Author: Michael Dalton

In memory of a true leadership hero – Eliyahou M. Goldratt

On June 11th, 2011, the world lost Eli Goldratt – a true leadership hero. Many call him a management visionary because of his Theory of Constraints – a management and improvement focusing approach that in retrospect most see as “just common sense.” A fact that he accepted as praise. But, or maybe in addition, I call him a leadership hero because of one of the fundamentals underlying his work – his assertion that people are good. As a business leader for many years, I know how easy it can be to blame problems in a business on the people doing the work. “If we just had smarter, harder working, more careful people. If people just did what we wanted them to do, everything would be fine.” But the fact is that as managers, we often attribute the problem to people when it’s really a situation or a policy issue. Goldratt referred to this in his early work as a policy constraint. Policies are not physical constraints, like a production bottleneck, but they still act to constrain the system’s bottleneck. For example, if we fail to plan new product projects and then communicate the plans should we expect people to just know what the best use of their time is? Or when they should stop and move on to something else? If we laud multi-tasking as a valuable skill, is...

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More innovation lessons from the classroom

Just read an interesting study from Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, that adds an extra layer of value to the argument for pipelining your new product development projects – as if faster cycle time and earlier cash flow weren’t enough. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of pipelining, working on projects sequentially rather than in parallel means that more projects get done sooner. Here’s an example: Let’s say you have 4 different customer projects A, B, C, and D. And let’s say that each will take 3 work months to complete. If we break them into one month chunks and work in the ABCDABCDABCD sequence, the best we could hope to accomplish is to finish A after 9 months, B after 10, C after 11 and D after 12 months. Pipelining, or completing one project before starting the next in the sequence AAABBBCCCDDD, allows us to deliver to the first client after 3 months, the second after 6, the third after 9 and the fourth after 12. Bottom line – three of our clients see their work earlier than they otherwise would have and the fourth sees no difference. But there’s more to it as we learn from Ariely’s work on procrastination. His studies show their is also a big quality benefit to pacing commitments – even if he doesn’t call it pipelining. In the study, he describes...

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Purpose in Innovation

Simon Sinek’s TED presentation, is a must see for any leader and anyone trying to grow through innovation. The presentation, part of the promotion for his book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” is quite simply an explanation of why some companies inspire followers rather than just satisfy customers. Sinek presents something he calls the golden circle – why at the center, followed by how in the second ring and what in the outer ring. While most companies communicate from the outside in, it’s much more powerful to start with why. Companies like Apple, leaders like MLK, or even inventors like the Wright brothers, all started with a powerful purpose first. By starting with why, they were each able to create a passionate following of like-minded people. Microsoft is buttoned down and business-like, but Apple is all about being different. While lot’s of people use Microsoft products, few are passionate about them. Few people wait in line to be the first to own the latest Windows computer – quite the opposite for Apple. Of course, the growth rates and share prices show the impact that passion has had. Enjoy the video and let me know what you think. This article appears by permission of the author and was originally published on his Simplifying Innovation blog. Dalton on Innovation Mike Dalton is the author of...

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Is your market dying for change?

In the Fast Company Article Change or Die, Alan Deutchman, shared a statistic that blew me away. After just a year, more than 90% of heart bypass patients return to the 5 behaviors (overeating, not exercising, too much stress, excessive drinking, and smoking) that put them on the operating table to begin with. Ninety percent! Makes you wonder how anyone could go through something as life changing as a coronary bypass and not change for good. Funny thing though – when I think about different people I know that have gone through bypass surgery, most were all back to their old ways within a short time. In his book, Leading Change, John Kotter identifies the key factors for successful change. Number one is a sense of urgency. Well if dying doesn’t create a sense of urgency what does. Why then is that not enough? Kottter explains that a sense of urgency is required to get people moving. However, to keep them moving they need a compelling vision for the future. This fits with the heart patient example as well, where counseling dramatically reduces recidivism rates; of course a key part of that counseling is helping the patient envision a healthy future. One where they control their weight, and other habits and as a result have less pain and are able to more actively participate in life with their loved...

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Should innovation be one of your core competencies?

Should innovation one of your core competencies? Peter Drucker may have answered that question best when he said that since businesses exist to create customers, the two essential functions of any business are marketing and innovation. And most CEO’s agree or why would they reinvest (aka spend) anywhere between 30 and 50% of their net income in R&D. However, even with that level of spending, most are dissatisfied with the return on that investment. So what are they doing wrong? Getting more out of that investment requires a core competence in managing new product innovation. Easier said than done, but knowing where the leverage points are can dramatically speed improvement. Here’s how the five focusing steps of Theory of Constraints can help in this process. 1. Identify your innovation bottleneck and its constraints. To increase new product profits and time to market, you need to identify the bottlenecks in your process. Every innovation process, whether formally documented or not, has a leverage point—a step or resource in the process that limits the output of the overall system. To find your bottleneck, map your innovation process—the steps that your new products follow to go from ideas to commercial reality. Steps might include opportunity identification, solution development, prototyping, scale-up, testing, and even market launch. Of course, the market itself can become a constraint when you have more capacity than demand, but...

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Elephants at Work

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert is an Executive Coach based in Charlotte, NC. She assists high achievers to be exceptional and versatile through executive, leadership and career coaching. She works with clients by phone, ZOOM and in-person.

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