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What I learned this summer.

Think back to when you were in school. Did you ever get the assignment to write a report on “What I did this summer”? For me it was mostly about the books I had read that summer. Oh how things have changed as I’ve gotten older. As we roll into September, I started thinking about what I learned this summer.

The “same people” exist in all companies.
What I mean by that is, there are only so many different personalities (based on DISC, Myers-Briggs, etc). So everywhere you go, there you are.

Processes only work for repeatable tasks.
If you are working a “one-off” by the time you construct a process for it, the task will probably be done. Or as I’ve been told “OBE” / Overcome by Events

Be there for your people, they will be there for you.
As a leader, your job is your people. Protect them. Remove their obstacles as best you can. They’ll thank you for it. And when possible, send an email instead of calling a meeting. (And if your boss does that, please read the email…)

Most folks want to do a good job.
I’ve been working since I was 14 and I think I can count on one hand the people who purposefully wanted to do a bad job. People just want to do the right thing. They’ll get tripped up if they aren’t given the tools and guidance to succeed.

You can do more than you think.
But you need to listen to your internal voice when it says, “Slow down” or “Time for a break”. Olympic athletes take rest days. Farmers let fields rest every so many years. And God created the world in six days taking the seventh off. Just saying, there’s a pattern to consider following.

Multi-tasking means doing many things poorly.
Instead of multi-tasking, you should consider “multi-thinking”. Each issue you encounter needs your undivided attention. So put down the phone or turn off the email – and really pay attention to the “think” in front of you. You’ll make better decisions rather than getting swept away and risk being “OBE” yourself.

Listening skills are HUGE.
If you are going to multi-think, you need to hear what is being said. Look your folks in the eye. Hang on every word said. Ensure you comprehend their thought and intent. If you are on a learning curve for a new program – you really don’t have much room for error. It’s important to listen with rapt attention.

Paperless is here.
You can save a tree. In fact, you can save a small forest if you choose not to print that email. Technology has actually advanced to the point that you can survive without printing. (Sheer blasphemy!)

Never, ever, never, assume.
Always validate your assumptions. It is your responsibility to ask really good questions. You may not always have the right answer or even the answer – but by asking the right questions – you and your team can get to the right solution set.

Manufacturing is a team sport.
There are no “singletons” in Manufacturing. We are like the Musketeers, “all for one and one for all”. Whether that is between work stations or shifts, each team is inter and intra-dependent on the other.

And finally, what I learned this summer is;

No matter how bad the day. Tomorrow is coming. The clock is reset and you get another 24 hours.

That’s what I learned this summer. It went by quick. Granted some of these I already knew but they were brought to my attention during the summer and I wanted to share with you. Have a happy and safe fall as we settle back in.

Be intentional,

What did YOU do to improve something this week?


I have one simple question for you…

What did you do to improve something this week?

Did you…

…pick up the piece of paper on floor? Or did you walk over it?
…make a point of going the extra mile to help your team mate? Or did you look the other away and not get involved?
…eliminate waste in a process? Or did you spend all your time on wasteful busy work?
…find one process problem and ask the “5 whys” until you found a sustainable solution? Or did you just figure your teammate should work harder?
…execute flawlessly holding yourself to the highest standard? Or did you go “ho-hum” and let the next person clean up the mess?
…address your frustrations in a professional manner? Or did you let your frustrations control you?
…do just one thing that made your workplace better? Or did you just keep the status quo going?

Did you notice the emphasis in the above questions is on what “you” did, not what someone else did or didn’t do. Own what’s yours. Make your area better, the rest will follow on whether or not they even notice it or thank you for your actions.

A mentor once told me, “If it’s right to do right, then it’s smart to do right.”

Be intentional

Have you ever been a part of a new product launch?

Get ready, get set, go!

Have you ever been a part of a new product launch? Regardless the industry, a manufacturing new product launch is never straight forward. It seems like it should be but it rarely is.

For one, the timeline tends to be less than planned. Because Manufacturing is last in the pipeline – Design, Engineering, Tooling, and Facilities all seem to “borrow” some piece of Manufacturing’s clock. And new things don’t always perform as the math model promised. On the floor solutions have to be found to address the things that fall short.

