Byron's Babbles

How Do We DeBottleneck?

I am now to the next-to-last topic I put on a list that I wanted to blog about following the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. During one of the sessions a speaker posed the question, “How do we debottleneck?” I have actually blogged about bottlenecks before in The Leadership Bottleneck! At first I was going to say that the post I did back in 2015 was done in a different context, but as I went back through it I realized it was still very evergreen today.

I love metaphors and the idea of a bottleneck is a metaphor referring to how the speed of pouring a liquid changes when it enters the narrow neck of a bottle. Bottlenecks usually determine the capacity of a process. Bottlenecks develop simply because in any process – be it a manufacturing line or business process – different activities take different amounts of time, or various stages have an uneven capacity, to unequal numbers of resources.

Bottlenecks also occur because of batch processing. Machines and workers are sometimes only available at limited times during the day or week. Therefore, to increase efficiency, the raw materials are organized in batches so that the time windows are utilized fully. It’s pretty obvious how this batching causes bottlenecks in manufacturing, but then I got to thinking about how we batch in education and how that causes bottlenecks. Last week I had the chance to facilitate a session rolling out Aspen Institute’s latest framework for education, Opportunity to Learn, Responsibility to Lead, and we go into a discussion of what the future of school should look like. Now, looking back on that discussion we were really talking about debottlenecking in many instances.

In education, the term bottleneck is used in both describing the pedagogical issue of barriers to the students’ understanding of content in the process of learning. Bottleneck is also used to describe times when a student enters a phase of progression where academic performance and competition come into play. Both of these bottlenecks are compounded because of how we presently “batch” our students into grades and groupings. This inherently causes bottlenecks. This is why we need to consider looking to a more competency based model. The more we can personalize and become student centric we can eliminate batching bottlenecks.

Bottlenecks can cause both the student and the institution to incur increased educational costs, waste time, and delay completion of dual credits, certifications, and work based learning opportunities. So, just like the manufacturing industry must debottleneck, we need to consider the ways to debottleneck education.


The Multi-Use Of Information

There are many people with titles. Few of us would say that their title makes them a leader. I believe everyone is a leader. Several nouns are often used like judgment, persuasiveness, trust, and more to point to the many qualities necessary in a good leader. Easily forgotten, however, is the quality of being creatively informed. Common to the best leaders is one distinguishing factor – the ability to use information creatively in raising questions. It is this ability to raise relevant, provocative, insightful, and often path-finding questions that separates true leaders from those who may just be occupying a leadership position.

When I was in Hamburg, Germany last week, top industry leaders were discussing the multi-use of information. Having and gathering the information that reveals trends, patterns, tendencies, opportunities, weaknesses, strengths, and more is stuff of leadership when it is combined with creative efforts to raise the proper questions. To be a learning organization we need to be thinking of how to link data together to tell a full story. This reminds me of the concept of information leadership which describes leading the development and using information resources and infrastructures in organizations, and for influencing and making decisions about the use, organization and management of information resources and information infrastructures. It’s about finding the ways the all points of data influence each other.

Markets, technology, and necessary skills needed change so fast that industry and education must be using all information available in making changes. We may not like the changes or even understand them, but they are coming. Connectivity across the whole organization is the cornerstone of digital transformation. Therefore we need to be using information in multiple ways. We need to be connecting information and eliminate analog shadows.

Treating Each Person Situationally

Last week at the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, one of our speakers said that flexibility is not efficient. He said this to remind us that we need to be flexible, but sometimes we avoid it because it is not efficient. We discussed this in the context of employees as well. Loving our employees looks different for each employee. Today’s employees want high level challenges and the ability to have choices in the paths they take. Our people we serve need agency and the ability to be core players in their future.

This highlights the fact that leadership is not one-size-fits all. Everyone cannot be treated exactly the same. As Randy Conley pointed out in Simple Truth #40: “There’s Nothing So Unequal As The Equal Treatment Of Unequals (Anonymous)” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley, “Of course, certain rules, policies, and legalities require everyone to be treated the same – but when it comes to the matter of leading individuals, you need to treat each person situationally” (p. 105). One example might be the need for a flexible schedule. Giving those we serve the latitude to approach objectives in their own ways can enable them to unleash their creativity. Any creative person can tell you that inspiration strikes at the strangest times.

If we are situational in our leadership, it means embracing change and new challenges. It also means using them as opportunities to create new and improved systems and processes; it’s not just being able to change, but also being willing to, and maybe even excited about it. This is really about personalization, which will make us more effective employers. It means we need to create environments where those we serve can stay open and creative, always keep their skill set up to date, and learn how to balance personal needs with the needs of co-workers and the organization overall.

Stakeholder Alignment

We are seeing a dramatic amplification that an individual voice can have within a business, organization, educational entity, or local, state, or federal government – bringing with it perspectives on not only what is right for those individuals and the organization or community, but increasingly, what is right for society at large. Thus we need stakeholders to be well informed and stakeholder alignment. In other words, all sections of stakeholders must optimize together.

Last week when I was in Germany with business and education leaders I discussed that modern organizations will need to transform to be ever more in tune to and responsive to the needs of both internal and external constituencies. I even got more specific and talked about this in terms of talent recruitment, acquisition, development, and retention. There needs to be internal talent community as well as an external one. We have reached a time when personalization must occur for those both being served by the organization and those carrying out the work of the organization. In the case of stakeholder alignment for talent (not ‘human resources’ to be exploited) we need to find ways to remain agile in gaining and teaching new skills necessary, create a cycle of learning, improvement and engagement for people, create culture in a world of remote working, and many other individual and societal issues.

