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The Data You Really Need

Peter Drucker said, “In a data-rich world, first hand emotional intelligence matters.” In fact, he considered it one of the important types of data. But what is first hand emotional intelligence, and how do you get it?

The emotional intelligence Drucker described is what the customer needs and/or wants and their definition of having that need met. An organization must deliver the product or service based on the customer’s requirements or expectations, not their own internal metrics and preferences.

How do you get this first hand emotional intelligence? One of the advantages of the internet is the ease with which you can get this information. One example cited in Drucker’s final writings was Apple reviewing customer forums for unmet needs and seeing that one person wished there was a car charger for the iPhone and how many others echoed that need. Customer forums continue to provide this information, and it is one reason why many companies create customer forums under their own control. Another benefit of these forums is the ease of monitoring them and providing low cost support by staff sharing links to support documentation and customers helping each other solve problems. Companies can learn what problems customers are having by reading the forums, and sometimes they see novel uses of their product discussed in the forums that are a potential new avenue to exploit.

Another source of emotional intelligence on customers’ opinions and expectations are product and service reviews. What are people complaining about? Remember that complaints about deliveries and service are things your organization should address, whether it is changing your distributor or working with service centers to do a better job.

The internet has made it easy to send out anonymous surveys to customers via your customer relationship management system instead of your latest coupons and newsletters. Just make certain you give them free form fields to tell you how they really feel and what they wish you knew, not just a rating of 1 to 5 in a few categories. Knowing they are unhappy without knowing the specific reasons doesn’t help you unless you were totally ignorant of their state in the first place. Giving people the ability to give direct feedback in user surveys ensures that you get the emotional intelligence you need directly from the unhappy customers.

Monitoring social media may result in emotional intelligence about customers, though this is prone to sudden flare ups based on what hits an emotional nerve. The social media storms that hit in response to one person’s comment or unfounded rumor are not necessarily something to act upon and certainly not something to alter the functioning of an organization unless it actually is the product or service. For example, the false rumors that a tea company’s label featured slave ships should be addressed by public relations, not necessarily changing the labels in the next run. Don’t fire key personnel in response to the online equivalent of a lynch mob. But do look at viral videos like those of Christmas 2015 trials of hover boards showing them catching fire with alarming frequency.

Don’t forget user tickets as a source of emotional intelligence. Help desks periodically receive requests for product and service enhancements that are not actually problems, but customers don’t know any other way to give their feedback to the company. You can improve this information collection without hurting help desk metrics by creating a category specifically for suggestions and enhancement requests.


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The Link between Drucker’s Questions for Innovation and Continuous Improvement Methodologies

Peter Drucker can be seen as the founder of scientific management, calling for the collection of data and deliberate decision making towards specific goals. This concept is what allowed the United States to shift from a civilian to wartime economy and produce more tanks and planes in six months than the Germans though the US could produce in five years, allowing the United States to win World War 2. While that is in the past, Drucker’s insights on the methodical cultivation of innovation and process improvement remain not only relevant today but intertwined with the steps you need to take to improve your operations tomorrow.

Drucker’s Four Questions on Innovation:

1. What do you have to abandon to create innovation?

Drucker considered the most important and most difficult step of innovation. You must abandon what is no longer profitable, the products and services that are on the decline, the zombie projects that take up time and resources from the future bread and butter of the company. And you have to abandon projects that were tried and failed instead of continually trying to launch what won’t fly in today’s market, so you can develop what will work.

2.       Do you systematically seek opportunities?

Does your business have a plan to identify new niches or customer market segments for existing products? Do you have processes to capture customer suggestions or do focus groups to identify what you can improve in your current product, service of it or distribution? Do you capture ideas from your own staff on how to improve your processes or procedures?

3.       Do you have a disciplined process for converting ideas into practical solutions?

This question is the keystone of most continuous process improvement methodologies. Do you have a disciplined plan for measuring the as is state of operations, quality, delivery or other requirements of quality? After you’ve determined opportunities, you have the ability to plan how you’re going to make changes to better meet customer requirements or meet them for a lower price, with fewer resources or better performance.
Perhaps you’re implementing lean concepts to reduce waste and earn environmental certifications the customer sees as a mark of distinction. Perhaps you’re using Six Sigma to improve the quality of your product or improve the manufacturing process to reduce rework and its associated costs. Incremental improvements in the efficiency and performance of the production line can reduce manufacturing costs and improve profits, though whether this results in lower priced products or margin to integrate new features for the same price depends on the product itself.

All of these continuous process improvement methodologies are a variation of the plan–do–check–act Deming is credited for or Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control cycle.

4.    Does your innovation strategy work?

You have to have a plan to define the state of operations, collect the data, determine how best to proceed, make the changes and then verify that the change had the desired effect or verify that it worked. This is where the last step, whether a check or verification, is to make certain the change worked. If it failed, you either roll back the changes or study what to do instead. What you cannot do is make changes, assume they work and move on to the next project.

Another version of the innovation strategy innovation is studying the positioning of the product relative to the customer’s desires, expectations and position. You may need to alter the product to fit changing customer expectations, develop new products to be first in a new market, adapt to fit market and industry changes, update to integrate new knowledge into product design or business operations or alter your product line to suit demographic changes.
Constantly studying the state of the market and your product’s performance relative to competitors is part of this, and that market analysis, especially the emotional intelligence direct from customers, can give you information you need for future process improvements. For example, if customers expect the products to arrive in five days and your average is four days, many customers are getting their products on days six and seven. Now you know the next process improvement project to tackle – reducing delivery times for those customers.