Having been involved in multiple launches throughout my career and watching others from the sidelines – I believe all launches have one thing in common; To be successful, the entire integrated team has to be flexible and be able to think on their feet. Teams that have done those two things well seem to have been more successful than teams that could not.

Launches tend to produce what I call, “moments of intense personal fellowship”. See if you can relate to feeling any of these during your last launch:

Busyness     Hectic     Resorted Priorities     Overcome By Events     Frustration     Defeat     Seemingly Hopeless
Tempers     Miscommunication     Walls or Turf Wars     Mistrust     Anger

However, success is dependent on the ability of a diverse group (Design, Engineering, Tooling, Facilities, Manufacturing) coming together for a short time to function in ways we don’t normally have to during normal production.

A strong launch team will drive past the normal in order to find the answers, expose the issues, to create new solution sets and work past exhaustion to reach the finish line. By focusing on the end-game, a strong launch team can change those negative words into…

Busy (Sorry, we’ll still be busy)     Controlled Chaos     Managed Priorities     Adrenalin Rush     Sense of Accomplishment
Hopeful     Tempered Tempers     Reconciliation     Team-cementing     Understanding/trust     SUCCESS

In the end – teams can accomplish anything by working together.

I think the Musketeers said it best, “All for One and One for All.”

Be intentional

Why not manufacturing?


Track day… if you make it, once in a while you get to enjoy it.

Why would anyone choose manufacturing as a career? (Because we make stuff!)

This past week I had the opportunity to give a recent college graduate a tour of our facility. He is trying decide between a career in product design or in manufacturing.

He asked a very interesting question… “What is the difference between product design and manufacturing?” And it got me thinking about the joys and frustrations in manufacturing.

I have had prior jobs that were more “project” related. You had a time line, a deliverable, you had assumptions and priorities. More than anything, you had a point where you were done.

No so with manufacturing. The timeline is always “now”. The deliverable is continuous. While you have assumptions and priorities, sometimes it feels like “wac-a-mole” – you make trade offs and always get beat up for the one thing you did not make happen. More than anything, you are never done. Rather – if you make the target, it gets lowered. It is called continuous improvement.

So why manufacturing? Maybe because of that very last thing – continuous improvement. In manufacturing you can always make it better. The repetitiveness allows you to learn and improve, learn again and improve. It is never, never boring. You find people that enjoy seeing their sweat and energy create an actual thing.

The thing is… You and only you control the mindset of continuous improvement. In the words of Winston Churchhill. “Never, never, never give up”.

Be intentional

Discover manufacturing’s secret weapon: “C _ _ a t _ _ i _ y”


Starting a still life painting by blueprinting the shapes.


It comes in many forms. We see it in art, in music, in fashion, in New York Best Sellers, in architecture, in marketing…. Our world is a better place because of creative designs, creative arts, creative solutions.

What about solutions? Is that really a creative outlet? Usually when people talk about creativity they are talking about art and designs.

Manufacturing lives-and-breaths on creativity in solutions: solutions that make us safer, solutions that drive in quality without increasing time or money. You may have heard of “the KIS method” – “Keep It Simple”. Simple solutions don’t mean half-thought-out. Nor do they mean water-down concepts. Simple solutions are hard to find because they are not always obvious. Simple solutions are elegant. They can solve many issues with one action. They can be maintained without significant over-site. It takes more creative energy to find and execute a” simple solution”.

“…keep their eyes not only on present troubles, but also on the lookout for future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy. When problems are foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they have arrived, it is too late to administer the medicine, because the problem has become incurable.”  from The Municipal Machiavelli, Machiavelli’s The Prince Rewritten for Municipal Politicians

In other words, small problems are hard to see but easy to fix when found. Big problems are easy to see, but nearly impossible to fix. Waiting until you see the problem means you might be too late.

As leaders, we need to find ways to let creativity flow as we drive improvements across our span of control. We need to ask questions that get people thinking, questions that inspire creativity. We need to get conversations going: “what if…”; “is it possible…”. We need to clear out the noise of the day, of the week, allowing the team to ponder, consider, explore creative solution sets. We need to be willing to talk through the issues and come out the other side. That takes time, patience and energy.

Manufacturing lives-and-breaths on creative solution sets. As the leader of a team, how are you unlocking their creativity?

kind regards,



Here’s the finished painting… Painting courtesy Jay Holobach, for more visit: