Figure 3: Sample Control Chart

None of the data points are touching or exceeding the control limits. The process appears to be in control, in which case the Six Sigma practitioner should continue to gradually improve the process. But think again. Even though the points are within the control limits, this control chart shows a trend (six or more successive points in ascending or descending direction) that is evidence of a special cause. Consequently, the practitioner should stop, identify and eliminate any special causes before improving the process. Other examples of control charts exhibiting distinct patterns within the control limits are:

  • Cycle – Variation caused by regular changes in the process inputs or methods (i.e., time of day, seasonal)
  • Repeats – A pattern where every nth item is different (i.e., one station out of alignment)
  • Jumps – Distinct changes from low to high values attributed to a change, such as an operator shift or different material

Here is another call center example: A practitioner is trying to assess how well calls are resolved during the first call, and they collect the data in Table 2. In this scenario, p represents the proportion of calls not resolved.

Table 2: Call Center Data Related to First-call Resolutions
Week Help Desk Calls Calls Not Resolved p p-bar
1 37,374 4,204 0.01125 0.143744
2 32,612 3,371 0.01034 0.143744
3 38,972 4,080 0.1047 0.143744
4 35,045 3,680 0.1050 0.143744
5 35,411 3,924 0.1108 0.143744
6 50,938 5,449 0.1070 0.143744
7 52,970 5,761 0.1088 0.143744
8 53,408 6,245 0.1169 0.143744
9 38,581 4,180 0.1083 0.143744
10 36,863 5,207 0.1413 0.143744
11 30,810 6,426 0.2086 0.143744
12 28,677 4,331 0.1510 0.143744
13 26,214 5,839 0.2227 0.143744
14 23,776 4,492 0.1889 0.143744
15 24,335 4,641 0.1907 0.143744
16 24,311 4,606 0.1895 0.143744
17 26,863 4,871 0.1813 0.143744
18 32,052 5,764 0.1798 0.143744
19 31,026 5,431 0.1750 0.143744
20 37,191 6,750 0.1815 0.143744
21 30,109 5,327 0.1769 0.143744

From this data, a p-chart is produced (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Customer Calls Not Resolved

Figure 4: Customer Calls Not Resolved

The practitioner’s first reaction is that the entire process is out of control. Virtually every data point is either below or above the control limits – this should raise red flags. They might want to stop to identify and resolve all the special causes before proceeding to improve the process. Or, the pracitioner may think there are errors in the data and decide to re-perform the collection sampling. But before doing so, it is important to look again at the data to see if there are any shifts occurring. In this example, there are two distinct sets of p values: Weeks 1-9 and Weeks 10-21 (Table 3). Accordingly, two separate p-bar values are needed: 0.10896 for Weeks 1-9 and 0.18236 for Weeks 10-21.

Table 3: Customer Calls Not Resolved, P-bar Divided into Weeks 1-9 and 10-21
Week Help Desk Calls Calls Not Resolved p p-bar
1 37,374 4,204 0.01125 0.10896
2 32,612 3,371 0.01034 0.10896
3 38,972 4,080 0.1047 0.10896
4 35,045 3,680 0.1050 0.10896
5 35,411 3,924 0.1108 0.10896
6 50,938 5,449 0.1070 0.10896
7 52,970 5,761 0.1088 0.10896
8 53,408 6,245 0.1169 0.10896
9 38,581 4,180 0.1083 0.10896
10 36,863 5,207 0.1413 0.18236
11 30,810 6,426 0.2086 0.18236
12 28,677 4,331 0.1510 0.18236
13 26,214 5,839 0.2227 0.18236
14 23,776 4,492 0.1889 0.18236
15 24,335 4,641 0.1907 0.18236
16 24,311 4,606 0.1895 0.18236
17 26,863 4,871 0.1813 0.18236
18 32,052 5,764 0.1798 0.18236
19 31,026 5,431 0.1750 0.18236
20 37,191 6,750 0.1815 0.18236
21 30,109 5,327 0.1769 0.18236

The resulting p-chart (Figure 5) indicates the process is in control during Weeks 1-9. During Week 10, however, there is a process shift that significantly increases the p values. During Weeks 10-21, the average proportion of calls not resolved hovers around 18 percent. Thus, efforts to identify special causes should be focused only on what happened during Week 10 and beyond, in order to save considerable time and resources.

