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Benefits & Implementation
Thursday 24th May 2018
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The benefits of implementing consultancy are manifest, but too rarely realised.
These notes are here to help

As a guide, consultancy should pay for itself in 12 months, often a lot less.
Our fastest, a 22 day assignment carried out some years ago, pays for itself 1,000 times a year.
We don't set out to save you money. We set out to figure and fix the problems at source. It's a consequence if that saves or makes money … and it always does.

In our experience journeys which start with cost always end with cost. They are short, boring journeys. They give us what we think we want, not what we could have.
If we start someplace else, say with service, availability, obsolescence or profit, we'll have a journey of discovery. Sure, we'll still end with cost and profit, but it's usually a more interesting and profitable voyage.

There's a limit to what we gain doing wrong things cheaper. It's often easier and better to do right things well.

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Comments from clients

"With some of the groundwork put right, I can't believe how much easier the business is to run" Keith Mellor

"Stop by and look at the KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) sometime, they are all showing improvement.
By the way, we're much more profitable …:" Mark Davies

"Ten years ago we hated having an English consultant tell us French what to do, but it's really made a difference" Patrick Bridelle

"Well you won't really believe this, but we actually used to ___________!" Many clients

"The Tools approach really worked. It made complex interactions easy for even the non-technical to understand" Frank Peplinski, now Buying Director of Tesco Poland, then of Secretive Client

A serious point, if we can help you laugh at your own past mistakes then you - not we - will fix the problem faster and more permanently than if we just put it in a report or presentation.
Implementing change is hard, but 'coach and guide' works a whole lot better than 'point and tell'.

Ensuring Success

There's no single route which assures success, it's rather a combination of factors which combine towards success, or (more commonly) towards only partial success, or failure.

The remaining headings are our best shot at how to gain the payback from your investment … Fast and at low risk.

Expect the unexpected

If the solution were known, you could do it yourself. Unless you are simply short of arms and legs - and that's the least common reason for using outside help.

So: Start by assuming that some part of the solution is unknown. Around 25% of consulting advice contains something completely unexpected.

The remaining 75% is predominantly unexpected.
The reasons are not hard to find …

In our experience, nearly 50% of the time firms are trying to solve a symptom. The consultant helps them figure what is causing the problem.

For example, six days after being asked to cure a purchasing backlog we declined to continue on the original basis, becoming convinced that something was causing them to buy the wrong material. Since the division was bankrupt, simply buying the wrong things faster made no sense. We gained agreement to find and fix the cause of the problem, and the division survived.

Half the remainder are where managers have taken a wrong turning, and need help to backtrack.

In some ways the best line managers are too decisive - they put solutions and thought processes behind them the instant the decision is taken. When this leads to an impasse, the consultant helps by backtracking known decisions and filling blind spots.

Out of interest, the average such 'wrong turning' is 4 decisions back.

The message is clear - if the answer is likely to contain the unexpected, how is your organisation set up to capitalise?

Think about Implementation - Now!

Implementation requires solid groundwork, board level support, short timescales, and a Project Manager.

After implementation, it requires TLC, both tuning and process control.

Only around 7% of any solution is 'the technical bit'. The rest is how it is implemented, the quality of the base process and data, and how well it is controlled. Including whether the board's control loop - which tells them that their manager's control loops are working - is itself working. Many a slip twixt this cup and lip!

Solid groundwork

Supply Chain success is about a million tiny details all working like clockwork. The difference between success and failure is tiny. Here are some common examples:-

  1. Are the lead times correct? We worked with an organisation where the least likely outcome was that purchases arrived within one month either side of the expected date. So their (excellent) MRP system was buying seasonal products, but always in the wrong month.
  2. Are the outstanding Purchase Order quantities being closed off? Another client had an average of 30 open PO's per line item … and blamed their system for 'not buying when it should'
  3. If you don't know what your stock is, your planners are firefighting, double guessing, or both. Never mind the aggregate value, does each individual item record show the correct quantity, status and location?

It's a surprisingly common - and universally unpopular - conclusion that implementation can't proceed until the groundwork is sound.

Board Level Support

Boards have too much competition for their time. 'Mindshare' is a scarce commodity, and should be budgeted like any other. In addition, we must recognise that Logistics and Supply Chain issues are unglamorous. The board typically 'just wants them fixed'. This is even true in wholesalers, distributors & importers, who are effectively logistics companies.

Our advice? Split long projects into short, manageable chunks. Take the low hanging fruit first. Appoint and empower a project manager. Pre-define success, and the method of measurement. During the project, put that success on the boardroom agenda in the same way as any other success measure, like profit.

Insist on a post-project audit by the consultant.

Project Manager

Possibly the rarest commodity is an implementation Project Manager appointed, or at least designated, from Day One. Yet if we are to realise the benefits and recover the consultants fees quickly, something must change. Which means somebody has to change it.

Every case is different, and we'd be happy to advise. As a generality, the solution is likely to contain the unexpected, and is more likely to be cross functional than not. The PM and his or her board sponsor have to be able to 'move and shake' across traditional boundaries.

If the PM (& team) needs training, our one day course is a great way to start.

Process Control

Our solution will contain all the elements of a controllable process. Indeed, we will sometimes 'detune' a highly technical solution to the point where we jointly agree that it is sustainable in the local employment market as it is. Computer companies attract and retain different skills to supermarket suppliers. Not 'better' or 'worse', simply different. Russian solutions are startlingly different to French, which in turn are significantly different to US, UK and German solutions.

Where it's part of the agreed scope we'll give you all the tools and the training to control the process (and to control the control) … but we can't do it for you.

Sorry!

We are specialists in the emerging science of slow movers, where the textbook methods do so much damage.
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