Magazine article Industrial Management

SEMS Says

Magazine article Industrial Management

SEMS Says

Article excerpt

Owning up to strategic planning; rethinking 'left' and 'right'

Keys to success for strategic planning

Like most improvement initiatives, large-scale projects or culture change efforts, success hinges on the support of top management. I recently facilitated a semi-annual strategic planning session with a company that I have been working with for more than two years. As I looked around the room during the session, I saw high-level managers and top sales people taking time out of their busy schedule to slow down and make time for strategic reflection.

Bringing this elite group together into one room for a day is only done at the request of the highest leader in the organization. Everyone in the room took the discussion seriously. All strategy team members presented an update of their goals with passion. Part of the focus and passion was a result of the emphasis the plant manager places on the "strategy sessions," as they are called in this company.

A key to strategic planning success is to experience some early success. Within six months of the first strategic planning in 2009, quality significantly improved. By summer 2010, it was time for a second planning session. This session produced a more refined vision and a fine-tuned mission statement, benefiting from the report of great reductions in defects. The planning process was working, and everyone knew it.

Another key to success was this company's urgency to improve. Some people may call this the "burning platform" or die sense that if improvements are not made, then serious consequences will follow. This company was not in danger of going under, but obviously it could not continue with business as usual and grow the company.

To ensure long-term success in strategic planning, someone has to "own" the planning process. An individual or team must update the plan, schedule planning sessions and produce reports for updates at the planning sessions. I serve this role in the organization mentioned here, but the role could be filled by anyone on the strategy team.

These are just a few reflections. My best advice is to just get started. Do not worry about creating the perfect plan, but create a small set of goals and strategies with a group of top leaders. Follow up the initial creation of the plan with regular updates. The regularity of meetings will create an expectation of accountability that will lead to success.

- Ryan Underdown is an associate professor and industrial technology program director in the Industrial Engineering Department at Lamar University. He is a senior member of HE, a former director of SEMS, former SEMS president and currently serves on the SEMS Newsletter Subcommittee.

Cultural differences force an ambidextrous perspective

As engineers and managers analyze organizational processes with a view toward three broad questions - "What just happened?" "What is the trend?" "Is the vector desirable and sustainable?" - collaboration with process stakeholders produces parameters to frame the answers. The parameters result in structured motivation to collect, store and disseminate process data for improved decision making. Aggregate process data results from spanning functional and control perspectives.

Contemporary research into "mining" organizational data systems (silos, warehouses, users and required network connections) have brought into focus a need for engineers and other organizational functions to be sensitive to preconceived notions inherent in building the process analyses, notions that suggest personal and organizational heuristic biases

While heuristics versus rules are frequently the norm in seeking systematic answers, the stakeholders "left" or "right" biases can influence the collecting, storing and analyzing of the data. In this context, left and right denote rigidity and inflexibility, not political systems.

While on a Fulbright teaching award to a Middle Eastern country and in developing my instructional pedagogy, questions smacked us in the face about what is up or down, left or right, yes or no. …

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