Figure 5: Customer Calls Not Resolved, Highlighting Process Shift

Figure 5: Customer Calls Not Resolved, Highlighting Process Shift

Another example of a strange control chart, this time involving the number of calls per customer. The practitioner collects the following data over a period of 13 weeks (Table 4), and decides to use a u-chart because there could be more than one call per person.

Table 4: Number of Calls Per Customer
Week Callers Calls u
1 10 11 1.1
2 2 2 1
3 10 12 1.2
4 14 17 1.214286
5 9 13 1.444444
6 7 8 1.142857
7 22 32 1.454545
8 29 38 1.310345
9 139 186 1.338129
10 242 303 1.252066
11 353 440 1.246459
12 346 408 1.179191
13 327 396 1.211009

Figure 6 shows the resulting u-chart. While the process appears in control, the control limits during the initial eight weeks are highly irregular and quite wide. During Weeks 9-13, the control limits appear more normal (regular and narrower).

Figure 6: Number of Calls Per Caller

Figure 6: Number of Calls Per Caller

Before jumping to conclusions that the data is invalid, the practitioner should consider the type of chart they are working with. U-charts (and p-charts) are control charts for data containing defects and defectives, respectively. The control limits for these types of charts are highly sensitive to the number of samples collected. Notice the average number of samples for Weeks 1 to 8 is nearly 17 calls. The average for Weeks 9 to 13 is 347 calls. The higher the sample number, the more regular and narrow the control limits. In this example, it appears the process had not reached a “steady-state” of calls until week 9. Consequently, the practitioner might consider using only the data for Weeks 9 to 13, rather than re-sample the entire 13 weeks. Again, this can save considerable time and resources.

Making Proper Interpretations

Poor decisions waste time, resources and capital. This waste occurs in re-sampling data, collecting more data, re-analyzing data or improving a process that is not in control. Generally, the problem is not related to the tool itself, but how the results are interpreted. In the absence of extensive project experience, Six Sigma professionals can use the techniques described here to identify these anomalies and transform the data in order to make better quality decisions.

Change Issues Facing Leaders: Sponsorship

“Change is inevitable. In a progressive country change is constant.” Substitute “company” for “country,” and most people in modern organizations will nod and sigh deeply (although not many will know that the quotation is from British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli – and that it was uttered back in 1867).

Change is inevitable – in pursuit of better quality, lower costs or higher revenues. Whether resulting in process, technology or organizational redesign, one single factor will always contribute: people. No matter how automated a business is, there will be people required at critical points, the change will require them to alter their behaviors (the way they do their jobs) and there will be resistance.

Resistance is rarely malicious or stubborn. People resist because that is the natural human reaction in times of change, even when the changes are small. People’s resistance becomes more entrenched when the company does little to help them – or even makes it more difficult to change. This article gives some simple, common sense insights into the most critical success factor: sponsorship. These insights apply to process improvements driven by a Six Sigma and/or Lean initiative or by competitive or commercial pressures.

The ‘S’ Word

Sponsorship is the common factor across every single change method, and whether an individual is referred to as a sponsor, a Champion, or by any other name, most organizations are now aware of the need to appoint one when initiating change.

Sponsors are often senior leaders, are interested in and committed to the change, and have budget authority, but still the change often fails. What is often overlooked is that the individual may not be the right one – organizationally.

Most companies run on a management-by-objectives command and control system. Corporate objectives are set and cascaded down the organization, and at the end of each performance year appraisals are held and rewards determined. Employees know (or will quickly learn) that activities that further their objectives may be rewarded and other activities will not be.

