Since the beginning of the lean era more than 20 years ago, there has been traditionally a high focus on production processes. Over time lean development principles have been identified and added to utilize product and process development as the much higher lever for achieving operational excellence. The tools and methods are known and can be implemented, but one of the real keys to a world-class product launch lies in the management of a few drivers with a significant impact.

This separates excellent companies; it allows them to reach their performance goals much faster instead of using a majority of the product lifecycle. The maturity of product and processes at the time of a launch defines the starting point and initial level of performance and stability in operations. Maturity, risks and complexity are three key inefficiency drivers that have tremendous consequences on productivity and quality.

Human nature being what it is, the tendency is to maintain the status quo exemplified by the time-worn cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The company has now placed itself in a reactive mode, content to maintain the process without much evaluation until it has no choice but to modify or, in a worst-case scenario, radically change what it erroneously viewed as a perfect business model.

These problems are not hypotheticals. They are quite common according to our roundtable of culture change experts:

  • Kevin Sensenig, Ph.D., global vice president of learning and organization development for Dale Carnegie Training
  • Christopher S. Dawson, Ph.D., president of Dawson Consulting Group
  • Marsha King, Ph.D., president of SkillPoint Consulting

The focus of this issue is for you to think about what you plan to achieve in terms of sales increases in 2014 and from where these increases will come. Let’s start this discussion with a few short questions:

  1. 1.Have you ever exported any of your products or services to at least one foreign market? If not, have you ever thought about doing this?
  2. 2.Do you export to only one or two foreign markets? Have you thought about expanding to any new foreign markets?
  3. 3.If you do export to multiple foreign markets, e.g., more than two, in which of these markets will you be able to improve your position next year?

On Feb. 7, 2013, EPA proposed 2013 renewable fuel standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuels that apply to all gasoline and diesel produced or imported in year 2013. (78 Fed. Reg. 9282.) The proposal would require producers, importers and distributors of gasoline and diesel to add larger proportions of renewable fuel to their fuel products.  EPA has also proposed, in a separate rulemaking signed on Jan. 31, 2013, an alternative voluntary quality assurance program to help assure compliance and minimize fraudulently procured Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN).

Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines recently when he announced plans to move production for at least part of an existing Mac line to the United States. In fact, Apple joins a growing list of North American businesses – General Motors, General Electric, Microsoft, Caterpillar and Ford among them – that have recognized that overseas offshoring is no longer the good deal it once was, nor does it comport with today’s supply chain demands.

The article on Exporting in the last issue suggested that prior to going to a trade show or on a trade mission, that one have some idea as to the extent of the commitment and control one wanted to have in doing business in a foreign market. The issue presented in that article focused on asking the question, “Do you just want to make an export sale or do you want to develop a foreign market?”  A decision made as to these options, does suggest that very different strategies would need to be developed. Yes, one can slowly move through the process by initially making an export sale and then moving toward the objective of developing a market. This would take place as one would be learning about the nuances of doing business overseas.

Every year, businesses spend a significant amount on employee training. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) reports that in 2010, employers spent close to $171.5 billion on employee learning and development. Over $15 billion is spent every year on sales training alone. In an attempt to reduce training budgets, some companies are turning to advanced technology and utilizing online learning and smart devices. At first glance, these alternative training methods – which allow employees to train and test their knowledge practically anytime and anywhere – appear significantly more cost-effective. In reality, these companies are missing the big picture by not recognizing the critical link between training, immediate execution and continuous improvement.

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