We thought it would be fun to introduce the many behind the scene faces here at Cambridge Engineering that you wouldn’t normally get to meet but make a profound difference in our culture and our desire to manufacture the highest quality products for you….our customer. Every couple of weeks we will post a new video of one of our team members that “Make a Difference” her at Cambridge.
This month we are pleased to introduce to you Tommy Davidson from our sheetmetal department. Tommy is a Lean leader here at Cambridge as well as a all around great guy. We hope you enjoy his video.
Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital.
value concept handwritten on blackboard
Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them?
Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization.
1. Deepening Relationships with Customers
2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language
3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps
Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum.
Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language: We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process.
Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away.
Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success.
Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.
Our Senior Leadership team recently returned from Japan where they were on an educational journey to bring back ideas from Japanese businesses that had been working on LEAN initiatives for many decades. Their trip included a visit to Lexus, the luxury car maker and part of the Toyota family of brands. As they were departing for their trip I asked that they solicit feedback from the Japanese companies regarding LEAN and it’s applications to sales organizations.
Recently, in my first blog post, I asked the questions, “Why do financial executives so frequently find themselves following, rather than leading, during a LEAN initiative? Has your company implemented LEAN in the finance/accounting area? If not, why not?” It is my experience that the single biggest obstacle to a creating a truly LEAN culture in an organization is the character of the leaders tasked with implementation. And, among the character traits that we will discuss in these series of blog posts, I truly believe that HUMILITY is at the heart of, and foundational to, any successful effort at LEAN leadership.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about, and practicing, lean principles especially since our organization has started using the principles outlined in a book called the 2-Second Lean by Paul Akers. Although this is not the start of Cambridge’s lean journey, it has been a significant simplification to the process and has made a huge impact. It talks about how to recognize and eliminate waste in an effort to provide more value for our customers. The book talks specifically about 8 deadly wastes; over production, transportation, inventory, defects, over processing, motion, waiting, and unused employee genius.
As a leader, I have been on a LEAN journey for a number of years. But it was only within the last 12 months that I have been exposed to the concept of LEAN accounting. As my interaction with other LEAN leaders has intensified, I have started to ask the question, “Are you doing anything with LEAN in your accounting area?” And, almost without exception, the answer is “no,” or “not yet.” However, this isn’t surprising, as had you asked me the same question just 6 months ago, the answer would have been identical.
Our organization has embarked on an employee engagement path that has literally caught fire throughout the company. Several Cambridge Engineering, Inc. production managers embraced the LEAN philosophy espoused by Paul Akers in his book, 2 Second Lean: How to grow people and build a lean culture. Our production team’s focus from the beginning has been on training people how to think differently. Many sophisticated books have been written on the LEAN topic. Paul’s book is not one of them. Paul details a path towards employee engagement that everyone can understand. As leader of the sales team, I have watched the trans-formative power of a LEAN mindset with our Ops team and have been inspired to apply this thinking to my life.
If you’ve ever worked for a company where employees are truly embraced, you’ve most likely felt the significant difference this can make. A culture that thrives on positive relationships not only helps staff through hard times, but it also allows them to soar wherever opportunities arise. The recipe for success is by no means simple, but company activities play a key role in holding the team together, and in building a great company culture.