This means that not only does a serious change need to be reflected in the objectives of all those directly affected, it needs to become the objective of employees’ managers and their managers’ managers. There is little benefit in agreeing to new behaviors with someone if the words and actions of his or her manager question, undermine or contradict them.

Given this deeply embedded dynamic within organizations, it follows by induction that the ideal sponsorship must lie in sympathy with the organizational structure – with the person who controls (explicitly or implicitly) the objectives of all those required to change.

As is often the case, ruthless logic leads to an unreasonable place: It means that every change involving cross-functional impact should be sponsored by the CEO. This is unsustainable because no individual can provide real attention to the number of projects that this would imply.

Choosing a Sponsor

The choice of sponsor therefore needs to be a compromise. It needs to recognize the realities of a performance-by-objectives culture and the practicalities of the CEO’s time and attention. The CEO can delegate the sponsorship to a leader who commands many, although not all, of those affected by the change. The chosen sponsor should be an individual with personal and political influence that can have an impact on all those not under his or her direct authority. This can be done overtly and explicitly – the chosen sponsor is given the full authority of the ideal sponsor.

The issue is one of risk. The further the chosen sponsor is away from the ideal set by the organization structure, the greater the risk of failure.

The same model can be applied on a smaller scale where the ideal sponsor is the head of a large business unit, or perhaps the manager of a large production site. Then, the sponsor may delegate the sponsorship to a leadership team member, but the same criteria apply: the person is responsible for a significant proportion of those affected by the change and has the necessary influence, authority, enthusiasm and resources (budget and people).

This test can be applied to any change that is being considered. Identify all those affected by the change (those whose day-to-day behaviors must change in order for success to be achieved). Map out their reporting lines up the organization (the lines of objectives and rewards cascading down the organization) and find out in whose hands they converge.

Having found the ideal sponsor, see who else could be successful as a sponsor (even if the ideal sponsor can accept the role, such people will be a great support to the ideal sponsor). Apply the same criteria: the person is responsible for a significant proportion of those affected by the change and has the necessary commitment, enthusiasm, personal and political influence, and ability to secure resources.

Then assess the risk incurred by the sponsorship: Given the individual’s suitability, is failure still likely? Is it possible or unlikely? Is the failure likely to be total and to cause delays and extra costs? Or just to be uncomfortable for those involved? Depending on such an assessment, decide how viable an individual’s sponsorship is and what mitigation actions are appropriate.

Handling the Decision

Needless to say, such analyses are sensitive and should be treated as confidential. Senor leaders will not appreciate the questioning of their ability to get something done. However, the opportunity to influence the choice of sponsor or to help coach a sponsor to greater success makes the activity worthwhile.

In the case where an initiative is already underway with a chosen (but not necessarily correct) sponsor, use this approach to evaluate the person’s chances of success and to choose an appropriate intervention. While no one likes to hear they are not capable of delivering against their commitments, most will listen if (with positive intent) one can explain the organizational barriers to their success, can identify the people that they must influence and can (possibly) identify to whom they should hand over the sponsorship.

Failure through incorrect sponsorship is bad for everyone – for the sponsor, the organization and for those affected by the change. A common sense approach that can help avoid failure is worth the small effort and some difficult conversations.

Position Details: Senior Program Manager

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka
Recruiter: Rupa Krishnan
Phone Number:
Email ID:



We are looking for an experienced Senior Program Manager who will lead and manage the business  opportunities /programs /projects for internal Client servicing across the globe. You will be the champion to introduce new efficient technologies to enhance the Technology services. The successful candidate must be able to work directly with the system/data, manage stakeholders and lead multiple projects at one time. Should be passionate about their work, self-motivated, detail oriented and have excellent problem solving abilities. They will deal with highly ambiguous problems, taking full control and responsibility for finding solutions, and will drive towards simple solutions to complex problems.

