Thursday, November 14, 2013

Teamwork Cooks Up Superior Satisfaction

I had the extreme pleasure of dining this past week at Per Se in New York City. Many thanks again to my most gracious hostess Shelly Sun of Bright Star Care LLC.

I was in NYC for my Women Presidents’ Organization Platinum meeting. I look forward to these meetings because I always come away with great ideas for growing my business. I’m a foodie and I love a great meal but dining at Per Se transcends eating to a whole different level and it truly is an experience that one will remember for a long time to come. While the food is phenomenal what makes the experience so exceptional is the service that is wrapped around the food. At a basic level serving food is a commodity. Creating a world class experience that makes customers rave about you sets you apart. From the moment I stepped into the room for our meal I was treated like the most important person in the room.
Teamwork in the kitchen of Per Se in New York
The level of communication between the staff was fabulous. I have several food allergies. Not a problem, and once communicated the rest of the night was flawless with everything being put before me, regardless of the server, being void of the allergy foods. Even with the passed hors d’oeuvres a special version was created for me, without asking, several times. Course after course was delivered with flawless timing. Though a long meal, the pace was consistent and well timed. It was like watching a well-run machine.

The French Laundry kitchen streaming video at Per Se.
After our meal we were treated to a tour of the kitchen and that is where you can see the real teamwork in action. It is an amazing system of communication and timing. There is also a transparency to the operations happening in the kitchen. The Per Se kitchen is linked by video to the French Laundry kitchen in Yountville, California.

Allowing both kitchens to view the level of performance occurring at each location. We also learned that everyone starts at the bottom and must work every position as they work their way up the ladder. This allows every employee to know the process of making superior food and delivering a world class experience from every position. Everyone can talk about the food being served in-depth.

This last point is interesting because in America we built a superior level of manufacturing excellence through the use of apprentice systems. Like Per Se, a well-planned educational process was offered to workers, deepening their skill-sets and making them that much better as they moved on to the next classification of their job. Economics, and to some degree technology, has eroded this system. I think we have done our employees and our economy a disservice. We are now feeling the effects with an increasing shortage of skilled labor for the manufacturing sector.

I thought about my own team at home. They are awesome. They build a superior, high quality product. Often with short lead times. Often to a customer's special request. They take great pride in what they create. We receive high marks on our net promoter score surveys.

I can only hope we are creating raving fans like the team at Per Se though it may be hard to be as excited about guide wheels, linear motion systems and complex assemblies! We can’t transport your taste buds through the sublime silky delight of a taste of foie gras but we can deliver phenomenal performance for our customers applications, often in the most critical and extreme environments imaginable.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What is Creativity?

I have given this word a lot of thought lately. I have recently read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and have started the habit of writing “morning pages”. It really has not been a struggle to adopt this practice since I have kept a journal on and off my whole life.

What is new for me is to think of myself as a creative human being. I have never really thought of myself as artistic. But this book focuses on the word “creative” and the change of term is thought provoking to me. Traditionally, I always think of the two words being synonymous. Someone who is creative is artistic. But does creativity have to be expressed solely though artistic expression?

I find that this morning habit is deeply reflective. I have learned a lot about myself and the stories I run consistently through my brain; some true but most not. But what is most interesting is that I have never thought about how much stuff I actually create.

Is the creation of a strategic plan and a corporate
vision creative? Is coming up with a new recipe for dinner being creative? Is designing my own thank you card on Tiny Prints creative? Is writing a pithy tweet creative? Is planning out an agenda for a meeting creative? Is pulling together synergistic ideas and forming a new strategy creative?

I think it is very true that we are all creative beings. It gets expressed in a million different ways every day. What is exciting to me is how technology is speeding up and easing the ability for us all to express our individual gifts.

We have citizen journalism with the rise of web 2.0, we have Instagram and Flikr for budding photographers; blogging for wannabe writers, and Pinterest for those that love to gather and organize ideas and data, to name just a few.

What is sad is that we don’t embrace and revel in our creativity enough. Maybe that is why we have had a period of innovation stagnation in our country. Too many people were trying to tell us what innovation is and how it can be created and planned in a meeting. A culture that embraces and nurtures creativity creates fertile ground for “black swan” events. The world is ready and in need of big creative ideas. The technology is there and growing at exponential rates to support big step changes. If everyone in the world saw themselves as creative beings how exciting would that be?!

How will you be creative today?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Women Supporting Women – Time to Pass the Torch

Last year I had the great honor of being one of the inaugural recipients of the STEP award. These awards are presented by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte, University of Phoenix, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in honor of women in Science Technology Engineering and Production (STEP). I was completely surprised when I was notified of the honor and looked forward to the awards ceremony.
Kudos goes out to the Manufacturing Institute for spearheading such a phenomenal program. It really surpassed all my expectations. I must admit that I really felt a sense of pride to be in a room of hundreds of women who were receiving this award. The fantastic part was the broad scope and range of the women being honored – from CEOs to plant managers and engineers.

