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David Dickson

No one cares how hard you work! How you can do more, while doing less – know your MO.

Would you like me to tell you a dirty, little secret?

No one cares how hard you work. Sure, some people will notice if you seem to be working hard. Your spouse or companion might note that you seem tired, stressed, not as much fun, or just aren’t around much, but they care about the consequences, not how hard you work. Your boss might note happily that his staff seems busy, things are humming along, but you can be sure that when it is review time she gets no credit for “keeps staff very busy.” Nor will the boss give you extra points for being busy. It is about results.

People outside your personal life, beyond your coworkers, might notice that you are hard to contact, perhaps because you are so busy. But trust me, customers do not care why they can’t get hold of you, and they will not see it as a positive.

Nothing is Good about Busy

No one cares how busy you are unless it inconveniences them.

If you could get all your work done in 15 minutes a week, do it better than anyone else, and then spend the rest of your time amusing yourself, maybe helping suppliers, customers, and coworkers, what would that make you?

A hero.

I know, I know, being really busy makes us feel good, if in a perverse way. We feel important, secure in our jobs, and after a while maybe even a little addicted to the chaotic thrill of it all. At some point, “I just don’t know how I am going to get it all done” goes from being a lament to a declaration of pride. After all, you will get it done, will bust your butt to do it, and quite possibly do it better than anyone else would. Or maybe not.

Get over your addiction to working hard, do it now. Work smart, work less, do better. Optimize.

People Care about the Benefits

What you deliver and how great the quality you provide them is what counts -- nothing more or less. 

Except for your Mom, who loves you just for being you, customers, colleagues, and stakeholders want to know what for goodness sake have you done for them lately despite the accumulated hours to do it.

You manufacture things and provide them to customers. They are good things, things customers need, and are willing to pay good money for. Customers and prospects want those things at a good price, at the time and place they need them. They want them to work well, every time. Am I missing something, or is that pretty much it?

It is hardly news that there are three types of competitive advantage – pricing, innovation, and execution. For a long time people thought you had to choose one and win based on that, but lately a lot of people have started to believe you need to be very good at two, or maybe all three. Sorry, I can’t give you any tips on innovation, beyond this – maybe if you had a little time to sit, breath, think a little, you will have some good ideas. It could happen. But I can give you some tips on how to keep prices competitive and execute better.

What is your M.O.?

I’m not talking “Modus Operandi,” which is a fancy way to say: “what’s your plan to get stuff done”.  I’m talking about Manufacturing Optimization.  That MO isn’t rocket science. 

It is all about efficiency, and by that, I mean doing more with less. Less labor, less time, less materials, while still delivering a high-quality product on time.

As a CFO, this is a subject that is near and dear to me. So I spend time “encouraging people” to be more efficient. There are lots of ways to do this, and different ways work better than others.

We all know some of the nastier CFO tricks, like losing expenditure requests, setting budgets unrealistically low, or just the simple “Really?” with a look of total incredulity when the staff tells me they need another new computer and more storage. I happen to be very good at that last one because I have a lot of practice. Not terribly constructive, but who’s perfect?

The Three Secrets to Improving your MO

What is really insightful about MO, as defined here, is this:

1.  Identify the key metrics.  You need benchmark data so you know what realistic goals are, then track them and publish your performance along with a brief comment from time to time on how things are trending and how you compare with others, particularly your primary competitors. The best thing about this is that it is a system that develops a life of its own.

2. Measure it.  Automatically, people start to think about improving things. Then the fun part, stuff begins to improve by itself. Once in place, the system just hums along and the benefits appear because it has motivated people to think about it and figure out what they can do to make it better.

3. Communicate it.  So I publish gross profit numbers, explain to people how what we do affects them, they start to modify their behavior and I do not have to say “no” anymore. And I really like it when I can do less. Try it and you may like it, too.

How to get started

At this point you might think this is easy until you begin to think about where to get started. Don’t worry, we are here to help. The way I see it, to make gains on your MO, you have three choices:

a.    Buy

b.    Hire

c.    Network

If you want to buy the information, there are a lot of databases, just search for manufacturing benchmarking.

You can hire a consultant who is good at talking to you, using one or more of the databases, and then making specific suggestions as to what and how. Consultants can be wonderful, just keep in mind three more things – they cost more, you have to pick one who is qualified to help your company (painful admission – being willing to take the executive team golfing does not make a consultant ‘qualified’), and you must be ready, willing and able to act on the recommendations.

Let me say that again because it is important:  You must be ready to listen and ready to react to improve your MO.

Or you can pick the brains of people you run across every day, coworkers, customers, vendors, people you meet at conferences. As a good CFO, I admit to having the bad habit of picking the brains of potential vendors. If I want to improve something I might contact a few vendors who promise to improve our efficiency in that area and listen to what they would propose to do. I do not lie to them or set any unrealistic expectations, and they do not give me anything for free beyond a little bit of their time and wisdom. Maybe the end result is we do something ourselves, or with one of the vendors – either way, it is a good place to start.

And I just happen to know where to find some smart people who know an awful lot about MO – that being the manufacturing optimization kind.

They work around here actually, and they sure are great!

You can call and pick our brains if you like.

About the author:

David Dickson is an itinerant generalist; his path to partner and CFO of Crossroads RMC has had its twists and turns. His first twist occurred when an employer needed a business system and picked him because he had three semesters of computer programming in engineering school -- an “expert” born. Somewhere along the line, he helped to build and sell a company, which he bought back a couple of years later. Add in another acquisition, a merger, and about 30 years in manufacturing systems in various roles, and you might get a sense from where his real expertise might arise.

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6 comments on article "No one cares how hard you work! How you can do more, while doing less – know your MO."

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Hi, this is perfect. Very well said David.

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David Dickson

Thank you for your kind feedback.

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Great insight! Thanks for sharing!

There is nothing like a Dashboard to communicate corporate goals and where an organization stands relative to those targets. There is good book out called "4 Dimensions of Execution" that has some great war stories. This book covers in about 250 pages what you said in one.

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David Dickson

I will take a look at 4 Dimensions of Execution, even if you do say it is a bit wordy...

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Jim Perizzino

I wish everybody thought like you sir. I'm the type of person that enjoys my simple life and people just don't shut the $*#@ up about how they work and how my job is easy.

I also have a slight autism which just gives them an easier time discriminating me and judging me the 'black sheep'.

I hope David that you stick to your M.O and continue to encourage people like me to 'know better' next time they pull thier BS lol.

Thanks for the great read,

Jim Perizzino.

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David Dickson

Glad you enjoyed it Jim. Sounds like you have taken what some might consider to be a challenge and used it to look at things differently, and better. Bravo for you.

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