Sales, Marketing, and Manufacturing Improvement

The following reader question popped up in another blog:

“Does Lean apply to sales? We’re trying to introduce Lean thinking throughout the company and have found very little on how to lean the sales department.”

The response was a set of tactical recommendations on the behavior of sales reps with customers. Strategically, however, you need to think about the role of Sales within the business. It is not just to provide a flow of orders every day. Marketing is often mentioned in the same breath as Sales, with good reason, because sales are the business’s best source of market intelligence. Continue reading

Working outside in rather than inside out | Bill Waddell

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“Perhaps one of the most inane – but very typical – aspects of the business process in manufacturers is the construction of the supply chain from the inside out.  Three times in the last week – count ‘em – three for three – I visited a manufacturing company with (1) problems delivering in the time frame customers want; (2) lots of inventory but rarely the right inventory; and (3) a supply chain constructed by their supply chain people based on some idea of how to construct a supply chain but not one constructed based on a delivery objective.

In other words, some factory guys got together at some point – probably with an accountant or two breathing down their necks and decided this is how we purchase and this is how we schedule production and that is the resulting lead time, so sales …. Go out and try to shove those lead times down customers’ throats, regardless of what customers want or need….”
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If You’re Going to Change Your Culture, Do It Quickly | HBR Blog Network | Brad Power

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“The conventional wisdom is that it takes years to change a culture, defined as the assumed beliefs and norms that govern ‘the way we do things around here.’ And few organizations explicitly use culture as a way to drive business performance, or even believe it could make sense to do so.The logic usually works the other way — make specific changes in processes, and then hope that, gradually, the culture will change.

Yet some leading organizations are turning this conventional wisdom on its head. Consider Trane, the $8 billion subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand that provides heating, ventilating, air conditioning and building management systems. By focusing first on changing their culture, Trane has been driving results — and quickly.”

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

The article is supposed to be about any business organization, but the example presented is only about sales offices.

What do sales offices do? They communicate and negotiate with prospects to turn them into customers. They nurture relationships; attitude and teamwork are key to success at it. In sales, working on the “targeted behaviors of associates” is working on the process.

Manufacturing is a different. It is about production, not persuasion, and I don’t know of any successful change in manufacturing that would have been driven at the cultural level. When attempted, it quickly degenerates into the kind of exhortation and sloganeering that Deming denounced so vehemently.

I don’t know any manufacturing people who would be swayed by it. Instead, they need tangible, physical changes to the way work is being done, implemented with their input and diligently. Only the experience of improvement will change their perception of the work and the organization. Talk therapy won’t.

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