What is the state of your business?  If I were to ask you how are your operations faring, would you hesitate?  What about the trends?  Has operations been reducing no-trouble found/ cannot-duplicate rates?  Is your call center not asking the right questions when triaging customer complaints thereby letting through costly non-warrantable devices?  Has your days of stock inventory levels been trending positively or negatively?  Are you hitting your targets?

Successful companies know how operations are running daily.  Not just the leaders of the company but from the ground-level up.  Paramount to understanding the state of your business is relevant, actionable reporting.  Call them KPIs – that’s Key Performance Indicators for those of you who don’t know. 

In today’s business, analysts, managers, and executives alike are inundated with loads of data.  However, it’s not always a sure thing that stakeholders know not only what to look for but how.  I’ve been lucky enough to have consulted at several clients where reporting has been on all sides of the extremes, though no one having the ideal/ best practices.  Let me share a few thoughts…
  • Work smarter, not harder.  I’ve seen clients who had excellent cadences for metric reviews (simply put) but the way they created the reports was overly complex.  Analysts pulled reports together during the week and once the weekly report was completed, the analysts started working on the following week’s!
  • Rationalize your dashboards and metrics.  Too often leaders think they’re doing a good job because their managers and analysts are creating a plethora of reports.  They could show you reports for every piece of the business.  But as leaders, there are only a handful of metrics you really should be focused on.  Don’t waste your time and everyone else’s in your meeting sifting through which metrics are key to driving your business.
  • Reports should be easily digestible.  Okay, so maybe if you’re staring at a report showing your customer churn is skyrocketing and so you may be reluctant to swallow that bitter pill.  However, metrics should be easily recognizable/ read.  In reviews with other Leadership, who really has the time to stare at a data table to understand what’s happening?  Like back in elementary school, communicate through pictures (i.e. graphs) to tell stories of the trends, the current state, and the future.  Make reports easily understood and read.
  • Keep a cadence.  Reviews of metrics and dashboards should be done intermittently.  How often depends on your business.  Someone once told me you need to review everyday (in a short meeting) citing a day of not knowing is death.  I hardly think missing a day would mean death in most industries… perhaps in healthcare (company-wise and literally for patients) which is where he worked.  Reviews should be done on a regular basis so that metrics have a baseline for trends and are a part of company life.
  • Make your metrics actionable.  What is the purpose of creating metrics illustrating your business is not faring well if you’re not going to do anything about it?  Metrics, like x-rays at the doctor, tell you the situation and gives you clues as to how to repair or improve your business.  
  • Assign accountability and responsibility.  Hold your people accountable to address concerns.  To the point directly above, metrics should be actionable so that the state of the business lies with your people.  If no one takes accountability and responsibility, then how can change happen?

It’s easy to say, “oh yes, we have metrics.  They’re…” and then you rattle off a dozen, but are those metrics really important to you?  Or maybe you’re really creating metrics and dashboards just to have them.  Paramount to reporting and the whole purpose of reporting is not to have a status meeting daily, weekly, or whenever and leave the room feeling good but nothing was really accomplished.  Instead, reports should be ACTIONABLE and ACCOUNTABLE.  Metrics should be directed and focused on specific operations so that before the meeting adjourns, every stakeholder knows what’s spiraling out of control, what metrics are off target, what are the corrective actions, and of course, who has ownership.  It’s too commonplace to just create reports just for the sake of having them without the necessity to truly understand the business and act upon them.

Treat status reviews and meetings of reports as a tool to check the health of your company.  If you monitor with the right frequency, check key components to your company’s health, and address the bad habits (negative trends or otherwise) through accountability, it will be far easier to keep your company fit for the foreseeable future… and perhaps prevent a few heart attacks both for the company and you.

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It seems everyone’s looking for Ninjas and the like these days… shout out to Irv Grossman for sharing and dubbing me the SC Ninja.  This, of course, is the stroke of genius that is this (my) blog!  Check out the WSJ’s article below!

Wall Street Journal – Ninjas and Jedis Wanted

I wanted to continue my first post on being an effective consultant with this — the sequel.  What I mentioned before greatly hinges on the ability to quickly learn but adaptation and becoming a SC Ninja is more than learning.  Another attribute and key ingredient to being an effective consultant is blending in, too.  I mentioned “blending in” earlier but want to touch on this a bit more.


Clients and stakeholders typically aren’t likely to care much for your fancy clothes, fancy cars, whatever.  In fact, fancy clothing and fancy cars (rental or otherwise) can actually be a strong turn off and even lead clients to believe they’re paying too much.  The Great Recession has reignited the need for clients to cut costs.  Sometimes, clients need consultants to help identify those costs, but they aren’t willing to net zero when the costs for consultants are so much more.  So when entering any project, be sure to know what the dress code is like at the client site.  Don’t overdress.  I’ve heard before to dress no more than a half-step above.  So if the client wears jeans and polos, you can typically wear the same; however, it can be advisable to wear a pair of slacks and a button-up.  If the client wears ties, wear a tie… with a blazer if you so choose.  And if the rental car company upgrades you to a BMW or other high-end brand, opt for a less-fancy vehicle.  

Along with blending in, you’ll need to also understand and mimic the culture.  When I say culture, I don’t necessarily mean dietary habits.  Instead, I’m referring to being able to also act and speak the same language.  Being an effective consultant, SC Ninja, or even a secret agent, you need you blend in as if you’re one with the crowd.  You don’t see James Bond rapping when he walks into a ballroom full of rich villains, right?  Same with being a consultant, you need to be able to match the intellect and language of the clients.  Or at least, act like them.  If you’re a consultant, you’re probably bright.  Don’t outshine the client.    You always want to portray yourself as intelligent — that’s why they paid for your services.  However, you don’t want that intelligence to be off-putting and make clients feel “stupid” or “inferior.  If the client is conservative or highly professional, likewise, don’t walk in boisterous and start cussing.  In fact, it’s best you don’t cuss unless the client is pretty expletive-friendly, too, and you’ve developed a good rapport with the client.

In short, to be an effective consultant, think of what a Supply Chain Ninja would do or a secret agent.  Blend in.  Don’t stand out.  These keys are essential, especially when you’re in an environment when you know the client is not as up-to-speed as yourself or your team.  Be the Ninja.

To be an effective consultant, supply chain or otherwise, you have to be able to adapt.  As a Supply Chain Ninja, I have to be a chameleon… to be able to blend into my surroundings and new engagements.  Otherwise, you end up sticking out like a sore thumb and you don’t pick up new projects quickly.  You must be able to adapt and to learn on-the-fly.  This… this is the key to being an effective Supply Chain Ninja.

One example of this: 
I had one project with a Major Steel Tube Producer and Manufacturer.  The client was looking for operational and systemic improvements in the warehouse co-located within its steel mill.  However, I had limited experience in the steel industry.  As a project team, we were completely transparent with the Client’s Executive Team in our relative limited experience in the steel industry; however, we had a plethora of experience and qualifications in warehouse operations.  

To be effective and deliver exceptional results, we utilized our past experiences to relay warehousing’s core concepts.  Nuances always exist that differentiate client to client and project to project.  In the end, in warehouses and other business processes, core concepts are the same and “portable”… a pick’s a pick, a bin’s a bin, and picking strategies are crucial to the operations.  

As effective Supply Chain Ninjas, each team member was able to pick up the critical elements of the steel company and industry while marrying key warehouse concepts to identify the areas of opportunities in a relatively short time frame.  In the end, we partnered with the key stakeholders to deliver recommendations for bundling (picking and loading) strategies and  integration points for a warehouse management system implementation.