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Six DisciplinesT: Tools and Templates for Manufacturing Entrepreneurs

Craig Landwehr, Partner, Six Disciplines Leadership Center of North Carolina

Organizational growth is painful. Those of us who have lived through ventures that scaled rapidly can tell horror stories about poor quality, dismal customer service, role confusion, misalignment, and, oh yes, execution and accountability. Whether this growth is generated externally or internally the problems and results can be the same. Even large companies have learned that you can't just throw people at problems without the necessary structure and culture. Small companies, of course, do not have nearly so much room for error. We have the same execution challenges plus more urgent cash-flow pressures, immediate need for agility and innovation, often insufficient expertise, and, of course, intense, intangible people factors.

What practical tools are available today that were not available a few years ago? What tools are optimized for the unique challenges of small to mid-sized companies? What tools can scale with your company but not become obsolete? One answer is a unique business excellence program known as Six Disciplines™, which includes a valuable set of tools and services.Six Disciplines uses a set of systematically organized, principle-based best practices that are supplemented with software tools and local coaching. The Six Disciplines are optimized for organizations employing from twenty to 200 people. The top-level disciplines:

  • Decide What's Important
  • Set Goals that Lead
  • Align Systems
  • Work the Plan
  • Innovate Purposefully
  • Step Back

Each is well outlined with practical hints and tips in a respected and popular handbook, Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Teams that Learn, Lead, and Last by author and company founder Gary Harpst.

The Six Disciplines Web site—www.SixDisciplines.com —contains a handy, downloadable set of files, forms, and checklists illustrated with real examples. Click on "Read the Book" in the left navigation bar on the Six Disciplines Web site. Then click on "Download forms and charts from the book here!"

Of particular value to manufacturing entrepreneurs with companies of more than twenty people are the following:

  • Strategic Position and Vision Statements: These examples are elegant in their simplicity and effectiveness for communicating and clarifying your vision and differentiation to your team. By answering the simple questions of "Who we will BE?"; "What we will DO?"; and "What will we HAVE?" you will increase clarity throughout your organization in a remarkable way.
  • Goals Statement: Another real-world example, this especially workable tool is of particular value to manufacturers. Again, what makes it so powerful is the simplicity. You distill your goals to a critical few, ensuring balance across the areas of financials, customers, operations, and people. Then you devise a way to measure progress for each goal, you have developed. The outcome is a practical balanced scorecard to track your team's progress.
  • Individual Plan and Status Report: These templates are effective at bringing the team scorecard to ground for each team member and incorporating the tracking of critical on-going production activities. Converting the templates to a spreadsheet format can help you keep track of multiple periods more easily.
  • Survey Examples: You will find (in MS-Word format) more helpful examples of surveys to use with customers, suppliers, and team members. If your organization is ready, the 360-degree feedback surveys can be particularly helpful in building a productive self-management culture.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Templates: These tools provide a basic outline and format for productive conversations with your employees, which can further build a culture of accountability and self-management.
  • Business Process Checklists: These documents include good reference content for checking your process capability in the areas of information technology, insurance, financial reviews, and legal reviews. The methodology checklist serves as a master overview tool that integrates all the content above.

Even more technology tools, workshops, and supplemental services are available through local Six Disciplines Centers.

© 2007 Craig Landwehr. All rights reserved.

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