The goal is to ensure that all programs deliver the desirable outcome to our organization


  • Formulate, organize and monitor inter-connected projects
  • Decide on suitable strategies and objectives
  • Coordinate cross-project activities
  • Lead and evaluate project managers and other staff
  • Develop and control deadlines, budgets and activities
  • Apply change, risk and resource management
  • Assume responsibility for the program’s people and vendors
  • Assess program performance and aim to maximize ROI
  • Resolve projects’ higher scope issues
  • Prepare reports for program directors


  • Proven experience as a Program Manager or other managerial position
  • Thorough understanding of project/program management techniques and methods
  • Excellent Knowledge of performance evaluation and change management principles
  • Excellent knowledge of MS Office; working knowledge of program/project management software (Basecamp, MS Project etc.) is a strong advantage
  • Outstanding leadership and organizational skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent problem-solving ability.
  • PMP/PRINCE II certification is a plus.

About PROLIM Corporation

PROLIM is a leading provider of end-to-end IT, PLM

The word “PROJECT” on colorful puzzles on white background

and Engineering Services and Solutions for Global 1000 companies. They understand business as much as technology, and help their customers improve their profitability and efficiency by providing high-value technology consulting, staffing, and project management outsourcing services.

Their IT and PLM consulting offerings include; Advisory, PLM Software/Services, Program Management, Solution Architecture Training/Staffing, Cloud Solutions, Servers/Networking, Infrastructure, ERP Practices and QA Services. Engineering services include Data Translation, CAD/CAM/CAE, Process & Product Engineering, Prototyping, and Testing/Validation within a wide range of markets and industries.


Prince 2 / PMP Job- Project Manager

Job Description
The primary responsibilities include:

  • Senior Manager PMO at Thomson Reuters : –
  • Analyzes project profitability, revenue, margins, bill rates and utilization
  • Prepares for engagement reviews and quality assurance procedures as a part of the project governance
  • Plan and conduct regular engagement level business reviews
  • Risk identification and mitigation planning
  • Resource forecasting, project planning and base lining sign-off
  • Develop schedules, project budget and track to engagement objectives
  • Monitor order to cash process
  • Devise project plans, track milestones, and raise timely red flags and present mitigation plans to the stakeholders
  • Manage stakeholder communication
  • Track project deliverables using appropriate tools
  • Facilitates team and client meetings effectively


  • Hands on experience on project transition both onsite and offshore is a must
  • Ability to design and document processes (Preferably in MS Visio)

8 -10 years of project management experience is required


  • Candidate must have the knowledge of devising MS Project plans and should be proficient in MS-office
  • Strong data analysis skills required
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills required

Full time Bachelor’s degree and project management certification (PMP / PRINCE2) is a must

At Thomson Reuters, we believe what we do matters. We are passionate about our work, inspired by the impact it has on our business and our customers. As a team, we believe in winning as one – collaborating to reach shared goals, and developing through challenging and meaningful experiences. With over 50,000 employees in more than 100 countries, we work flexibly across boundaries and realize innovations that help shape industries around the world. Bring your ambition to make a difference. We’ll bring a world of opportunities.

As a global business we rely on diversity of culture and thought to deliver on our goals. To ensure we can do that, we seek talented, qualified employees in our operations around the world regardless of race, color, sex/gender, including pregnancy, gender identity and expression, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, citizen status, veteran status, or any other protected classification under country or local law. Thomson Reuters is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer providing a drug-free workplace.

Intrigued by a challenge as large and fascinating as the world itself? Come join us.

To learn more about what we offer, please visit

More information about Thomson Reuters can be found on

India-Uttarpradesh-Noida-IND-Noida-B23-Sector 58

Benchmarking Beer

Every company and industry can benefit from benchmarking, especially in markets undergoing dramatic growth, as customer expectations and competition change overnight. I thought about this recently when heading out to a craft brewery.

In 2011, I was given the book Ohio Breweries by Rick Armon. I had hoped to drink at each of the 49 breweries listed within a year, but managed to stop at only a dozen or so. I liked every beer at every brewery I visited. Some ales were superior to others, but all were enjoyable. It was fun to talk to owners and brewers, who were proud of their products and the hard work required to get their enterprises up and running. On each visit, I looked forward to walking into a new brewery and checking out the ales, the vibe, and the nuances that made each unique.