I was interviewed as part of the
STEP Awards 2013.
I was even further humbled to be a part of the video that was shot to promote and memorialize this event. I realized then what a special award this was to receive. It is great to see that women really are starting to impact manufacturing in the United States as well as the world. We are changing the face of manufacturing – literally. And I truly believe the world will be a better place because of those changes.

There’s a long ways to go. Women make up only 1.1 percent of durable goods manufacturing CEOs in the U.S., only 13.7 percent of boards of directors, 10.4 percent of executive officers, and 24.4 percent of the manufacturing labor force, according to Deloitte Development and Manufacturing Institute. Just 30 percent of the 14 million Americans working in manufacturing are female. We need more women to join our ranks. We need their leadership, their vision, their expertise and ingenuity as the field becomes more advanced and requires a diversified set of talents. Karin Linder, founder of KARICO, wrote about this for the Huffington Post.

Women are starting to becoming driving forces
in manufacturing in the U.S. and internationally.
The STEP award comes with a year of programming that was first rate and endeavored to help increase the skillsets of all STEP honorees. A continuation of this will be in October at the Women in Manufacturing event in Dearborn, Michigan.

But now it comes times to pass the torch and submit for the next class of STEP honorees. I encourage you to nominate those women you know who are creating an impact in the way manufacturing is happening in your company or your town. We owe it to the next generation of women for them to see the tremendous opportunities that can lie ahead of them if they chose to have a career in the manufacturing sector.

Manufacturing is alive and well in the USA. It is on the cutting edge of changes occurring in technology and it provides and exciting and vibrant career path for both men and women.

Take a few moments to nominate a candidate now. Click here for the nomination form – the deadline to nominate is September 1.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Disney FAILED to be the Happiest Place on Earth

I was recently down in Anaheim for the ATX West trade show. I took the opportunity to bring my husband along and go to Disneyland. It had been decades for both of us since we last visited and he had been bugging me to go for a while, so I figured it made good sense to take advantage of us being in the area.

Prior to going, I spoke with several friends with kids who tried to teach me how to maximize my Disneyland experience.  I purchased my tickets online. Disney is great at collecting data and tries every way possible to get you to stay multiple days and “upgrade” your experience. Of course, all these options cost you more. In preparation, I loaded the apps and waited with anticipation for the big day.

On the morning of our visit, during breakfast, my phone came alive. The Disney app fired up welcoming me to the park and helping us get prepared for our visit. WOW! I thought, that's pretty impressive. Great use of customer data. Score one for Disney!

We then boarded the shuttle to the park with great anticipation. Upon reaching the security entrance, we were greeted with a handmade sign listing all of the rides closed for the day. Huh? More than half of these attractions were FastPass rides (the most popular rides). I was now not so happy that I ponied up $125 per person for an incomplete experience. I had bought my park tickets only days before our visit. I find it hard to believe that Disney had no knowledge that they would be servicing some of these rides. I would have appreciated that knowledge at the time of purchase. Maybe Disney could have adjusted the price of park tickets for the day? Sounds fair to me.

Once inside the park, we looked at the app then headed into California Adventure for Soarin' Over California. We stood in line (what you do more of than anything else in Disneyland) and after a 20 minute wait, enjoyed our 4 minute and 51 second experience. Well OK, glad I didn't wait any longer for that experience.

We soon learned it is all about collecting FastPass tickets. Unfortunately, Disney provides little education as to how this system works. While you may think these passes would be handed out at the ride, no, you are wrong. Kiosks are located at random locations, usually in another area of the park.

We strolled through the park and took in the special show for Chinese Lunar New Year. It was a nice added touch and I tweeted it out. Minutes later, I got a response back from Disney. Ah… so the Disney team is listening. Good to know.

My trusty app showed the wait time for the Cars ride – Radiator Springs Racers was growing quickly. We decided to bite the bullet and stand in line. When we got to the entrance, the sign stated it was a 45 minute wait. The app stated it was a 75 minute wait. I asked the attendant if the posted wait time was correct. He promptly chided me that Disneyland wait times are extremely accurate. So, being a fool, I believed him and we headed into the line for the ride.

Tick tock, we waited, 45 minutes passed, and the ride was still nowhere in sight. Now 75 minutes passed and yup, you got it, we are still waiting. It was interesting that as I watched everyone else waiting, the vast majority were praying to their mobile devices. Wow, I thought, Disney has a captive audience, bored, waiting in line and yet they don’t do anything with that opportunity. Now 90 minutes passed; we can at least kinda sort of see the end of the line. So Disney’s accuracy in wait time isn't really all that accurate after all. But why isn't it? Many apps predict accurate traffic times, why isn't Disney using that same technology to keep the masses informed and happy?

