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Guideposts are the principles that guide our path forward.  Without them, we tend to wander aimlessly.  Although history is the greatest of teachers, this is true only if we listen to the signs left by others. Below are some key guideposts for JEL Solutions.  They serve as guides through the tough decisions. By following these guideposts and a guide who knows how to use them, organizations can Keep Getting Better.

These are three very powerful words.
  • “Keep” - to be faithful to, to preserve, to retain … in an on-going sense;
  • “Getting” - to come into possession of or use of; 
  • “Better” - to increase the good qualities of;

… all three words are a call to action; moving in a positive direction. These three simple words have been the motivation for humanity throughout its existence.  As people, it is our quest; our journey; our purpose.   It is what makes us unique from all other animals on the planet.  It is a primal force deep inside each of us; one that can overcome any obstacle or challenge.

  • It unites; not divides.
  • It builds; not destroys.
  • It is good; not bad.
It is our innate gift from God to fight the universal force of entropy.   In business, we must empower this gift from all involved; not suppress it.  We must find a way to enlist it in the greater good … for our customers, our suppliers and ourselves … our greater community.

Entropy is the tendency for all things to move towards a chaotic state.  It is a fundamental law of our universe; a constant.  However human kind has the unique power of choice to slow (at least temporarily) the progress of entropy; to bring order to things for the greater good.  In many ways it is the battle between good and evil.   It takes deliberate action on the part of leaders and their teams to counteract entropy.  Nothing gets better on its own.  It requires an intentional effort to effect positive change.  For example, grapes that age will eventually sour and rot.  However with intentionality, those same grapes can become the finest of wines.

In the world of business, entropy is the devil and that devil can be found in the details.  We live in a complex world; not just a complicated one.  If we take care of the details the results will take care of themselves.  However, likewise, if we do not take care of the details, the results will also follow suit; we just won’t like them as much.

In order to actually reach excellence one must strive for perfection.  Reaching for excellence only brings mediocrity and that is rarely good enough.  Perfection is unattainable of course, but the pursuit of perfection is ideal.

For many years in project management people would say “fast, cheap or correct … pick any two”.  However, today to be competitive, in most businesses we need to pick all three.  This is otherwise known as Operational Excellence.  The best, most beaten path to achieve this excellence is continuous improvement; more specifically Lean Six Sigma.  There are few better words to describe the intention of Lean Six Sigma than ‘Better and Faster with Less Cost’.  “Better” refers to better quality, “faster” refers to faster lead-time and “less cost” refers to the less cost to produce a product or service.  Provide this and customers will be satisfied.

Waste is anything more than what is absolutely necessary to produce a desired result.  In most cases, waste accounts for 90-95% of all efforts, so it is clearly the greatest opportunity for improvement.  The advantage of reducing waste is that the savings go right to the bottom line for companies.  For this reason, it is the source of the most prevalent work improvement philosophy in history; we call it “Lean”.  Often Lean is known as “the organized war on waste”.  And today, in most markets, much like in any war, being good at eliminating waste is the difference between an organizations death and survival.  Many initially resist this reality, but it is the harsh truth; just look at the companies in your home town.  Organizations that don’t train there people for this war is like sending troops to battle with pitch forks and shovels; not much chance of success in that.

Simply put, everything comes and goes.  Those that embrace change earlier usually fair better than those that do not.  Today, we live in a world where the rate of change frequently occurs faster than our natural ability to absorb it.  This requires us to be smarter in how we handle the change.  We have to manage it with effective tools and techniques; not resist it.  Then we can move forward towards leading the change; not just reacting to it.  Ever heard the saying “if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes”?  (See Who Moved My Cheese) Furthermore, Continuous Improvement equals positive change; not just change for the sake of change. This is accomplished by continuously searching for and adopting a new standard; one that better than the standard before it.

In today’s age of computers and electronics, many businesses are overwhelmed with data.  Data that is raw, unrefined, and thereby unclear in its meaning or value.  Like other natural resources such as oil, copper, and iron, data must first be refined and transformed into useful information.  Only then can it be put to use in the service of Keep Getting Better.

Once data is transformed into information, it must be used to drive positive action otherwise it is wasteful and brings no value to the business or its customers.  One of leadership’s many duties is to make sure that any and all information generates positive action.  Ideally these actions should be predetermined, appropriate, consistent and ultimately in the best interest of the organization and its customers.

Probably the most famous planned event in history was the Allied invasion of France during the Second World War.  It was during this event that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower is famous for saying “the plan in nothing, but planning is everything”.  Imagine how much worse the D-day invasion could have been without the planning … and how much longer the European campaign could have taken … Planning saved tens of thousands of lives on both sides.   However, today a lack of planning is still one of the most common reasons for failure and when people reflect back they say “I wish we had done more planning”.  As people, we are so anxious to do … do … do.  It makes us feel like we are making progress.  However, if we fire before we ready, aim, the probability of hitting our target is very slim.  Taking time to plan increases the probability of success dramatically.

Anyone can solve a complex problem with a complex solution; relatively speaking that is easy.  However simple solutions are often very elusive and thus hard to achieve.  It often takes much more effort to find truly simple solutions.  The idea must satisfy form, fit and function.  So we must be patient, think deeply and search thoroughly.  Simple solutions can be found to most problems, but often they don’t come easy.  Once found they are of the greatest value to all. (Example: the common paperclip, the strap for the gas cap on a car, or Post-it® Notes).

It has been often said that a smart person learns from their mistakes; but a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.  To be wise we should borrow the learning curve others who have gone before us.  Rarely in life are there truly uncharted paths.  It is ego that leads people to not leverage knowledge that already exists.  Learning from others takes humility and grace, but is frequently the best of paths.  Remember that while it is the early bird that gets the worm, it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.

The final Guidepost for JEL is the most important of all; Respect for People. All things in Continuous Improvement should start and end here. Without it, all the tools, techiniques and theory mean nothing. People, in all their various forms, are the ultimate customer. The root cause behind every success and every failure lies Respect for People. Unfortunately, having a lack of it is one of the most common pitfalls. Therefore JEL starts all work here, and keeps this in the forefront of all efforts.


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