There are now 173 breweries in Ohio, of which 39 opened in 2016. And as much as I like beer, I’ll never visit that many in a year — although I may try.

But then last month, as I traveled to a new brewery, I experienced a new reaction: I was apprehensive.

As the local industry grew, I found a few breweries whose products were simply awful. Undrinkable. It’s clear to me — and to fellow beer snobs and brewers — that these establishments have major process problems that damage the quality of their beer. It boggles my mind that the owners and brewers at these places aren’t aware of this. I gave each a second try, whether at the brewery itself or by sampling their distributed products, but they had not improved in over a year.

I bet that other beer drinkers are encountering this phenomenon. Nationwide, the number of craft breweries has grown from 2,420 in 2012 to 5,234 in 2016. I hope (and believe) that the market for these breweries will continue to expand as well. Consumers crave craft products, and it’s hard to see the trend reversing, especially among younger drinkers. And I pledge to do my part to support the industry, trying ales from as many breweries as possible, in Ohio and across the country.

But a growing industry always faces a growing problem: competition. With so many more options, the grace period for bad beers and bad breweries is shorter than ever — and fewer drinkers, myself included, feel compelled to give bad breweries a second chance.

I truly want to see every entrepreneur succeed, especially brewers. In the past, when I visited a disappointing brewery, I left a half-finished beer, hoping that the message could be seen in my glass. Subtlety is not working.

The next time I’m served a bad beer, I’ll politely let the brewer know why I didn’t like it — to clearly recognize a problem is the first step in solving a problem. I encourage all beer drinkers and brewers to be vocal about bad beer, and to encourage the bad brewers to look to their peers for guidance. The best brewers already do this, benchmarking each others’ beers and pushing each other’s products to higher levels of quality, taste, and distinctiveness. In doing so, they boost their sales and profits as well.

In brewing (as in every industry), the bar is always being raised (pun intended). Help every entrepreneurial brewer ascend. Praise the good. Point out the bad. And pour me another IPA, please.

As vice president of research for The MPI Group, George Taninecz applies more than 20 years of experience in studying management and operations. He develops research fielding and analysis tools that enable organizations to assess their performances, gauge best practices, and define paths for improvement. He also oversees the creation of thought-provoking white papers, reports, and unique-format knowledge that present industry trends and issues.

George also serves the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), for which he develops lean case studies and manages and/or edit book projects, including Gemba Walks by Jim Womack (LEI, 2011) and The Lean Manager by Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé (LEI, 2009).

Nobody Likes a Bully

I became materials manager at our corporation’s third largest-spend factory after 11 years of successfully filling positions of increasing responsibility within the purchasing function. The industry our factory participated in was a bit outside of the norm for our company since it was very competitive. For instance, it wasn’t unusual for one of our other divisions to hold market shares over 50% in important product categories. Our division enjoyed a few of those in minor niche markets but, for the most part, was happy to achieve double-digit percentage market shares for our primary products.

The reason for the intense competition in our business was that the financial investment needed to gain entry into it in was relatively small. For instance, it was not a stretch to say that some of our competitors had actually started out as garage-based operations and done so not that long ago. The investment needed to enter the markets our company’s other divisions sold products in was prohibitive to-an-extreme, which limited the number of participants.

To differentiate our division’s products from that of our competitors we focused on designs that delivered higher productivity, better user-friendliness, the highest quality and the longest life. Consequently, they had the reputation of being the crème-de-la-crème in our product category. This was a good position to be in but even so most demand in our market was from homeowners, which meant that while prestige might be a factor in buying decisions, price and availability were usually the dominant considerations. This presented a different procurement predicament for us than our factories in other divisions whose customers were often willing to both pay a premium for their products and wait months (not kidding!) for their delivery. In fact, our factory’s market situation was such that if our products weren’t priced right out-of-the-chute and immediately available, customers would likely purchase from the competition.

Because of this the procurement function at our factory was focused on keeping our initial purchase prices competitive. At the other end of the spectrum were our colleagues in the other divisions who tended to leave a little more meat-on-the-bone for their suppliers. This is not just my opinion. I heard this voiced from many suppliers that sold to multiple units across all our divisions. Because of this our factory’s year-to-year Material Variance (piece-price reduction performance) didn’t measure up to the top performing factories in the company, i.e., when there is more meat-left-on-the-bone initially it is easier to cut from it. In fact, over the last couple of decades our factory’s annual Material Variance had consistently been adverse, with prices typically going up in the 1% to 2% range. On the other hand some factories in other divisions would consistently deliver favorable Material Variances of up to 2% a year. In other words, year-to-year pricing comparisons across the corporation made our factory procurement function look like it wasn’t doing the job in controlling prices. Consequently, when I became materials manager the primary mission I was given was to start delivering favorable Material Variance performance, i.e., achieve lower pricing on a year-to-year basis.

We worked on cost reduction just like every purchasing department in our company, and did a pretty good job at it. However, in investigating our factory’s past Material Variance performance, I found that to compensate for the extremely competitive initial pricing needed to compete in our markets we had tried to honor reasonable supplier price increase requests. Why? Because if we didn’t capable suppliers might not to want to do business with us. As a consequence piece-price increases more than offset our cost reduction efforts. The fact was, though, that we had probably become a bit too lenient in our price-increase request approvals.

I met with my department and told them that we intended to continue to collaborate with suppliers on year-to-year pricing—after all, everyone-needs-to-eat—but that going forward we would be less open to granting price increases involving controllable costs. In other words, if the worldwide price of steel rose we would certainly grant price increases related to steel content. But, on the other hand, we would look very closely at things like price requests related to labor rate increases since at our own factory wage increases were expected to be offset by productivity gains, i.e., total labor cost would not rise. Feedback indicated that this seemed a pretty fair strategy and, while suppliers would certainly need to adjust their practices, they would understand and accept the basis of the change.

As mentioned in my previous column (“The Drop Kick Heard ‘Round the Plant”), at about this same time the top purchasing position at corporate had been elevated from director to vice-president. The company had then been able to attract a well-known procurement VP from another corporation to fill that position. At every step this individual’s strategy tended to be to try to centralize purchasing power and decision-making at corporate, a difficult “sell” at a company known for distributed authority. He also thought to standardize procurement practices across the corporation which, of course, wouldn’t take into account market-related differences and necessities.

It was obvious the new VP wasn’t used to getting the type of pushback he received on his “one-size-fits-all” plans from our company’s individual factory materials managers, but he remained persistent. Within a year he had gotten CEO approval for an ongoing year-to-year Material Variance goal that would apply equally to all factories. The expected annual price reduction was 5%.

It was clear that the new-kids-on-the-block (directors) brought in by the new VP had very little understanding of our company’s products, the industries we competed in, or our corporate culture. And worse yet, they didn’t care to learn about them. In other words, they were interested in rolling out a corporate-wide procurement cookie-cutter approach regardless of the significant differences in our businesses. This wasn’t just my perspective, I assure you. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion among my materials manager colleagues as we sought to adjust to the new purchasing regime.

I decided I needed to go to my general manager for guidance. He had grown up in the company—his father had managed a dealership—and the rumor was that when he suffered a cut he bled blood the same colors as the primary paints used on our company’s products. His advice to me was to stay-the-course relative to annual Material Variance goals, regardless of what corporate was demanding. In other words, if we could introduce a trend of positive Material Variance he would look upon that as a major victory.

So how did we do? A year into my tenure we had a favorable Material Variance of 1.29%! I was ecstatic and so was my general manager. I sat down with my group and congratulated them for what they had accomplished and asked what they thought they could deliver as a follow-up, as we were setting next year’s budgets and financial projections which required a Direct Material cost projection. They took up the challenge and agreed there was a legitimate chance of achieving a 2% reduction. I asked for details on how they expected to achieve this—commodity-by-commodity and supplier-by-supplier—and they put together what I considered to be a great plan.

I would need this because I was soon to report to our division’s new VP of operations on my department’s fiscal year-end results as well as our goals for next year. I was excited about this because we had good news to report. This person was whom my general manager reported to. I had heard things about the new VP that worried me. For instance, he was the sort of guy who demanded strict loyalty. What do I mean by this? In staff meetings he would regularly say things like “if you aren’t with me, you’re against me.” I had also heard that he had visions of becoming a division president some day and because of this came down hard on his people whose performance didn’t make him look good. I think you can see where this is going.

I spent a lot of time and effort putting my presentation together. It focused on our factory’s historically adverse Material Variance performance; the favorable Material Variance the team had delivered this year, and the plan to improve upon this year’s performance next year. The VP didn’t have much to say until I ended when he said, “Your department’s performance for this year wasn’t acceptable, nor is the goal for next year.”

I was stunned and asked him what he meant. He said, “This factory’s Material Variance performance lagged compared to factories in other divisions. Next year’s corporate-wide goal is a 5% favorable Material Variance, and if you don’t deliver it, you will have failed.”

I again reminded him of our factory’s past Material Variance performance and the progress we had made this year, telling him that in my opinion my people had gone way above-and-beyond in making it happen. I went on to say there was no materials manager in this company that thought setting an annual across-the-board corporate-wide cost reduction goal of 5% was either reasonable or even the right thing to do—which was true. He replied, “A 5% favorable Material Variance is next year’s goal and I expect you to propose a plan that will deliver it.”

Hmmm. I had been pretty proud of my team’s performance and this reaction was unexpected. I told the VP that while we could set the goal at any level he wanted, next year’s financial projections needed to be based on reality and a 2% reduction in Direct Material cost represented a realistic stretch goal for our factory that we would be hard-pressed to delivery. I went on that if we set our Material Variance goal at 5% and didn’t deliver, it would introduce error into those financial projections. He replied, “Your goal is 5%.”

At that point I lost my cool and said, “If what you’re interested in is an attention-grabbing performance goal, why not set it at 10%?”

He replied, “Ok, this factory’s Material Variance goal for next year is 10%.”

My boss gave me a look that indicated I should stop talking—and now—but I went on anyway. I said, “Why stop at 10%, then? Why not set it at 20%?”

Well, that was the end of my update. Shortly thereafter my boss let me know that I was being replaced as the factory materials manager. When I asked why he replied that our new VP of operations didn’t believe I was committed to cost reduction. Really?

As you can imagine I was devastated by this and the Materials department was in shock. I realized I had been out-of-line at the presentation but didn’t think my comments merited me losing my job—one that I had worked long and hard to achieve. Evidently, as a result of those comments the VP of operations judged me as “not being with him,”, therefore, I must be against him. Fortunately, I had supporters at the division’s executive level and they made sure a job was created for me that didn’t result in a drop-in-grade. In fact, the new position remained in Purchasing and gave me multi-factory procurement responsibility in several areas. Unfortunately, it was in the operations VP’s organization.

I’ve always felt that when one door closes another opens, if only you’ll let it. I tried to put a good spin on what had happened to me with my ex-employees by telling them that I had heard the new materials manager was a good guy. But I have to admit that many of them who had worked elbow-to-elbow with me over the last decade or so weren’t necessarily placated. In other words, they thought I had gotten a raw deal. I will say that the job I enjoyed the most in my career was as a factory materials manager. This must have been noticed since prior to retiring from this company I was given the opportunity to fill in for an extended period of time in that position when it became vacant at one of our factories. I treated that as a sort of farewell gift. We made great progress there, too.

