“What can top management do so they’re not looking like deer caught in the headlight when the unexpected happens?” asked Ken Rayment of the Better Process Podcast in a recently posted episode. Rayment was talking with guest David A. Fields, a partner at Ascendant Consulting and frequent guest on the show.
The pedestrian question arose from an article Fields had written (“The Fortunate Future”) explaining why Bear Sterns CEO Jimmy Coyne had failed when the hedge fund house of cards started to topple, ending in the demise of the once-storied firm. “CEOs and other managers can create competitive advantage out of uncertainty” explained Fields. According to Fields, there are three major causes of future shock and three corresponding best practices to come out on top when the unexpected happens:
1. Looking the wrong way. Fields asserts that many top managers look at the wrong metrics, and cites market share and profit as two examples. Instead of those, he claims managers should be looking at leading indicators. Alas, in this interview Fields failed to mention what those indicators are.
2. Overly tight plans. Here, Fields’ advice seems to run contrary to the “lean” efforts so popular in manufacturing today. He suggests, with some compelling examples, that stripping out too much waste actually makes a company vulnerable to collapse when anything goes wrong. According to Fields, Bear Sterns had too little wiggle room in their strategy and so were unable to adjust when the hedge fund market turned south.
3. Insufficient backup plans. Human nature discourages us from creating the backup plans which could save us when the future turns out differently than we had planned. Fields says people fear appearing uncertain and just don’t want to do the necessary work.
Ken Rayment’s daily podcasts offer a low-key, friendly exploration of manufacturing best practices and have become a favorite among thousands of listeners. His trademark curiosity and humorous tone are in ample evidence in the interview with Fields.
"We are pleased to have such a knowledgeable guest covering mission-critical material for our show," says Rayment. The operations-oriented podcast has interviewed Fields many times based on his articles in The Journal of the American Management Association and IndustryWeek.com. "David's work is getting a lot of attention across many industries and his message resonates strongly with our manufacturing-oriented listeners."
"American manufacturing is the engine of our economy," says Rayment. "As a Six Sigma black belt working in industry, I got tired of hearing only bad news about American manufacturing. I launched the Better Process Podcast to share the success stories and be the voice of the small and mid-sized manufacturing firm. Fields' ideas exemplify the innovations that drive manufacturing forward. This is exactly the kind of story I want to tell on my program."
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Based in Colorado and across the US via Skype, the Better Process Podcast interviews small and mid-sized manufacturing companies, and the companies that service these companies. Shows are free to download from iTunes (search for Better Process Podcast in iTunes music store) and are available most business days. More information on the show can be found at http://www.BetterProcess.com. The Better Process Podcast is the voice of the small and mid-sized manufacturing firm.