High Performance News

A Performance Improvement  Newsletter

Achieving Results With Process Improvement

In This Issue
HPL Process Improvement Tools Lead To Big $avings
Project Management Research Findings
Are You An Effective Email Communicator?
How Connected Are You?
About HPL

Since 1994, HPL has provided leadership, management, and employee development programs and consulting services to more than 300 federal agencies, manufacturing companies, and service firms throughout the United States. We help our clients to improve individual and team  performance, quality of products and services, and organizational effectiveness - especially during periods of rapid change. Our 25+ senior level consultants and training professionals have worked with many large private sector organizations as well as many federal agencies. Our Corporate Offices are located outside of Boston, and we have regional offices in Washington, DC and West Palm Beach, FL. 

Documented Results
"This one process improvement has saved the company $521,000 during the past year!"
HPL Programs and Services 
Birkman Assessment
Behavioral Interviewing
Change Management
The Changing Role of Management
Coaching for Success
Collaborative Conflict Resolution
Continuous Improvement
Customer Service
Dealing with Difficult People
Dealing with Unacceptable Behavior
DISC Assessment
EAGLES (Personal Achievement)
Effective Communications
Emotional Intelligence
Faciltation Skills
Group Decision Making
Handling Multiple Priorities
Influence Skills
Innovation & Creativity
Interpersonal Skills
Leadership Development
Leading Change
Leading Effective Meetings
Lean Improvement
Managing Difficult Conversations
Mastering Major Presentations
MBTI® Assessment
Motivation & Communication
Participation & Quality
Performance Management
Process Improvement
Project Management
Sales Training 
Sales Management
Six Sigma
Strategic Planning
Team Building
Team Problem Solving
Time Management
Writing Skills
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WELCOME to the latest issue of High Performance Learning's quarterly newsletter: High Performance News.
By providing you with the most recent developments at HPL, along with highlights from the leadership, management, and employee development fields, we hope to help you and your colleagues continue on your journey to becoming a high performing organization.
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues, and as always, please contact us with any comments or questions. We look forward to hearing from you!
HPL Client Documents Significant
Process Improvement Savings 

It seemed like a good idea at the time - and an even better one now, just one year later.
This HPL client, a medium-size New England food processing company (who may have been a key supplier for your last BBQ!), created a cross-functional team to explore ways to reduce transportation costs and improve space utilization.
Twelve months later they had no idea just how great the savings would be!
The Warehouse Shipping team - composed of supervisors from operations, warehousing, industrial engineering, procurement and finance - is one of a dozen teams set up as part of an organization-wide initiative to improve the way the company does business. The basic concept is to train and empower employees at every level, all 500 of them, to find ways to streamline key processes and improve how work gets done.
"It's a cultural revolution," says the Human Resource Director, who is spearheading the effort, guided by HPL Senior Consultant Mark Arnold. "Instead of telling people, 'Just do what I say,' supervisors are now asking employees to give us their improvement ideas."
Arnold, an experienced process improvement consultant, shepherded this effort from its inception. He used the training tools and skills from HPL's process improvement and team problem solving programs to spur numerous improvement initiatives, under the supervision of a guiding coalition of managers dedicated to dismantling the existing silos that were keeping the various departments from working more effectively together.
When the senior management team first embraced continuous process improvement as a "new way of life" they adopted a unifying mission statement, created new initiatives - encouraging recognition and communication programs, and chartered improvement teams to find new ways to reduce waste, improve quality, streamline key processes and boost customer satisfaction. They also established a cadre of internal facilitators, trained by HPL Senior Consultant Susan Timmins. These in-house facilitators have now taught the concepts and skills of continuous improvement to the entire workforce. 
And the rewards have been significant. One team streamlined the meat-processing system, increasing yields, filling ovens to 99% average capacity (up from the mid 70% level) and reducing machine downtime significantly. Another improvement team revamped the design control system used to develop new products and track product changes.  But the greatest financial savings have come from the Warehouse Shipping team, using the HPL team problem solving tools, by implementing two frequently asked questions: "Why do we do it this way?" and "Is there a better way to do it?"
The team leader, who manages the warehouse, recalls: "The first time we toured the team through the warehouse, a member asked: 'Why do we leave a hole in the middle when we stack pallets?' We explained that it's because we mix different weight items on the pallet so all the individual weights can be more easily seen and recorded when shipping. We went on to analyze the situation and had our first project!"
The team's analysis showed that the company should use same-weight items on a pallet, so there's no longer a need for the "hole in the middle." This led the team to change the pallet configuration and the box size of 16 items, allowing more items on a pallet and fewer boxes - a savings the Finance department forecasts will save them at least $26,000 a year. The team eventually changed box sizes of 30 more items. More standardized packaging and increased pallet efficiency reduced shipment costs per pound and freed up more warehouse space while reducing waste, handling, congestion and damage.
The team's largest savings to-date came from investigating a process that two supermarket chains had requested to preserve the shelf life of company-shipped sausage products. For several years, all sausage items to these two chains were being subjected to a very expensive and time-consuming "gas flush" process intended to preserve freshness. It was a practice never questioned - until the team examined the current ordering schedule and found that both chains were using up the meat as fast as they were receiving it, thus raising the question: "Why continue to gas flush?"
"Working closely with our customers, the supermarkets, we cut out gas flushing for a month, and then asked for their feedback. They agreed it was no longer necessary," says the team leader.
This one process improvement has actually saved the company $521,000 during the past year in production costs, and has also eliminated 40 tons of plastic from landfills. The company's Finance department estimates total savings, from this and other team innovations, at $600,000-$700,000 a year.
HPL's Arnold says that these tools are "a great example of how empowered employees, armed with new process improvement and problem solving skills, and encouraged by management to look for better ways to get their work completed, can help the organization to achieve key goals, improve service to customers, and improve financial results, while the employees are also finding greater meaning in their work." 

Research Shows That Most Organizations Need Additional Project Management Training.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that the United States spends $2.3 trillion on projects each year. Unfortunately, studies show that most of these projects will not succeed. The Standish Group reports that only 29% of all projects are actually delivered on time, within budget, and to specification.

According to the PMI Fact Book, nearly 90% of all companies lack a strategy to properly manage their project portfolios, and only 17.6% of companies have standard project management processes in place. Given this set of facts, it raises the question, "Where is the return on your project management training?"
And, how much is it costing your organization to have important projects that are not being properly managed, are late, and/or are completed over budget?
HPL's newly revised The Exceptional Project Manager workshop will provide your project managers and project team members with a sound and thorough understanding of what it means to work on a well managed project and how to be an effective project manager. Each participant will learn how to successfully Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close both small and large projects. This highly interactive workshop provides opportunities for project managers, project leaders and project team members to learn and apply new project management skills to insure that all projects are completed on time and on budget. An optional 2 day workshop on how to use MS Project is also available.
PDAs and the Changing Face of Email
The groundswell of personal digital assistant (PDA) usage is rapidly changing the face of email.  No longer are users viewing messages on large monitors or subject lines in fields of about 35-40 characters.  Monitors have given way to 2" screens' subject lines, to fields of a few words.

Instant messaging and emailing are morphing as users incorporate IMing and texting abbreviations into emails.  We're not recommending that you start using these abbreviations quite yet, but know what they mean when you see them.  Some popular abbreviations include: @ (at), CID (consider it done), CU (see you), FYI (for your information), HTH (hope this helps), IOW (in other words), L8R (later), NRB date (need reply by date), NRN (no response necessary), PLS (please), THX (thanks), TBA (to be announced) and many more.  Here are some tips to help you communicate more effectively with PDA users.

Subject Lines
Many PDAs display only a few words in the subject line.  That very valuable real estate will determine whether the intended receiver reads your message.  Conventional wisdom has told us to write compelling subject lines.  However, with such a limited field of view, it becomes a matter of what to skip, what to abbreviate and what to start with.  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Instead of writing We need to reschedule the March meeting, consider writing March mtg to be rescheduled.
  • Instead of writing I'll see you at 3:00; consider writing CU @ 3.
Calling Attention to Information
Traditional ways of calling attention to information have included boldface, bullets, tabs and more.  Some of these methods don't always survive the trip through cyberspace and show up at gobbledygood on PDAs.  Here are some options:
  • Instead of using bullets, consider using asterisks (**), greater than symbols (>>), hyphens (--) or other ASCII characters.
  • Instead of boldface, include some other way to emphasize the text.  You may write **Deadline: May 5**.  If the bold doesn't appear, the reader will still see **Deadline: May 5**. 
  • Instead of tabbing, use the space bar.
If you send an attachment, summarize the essence of the attachment into a brief opening paragraph so the reader can get the gist of the message quickly.

Copying & Pasting
If you copy and paste from another format (such as an Excel spreadsheet) the PDA may display the word Insert instead of the file that was pasted.  Consider sending the file as an attachment.

On a final note, although brevity is an asset with PDA users, don't omit common courtesies such as Please and Thank you, even if you do abbreviate them.  Also, don't get sloppy.  We recently learned of a CEO who includes the following disclaimer at the end of his poorly written messages: Forgive errors, I am writing on a Blackberry®.  Many users find this distasteful.

The author of this article, Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts, is a Senior HPL Consultant.  She facilitates all of HPL's business, technical and email writing workshops.  You can reach her at either of our offices listed below or at sheryl@sherylwrites.com.
How Connected Are You?
A recent study showed that not only do Americans rely on the Internet for information, entertainment and many other resources; they also now prefer to access it on the go.
  • 56 percent of Americans said they have used wireless Internet.
  • 39 percent use a laptop computer to access the Internet wirelessly.
  • 32 percent access the Internet through a mobile device, like their cell phone.
Laptops and cell phones are the most popular means of connecting wirelessly, but other devices are becoming more mainstream as well.
  • 45 percent of adults have an iPod or MP3 player.
  • 41 percent of adults own game consoles, but only nine percent have used them to go online.
  • 14 percent of adults use a personal digital assistant (PDA).
  • Only two percent of adults own an e-book reader, like a Kindle, but half of these have accessed the Internet with it.
To discuss your organizational development and/or training challenges, please contact us at our:
Corporate Headquarters
Framingham, MA

Mid-Atlantic Regional Office
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