Then what every Disney visitor dreads… the Cars ride broke down. Does Disney provide any actual data? Nope. Instead, the information provided is as vague as possible, making the decision to stay in line or leave a total gamble on the visitor's part. So, like idiots, we waited another 30 minutes. Finally, I had had enough and I pushed up to the front of the line to speak with another not so happy attendant.

“So can you give me a ballpark estimate of when the ride will resume?” With complete disdain the attendant replied, “Ma’am, I cannot give out any information.” I felt like I was on a jury stand. “Sir, I can neither deny nor confirm that statement.” Oh come on!

After pleading I would never ever hold him accountable for any information that would pass from his lips to my ears, I finally got him to admit that the current riders had not even been “evacuated” from the ride and that maintenance had yet to show up. Plus, once maintenance did show up, it took at least 45 minutes "on average" to get a ride going again. Gotcha! So Disney does have data. Liars, liars pants on fire!

Meanwhile, back in Twitterland, my tweet asking for information must have drifted into a black hole. Silence was my only response. Oh yeah, I asked the attendant if Disney provided passes for those who had waited (now more than two hours) to get priority once the ride was back up. I was informed that was not a Disney policy. Hum, I am now REALLY not happy with my $125 ticket per person. So then, crazy me asks, “Do you tweet or at least post to your app when the ride is fixed?” Blank stare, chirping crickets, and he then says, “Ma’am, we don’t do that here.”

Needless to say, the rest of our day did not go much better. Several more rides broke down and it was not often reflected on their app, and several were rides we were on (which stopped working repeatedly). It was not a happy experience and I have to say I will most likely never return.

Companies cannot use BI/BD (business intelligence/big data) to only get more money. Especially if you are in the business of providing an experience that is labeled as being, “The happiest place on earth."  Whether Disney will actually respond to this blog is doubtful but they should. They have the opportunity to lead the world in their use of BI/BD and the creation of a world-class experience. Yet instead their viewpoint is myopic and self-centered. Disney, you just created an epic FAIL of an experience in my book.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why America Needs More STEAM Power

I must admit it has been exciting to see manufacturing making headlines so much of late. The topic of manufacturing appears to be a current darling of the political talking heads. Much has been discussed about the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy and how manufacturing will be the engine to power us out of this sluggish economy.

When you look at the data it is evident that manufacturing has all the right stats to power growth in our economy. The higher wages paid versus service sector jobs ($17k per year) and the number of companies supported in the supply chain for every manufacturer (multiplier effect of a $1.50 per $1 spent) just to name just a few.

On the flip side of all this positive talk about how manufacturing will drive our economic recovery is another reality — the vast skills gap facing all manufacturers in America.

For manufacturing to exist in this country it has to be highly automated and on the cutting-edge of technology. These changes are driving the need for a manufacturing worker that is different from decades past. While much is written about the need for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based education, school districts and states are not hearing the message.

In February of this year, The State Board of Education decided California eighth-graders will no longer be required to take Algebra 1... This is taking our children’s education in the wrong direction! We're losing focus on STEM, but is it the silver bullet we hope it is? Many people are coming forward now saying that advanced manufacturing needs more than just STEM focused lessons. What's missing? Art.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics) may seem to be an unlikely pairing but it is not as strange as you may think.

Innovation requires a creative mind and what better training ground than the arts to open up the realms of creativity? For example, 3D and additive technologies require the ability to create in multiple dimensions. But I caution how we build a STEAM based curriculum — it troubles me to see so many graduates earning degrees without practical application skills needed to make them employable.

America at one time had one of the best educational systems in the world. Even with the decline of the system, we're still leaders in innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. We must find a way to bring STEAM based curriculum to our K-12 system, and it is critical that we make these programs engaging and hands-on. FIRST robotics is a great example. Together, we need to push our kids to think creatively and scientifically at an early age.

Then, we have to continue supplying the most current STEAM based knowledge to our universities and community college systems. We need to show the world how this can be done, and that it can be done. For if we can excel at solving this challenge, America will be able to STEAMroll the rest of the world.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Were Your Keywords For 2012?

I recently heard Dr. Leslie Hewitt speak at my WPO (Women Presidents' Organization) retreat. She proposed an interesting concept: “What would be your SEO?” Since I’m a social technology junkie, she immediately had my attention. If Google’s algorithms were scanning my thoughts and actions for 2012, what would be my top key words? So here goes! A quick brainstorm of what I think my top keywords and phrases would be for 2012: 

  • Sales 
  • Linear motion 
  • Strategic Plan 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Technology 
  • Social media 
  • Skills gap 
  • Technical education 
  • Travel 
  • Food 
  • Wine (a girl has to have some fun) 
  • NAM 
  • CMTA 
  • Strategic Coach 
  • PTDA 
  • AHTD 
  • California 
  • STEM 
  • FIRST Robotics 
  • Education 
  • WPO 
  • Dogs 
  • Cats 

So then, I Googled myself. Here is how close I got (though some of this was for activity prior to 2012). Top terms from the first two pages:

  • Bishop-Wisecarver (how could I forget this?!) 
  • ATX West 
  • Photos of food and wine 
  • CMTA 
  • Women’s Initiative 
  • State Workforce Board 
  • Manufacturing 
  • California 
  • AHTD 
  • Science and engineering 
  • Skills gap 

So, I wasn’t too far off. I think what is important is that you are putting thoughts and energy towards those things that you care most about into the world. It is another way to reflect on your impact in the world and the goals you have achieved.

I then thought about what our WPO facilitator, Allison Tabor, challenged us to do at the end of our retreat. She asked us to define our theme for the year (view Allison's outline of a simple process in her December newsletter). This makes perfect sense to me. I must define my theme in order to drive strategies and targets for my keywords. Thinking about the 2013 goals of my company, I know my theme has to have something to do with speed, innovation, growth, and leadership. I read a blog today that referenced the mantra of, “Move fast and break things” — that’s cool and I like that it implies taking risks and being willing to fail and learn. I am always a sucker for a good alliteration so the words fast and flexible came to mind right away.

Then I thought about the need to have a futuristic viewpoint. We need fresh ideas and that requires a failure-friendly culture. This all adds up to a rough draft of keywords: be fast, flexible, futuristic, fresh, and failure-friendly.

After defining these key words I then headed off to another retreat (my third in three weeks) for my WPO Platinum group. Guess what — our subject of discussion was creating our theme for 2013! I think the universe is trying to tell me something. I left my retreat with a really exciting theme - Pioneering the New Frontier of Manufacturing in America. I then broke this theme into two parts an internal focus that really impacts the strategic plan of my company and an external focus that is more about how I spend my time outside of the company involved in political, educational and manufacturing focused activities.

Looking at it all I am really excited. I think my keywords are supportive and vital to the success of my theme. It all appears to fit together. I’ll know if it was all successful come January 2014 when I am looking back over the year.

Also, I wonder if there is any value in wrapping this into the 360˚ review process? Would my team’s feedback align with my theme and keywords? I see them as my internal search engine.

I would love to hear about your “keywords” or “theme” for 2013. As I progress in the new year, I am definitely going to be much more conscious of my SEO, for as the saying goes, “Careful what you ask for, the universe usually delivers.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seriously? We Needed Research to Tell Us Kids Can Think?!

Credit: SF Chronicle
Sitting in seat 15C on United on my way to Chicago I scanned the November 27, 2012 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle during takeoff (thanks for the free paper, ParkSFO). My eyes were immediately drawn to the front page story headline, “Preschoolers are Junior Scientists – Analyzing Cues, TestingHypothesis” by Stephanie M. Lee. The article highlighted recent studies and research debunking the concept that “children roughly the ages of two through seven cannot understand concrete logic or other people’s perspectives”. Huh?

Okay, full disclosure, I do not have kids, but I do have six nieces and nephews and I have been a trustee of a school — have these researchers never been around kids before?! Anyone who has spent time around a two or three year old is very familiar with their incessant “why?” questions realizes that their sole goal is to understand the perspectives of others and the reality of what is happening around them.

This article then went on to state, sit down for this, that when kids were left to figure things out themselves, this is a real shocker, they actually did!  This held true even if the item in question was a mechanical challenge. WOW! So glad we spent money on that study. They then went on to state that when the solution was shown to the kids, they just mimicked the solution versus getting creative — another mind blowing result… seriously?!

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with our K-12 education. Our educational system actually believes it is best to lead students versus creating an environment that allows children to actually learn. It is sad to me that this experiment was a surprise to researchers, discovering that children are “able to ponder their own actions, are also capable or weighing the action of others.”

Isn’t the whole scientific process based on the ability to ponder and hypothesize? That’s what kids do every day — they wonder and they rationalize possibilities. Why are we NOT nurturing this in our children? Why would we not think that the human mind has this capacity from the start?

The organization FIRST gets it. For the last four years I have participated as a sponsor of the FIRST robotics competitions as a supplier to the kit of parts as well as sponsoring local high school teams. The success of the FIRST model is so great and has so much impact they now provide competitions for children starting in Kindergarten with the Junior FIRST Lego league. Yep, the same kids these researchers felt could not understand logic or other’s perspectives.

The best part of the article for me is when they admit to how inexpensive it was to create this type of environment in the classroom… I really hope this research is a wake up call to our all our educators.