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Are Your Goals Unreasonable Enough?

The Background

Several years ago, I was leading a small Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) team based in Ottawa, Ontario. We were part of Nortel Networks, and BPR was the newest corporate trend. I was given the opportunity to take on any BPR project I could find and the first “away” project was in Atlanta, GA.

My client was Peter Murphy, GM of a division of Nortel who made “wall boxes”…the things that connected your home or business to the cable or fiber optic network outside. Nortel’s clients were traditionally companies like Verizon, AT&T, Bell Canada, and British Telecom. To order a product, engineers for both companies would talk, agree on the configuration, orders would be placed, manufacturing would begin, and 3 or 4 months later the product would appear where it was needed.

The (Impossible?) Problem

Now, in working with companies like Time Warner Cable, Peter realized he was now in the entertainment business, not telecom. When TWC called in an order they expected their order to be shipped later that day, not in 3 or 4 months. Peter said “I need the cycle time to come from 3 months to 3 hours. Can you do that”? Of course, I gave him a “yes” …though I confess I didn’t have all the answers but was excited by the challenge!

The Result

The sequel is that we did it. By studying the process and partnering with a Nortel logistics warehouse in Nashville the products were configured as “models” rather than engineering each one individually. The models were stored in the Nashville warehouse and shipped out within an hour or so of an order coming in. Roles and responsibilities were changed to have a simpler automated process, fewer (expensive) engineers and more order management people. As well as reducing the cycle time, costs went down by a few million dollars / year, and quality went up. Customer satisfaction increased dramatically.

If Peter had asked to reduce the time from 3 months to 3 weeks he would have got that. Reducing cycle times from 3 months to 3 hours sounded completely unreasonable when I first heard it. And it turned out be doable.

So…What Goals are You Setting?

So…as you start your year ask yourself: are your goals unreasonable enough? Or are you settling for “just good enough”?

David Green.

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