So what happened as a result of the above? The new materials manager put together and presented a plan to deliver a 5% favorable Material Variance. The actual results came in under 1%, i.e., less than had been delivered the previous year when I was in charge and also less than the 2% goal I had tried to propose. But I guess that must have been OK because even though the department didn’t come close to hitting its performance target, the fact that my replacement had been willing to set an unrealistic performance goal implied that he was with—not against—the operations VP. Consequently, my replacement continued on in the materials manager position for several years, setting annual cost reduction goals of 5% and never coming close to hitting them. While I had been both doing things the right way and looking out for the best interests of my company, evidently that was not what the VP wanted out of his managers.

What happened to the operations VP? He launched a personal vendetta against me with the goal of getting me fired. Unfortunately for him my work record was sterling and continued to be in my new position. Because of this I managed to hang on to my job. Towards the end of my career I eventually got out from under the VP’s shadow by getting transferred to a process owner position at Corporate.

What happened to me? I stayed employed but never got another promotion in that corporation.

What did I learn? I should have kept my mouth shut at that meeting. There would have been better times and channels to make my point but I had lost my cool and so responded as I did. I felt that by taking the position he did the operations VP was setting my employees up for failure. I have an admitted weakness in that I can’t tolerate bullying—either against me or my people—and his position on our performance failure tripped-my-trigger. Realize, I would have been trying to justify pay raises for my group in the near future and his “unacceptable performance” comments were sure to get around, making it very difficult to make a strong case for them.

In the end, though, everything happens for a reason and things turned out as they should have. When our division president retired the operations VP didn’t get promoted to that position. Shortly thereafter he retired. Later on I did some digging through contacts I had in Corporate HR and heard that this guy’s perceived lack of people skills was the primary reason for him being passed-over for the president’s position. Better yet, I was told his treatment of me was brought up as an example of his lack of skill in that area. I was glad to hear that our corporate leaders didn’t think placing a bully in such a position of high authority would be a good thing for the company. I guess Karma is real and this guy’s eventually caught up with him. Sorry, but I couldn’t help but feel somewhat vindicated.

In addition, I was able to “turn lemons into lemonade” and in my new position enacted the Lean Supply Chain strategy that allowed my division to successfully enter a big-box marketing channel, i.e., previously we had sold our product exclusively through company dealerships. Due largely to our ability to support incremental sales by having worked with our supplier to significantly reduce their “true” lead-times (Manufacturing Critical-path Times), we were named that initial year as our big-box’s supplier-of-the-year in our product category. The primary reason for this was that we were able to support a significant amount of incremental sales—well over 50% above the initial forecast—which delivered a significant amount of additional revenue and windfall profit to both our big-box customer and my company. This was something that couldn’t have happened without purchasing’s direct involvement. And guess what? That involvement hadn’t related to piece-price reduction!

Note: With the recent national visibility given to a couple of terms, it seems appropriate to relate one more detail about the operation VP’s attempt to get me fired. After being removed as materials manager I still remained on the division’s management team. At one of its periodic meetings I expressed a perspective that the VP apparently didn’t agree with. He responded to my comment by loudly proclaiming, “Ericksen, you are a grandstander and show-boater.” He said this loud enough that it could be heard by the division’s entire upper management group.

Everyone was shocked—including and especially me—and he and I exchanged several pleasantries in front of everybody, i.e., after all, what did I have to lose? The next day as I was walking through our divisional headquarters I noticed people avoided looking at or talking with me. On the other hand I must have done all right in defending myself at that meeting since a few days after it the division’s president called me to his office and complimented me on how I had handled the VP’s attack. In fact, he said that the way I had represented myself was probably why I still had a job.

But make no mistake about it. The operation VP’s public comments tainted me to the point where I was shunned by many of my peers, at least for a while. And it all occurred because I offered an opinion that wasn’t completely aligned with one of the VP’s talking points.

In my book there is a primary characteristic to being a bully: namely, denigrating publicly (or trying to) someone lower than you in the pecking-order. And this guy had done that to me in-spades. And in doing so he confirmed to many of the people present that he was, indeed, a bully.