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Industrial Engineer Optimizes Outpatient Healthcare Equipment Sales

ATTN: Business and company leaders whom aspire to excel,

I was recently elected by the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering (IISE) body of membership to be President of the Board of Trustees. During this year as President, I would like to celebrate the successes of Industrial and Systems Engineers and share the value the discipline brings to many organizations.

Meet Kelsey Eubanks, (BS Industrial Engineering), Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University

Industrial Engineer Optimizes Outpatient Healthcare Equipment Sales

“My name is Kelsey Eubanks and I have been a member of the Institute for Industrial and Systems Engineers for 5 years. I graduated from the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering at Texas Tech University with my Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering August, 2014, and my Masters in Systems and Engineering Management May, 2016. Upon graduation in 2014, I was employed with a software applications company and coded for oil and gas companies. Coding allowed me to be mathematically creative and use problem solving skills to create conversions. Though I did enjoy the problem solving aspect of coding, I knew that I wanted something more in my career. This job, however, allowed me to complete my masters while working full time. Nearing the end of my master’s program, I began to think about other career opportunities that would open new doors of opportunity for me and incorporate my love of working with people. I decided to pursue a career that I knew would put me in front of people. Sales. Sales is a department that some engineers are terrified of, but as an Industrial Engineer, I find we thrive in front of people.

Currently I am an Account Management Executive for Cassling. Cassling is an advanced partner of Siemens Healthcare. I am responsible for selling large equipment (MRI/CT/Ultrasound/X-ray) to the outpatient emergency centers in Houston, TX. I meet with radiology managers, CEOs and Doctors. I find out what their needs and pain points are and create a feasible solution. Lots of steps are needed in the process i.e. getting quotes, funding, booking, scheduling, training etc. Organization skills are key.

Lately the market has increasingly slowed down. With one of the most controversial presidential elections coming up the owners of these companies are worried that patient reimbursement rates will decrease so much that they will not be able to afford new equipment or open anymore new facilities. Instead of pushing and trying to sell them new equipment right away I have used process improvement skills to improve their number of patients they can scan in a day. I will sit in the waiting rooms of my accounts and create studies of how many patients they were seeing in a day and how long they were taking to complete a scan. I took this information and compared it to if they were to use our new equipment and latest technology on decreasing radiation and scan times, how it would eliminate wasted time and make them more money because they would see more patients in a day.

Kelsey EubanksAt the beginning, this idea of me putting these studies together for my customers was just a hopeful thought that they would take my recommendations and apply them. Now I can proudly say that one of my first customers has seen such an increase in patients and they are thinking of increasing their hours of operation. They are seeing 5-10 patients more a day and I have created a successful business partnership. Sales is all about the relationships you can make. If you can help them with something they did not even realize was a problem, they will trust you as a business partner.

Industrial Engineering has given me the tools to come up with creative sales strategies. Providing my customers with ways to improve efficiencies, work faster and easier all while creating a comfortable customer environment has allowed me to gain the trust of my customers. The ability to use my degree to help people is very rewarding. The skills and knowledge base that Industrial Engineers have is beneficial to so many industries and allows us to be diverse workers and employees.”

Industrial and System Engineers provide incredible value to any organization in any industry and I am really excited to share these stories and inspire you and your company to hire ISE’s.
Merry Christmas to you all!

Best Regards,
Michael Foss
President, Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering

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The Understated Importance of Incremental Changes

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, there is romance in innovation and invention, but flashes of genius usually don’t take you far; what carries you far is hard, organized and purposeful work. There are too many projects that never leave the drawing board, fail to be implemented because of the concerns or fail outright because someone didn’t take all the risks and resource requirements into account when attempting to make major changes.

Why are incremental changes a better approach compared to making major changes, whether making changes to workflows or back office processes?

  • You’re more likely to have the resources to make a small change than a big one, seeing return on investment for small ones than arguing for large ones that may never be made.
  • You can try something small, and if it works, build upon it.
  • The risk of smaller projects is smaller because they are less complex, less likely to go wrong.
  • You have the ability to undo a small change more easily than a major change. This improves the buy-in of stakeholders to the change.
  • The ability to test smaller changes in one work group or site versus massive overhauls reduces the odds of mistakes. In contrast, “tear it all down and rebuild” could hurt you when you need it functioning and you don’t have it running and even lack the resources to rebuild.
  • Smaller changes should be followed by thorough studies on the impact of the changes. Only then can you consider the next change. For large projects, you may not have an apples to apples comparison of the before and after state.
  • Incremental changes to address problems may eliminate the need for proposed and costly large projects.
  • Incremental changes let you make improvements toward one goal and more quickly change direction if another issue becomes a higher priority, whether cost, quality, waste or cycle time.
  • The cost of the incremental projects is not undermined by the extended shut-downs or learning curves major changes entail. The ROI for smaller projects is thus usually much greater.
  • You can’t guarantee a breakthrough, but you can guarantee progress toward a goal through repeated iterations of incremental improvement.