Stakeholder alignment means every role has the opportunity to be transformed into a more strategic function. One company shared last week that through artificial intelligence (AI) the production data generated areas of development needed for development. Brilliant! Alignment of our internal and external ecosystems are crucial for success today. We must continue to use the tools available to create an interconnected awareness of our situation as it relates to all stakeholders.

Generation Metaverse

I love learning and I have to say that last week almost put me in overload. It was so great to be back in person, chair, and speak for the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit. Hanging out with really smart and innovative industry leaders from around the world is, well, intoxicating! It is incredible to learn about both new things I’ve never heard of or things I’ve been exposed to, but don’t know much about. One such, related to the latter is the metaverse and generation metaverse. We learned that dollars are going to be shared between live and digital. It is gong to be a blending. the metaverse is virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

The metaverse is virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X consumers expect to spend between four and five hours a day in the metaverse in the next five years. The metaverse mainly involves gaming right now, but will include immersive shopping, followed by telehealth appointments, education, travel, and socializing in virtual reality (VR) or using augmented reality (AR) will be the most interesting metaverse activities for consumers in the next five years

Moving away from two-dimensional laptops and smartphones to the three-dimensional immersive world of glasses and goggles is one that I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about, but has tremendous possibility. We can move from screens to landscapes, layers, and objects.

Local Is Everywhere

The global pandemic has served as a catalyst to e-commerce (a 39% increase happened last year) and local delivery being here to stay. It is now common practice to build shopping carts into local business websites. This enables us to significantly expand the number of neighbors we get to serve with care, compassion, and a commitment to making these very good times. This past week at the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit, Joachim Hensch reminded us that “local is everywhere.” To further make the point he reminded us that “Coca Cola is everywhere.” Think about it; because of geolocalization, we can connect in ways never possible before. All we have to do is type in, “___________ near me.” Or, I can order whatever I need, to be delivered wherever I need it. Think about all these ways we have to be everywhere:

  • In-person (is now kind of old school)
  • Curbside pickup and messaging
  • Home delivery messaging
  • Text messaging
  • Direct Messaging
  • Live Chat 💬
  • Email 📧
  • Review responses
  • Review requests
  • Phone 📱
  • On-hold phone messaging
  • Virtual meetings
  • Website forms
  • Surveying
  • Social media platforms
  • Post-transactional landing page messaging
  • Call-to-action texting 💬

If we are truly going to operate in a “local is everywhere” mindset then we also need to think “glocalization.” A glocalized product or service is one that is developed and distributed globally but is also adjusted to accommodate the user or consumer in a local market. Cars, for example, need to meet certain regulatory standards or have the steering wheel placed in the correct side for that country. Also, more importantly, cultural adaptations need to be made. In other words, a global product or service, something everyone needs and can get use out of, may be tailored to conform to local laws, customs, or consumer preferences.

Finally, we need to adopt the core value of everything we do being meant to connect people and increase the quality of life in ALL local communities. Our governments need to protect economic and human diversity and we need to do community building by making our towns and cities really fine places to live with accessible goods and services for everybody.

Flirting With Technology

I’ve already done several posts reflecting on my learning from the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit, but I just spent a couple of hours during my flight home studying my notes. That study yielded another seven topics for reflection, further study, and a blog post being written. Something that we discuss this week while in Hamburg, Germany was the fact that we are always flirting with technology. There is always some new device, application, updated application, or increase capability for us to “flirt” with. I loved that way of putting it – “flirting.” Because flirting is not committing. Interestingly, the manufacturing industry and education have the same issue here: we flirt too much without making sure what we are flirting with meets our needs, is usable by our stakeholders, or even adds more burden than value. Therefore, we discussed that when flirting with technology there must be a great deal of experimentation.

This flirtation cannot be a speed date! I see this so many times, where someone in a school likes a particular technology, so that becomes the next thing. Probably the biggest areas I hear this in education are with learning management systems. I hear things like “I’m not sure who picked this, but it really isn’t that useful.” We talked a lot about the stakeholder gaps while discussing change management this week. Clearly there are stakeholder gaps in my example here. I get the fact that there needed to be some quick decisions made during the heat of the global pandemic, but we mustn’t forget the experimentation component to flirting with technology.

This experimentation must include using a model like the Vantage Point Model©. The experimentation must include stakeholder representation from the organization related to philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks. I teach this model in all leadership development work I do. I truly believe and have witnessed it to be true that if all seven stakeholder groups are represented, change has a great chance of success. Additionally, I have seen failure, particularly in the area of technology, when the stakeholders involved with tactics, logistics, or tasks are not included in the experimentation.

The list of seemingly necessary IT capabilities continues to grow, and IT spending continues to consume an increasing percentage of their budgets. No one person, committee, or department should be left to make, often by default, the choices that determine the impact of IT on your organization’s business strategy. Beware of chasing elusive benefits (eg. Information to anyone, anytime, anywhere). Choose goals for technology/digitization that match the strategy of your organization. You cannot do it all at once – do it in sprints. We need to consider how our technology can help give us a centralized global perspective, but also maintain individualization on a regional and local level. Involving all stakeholders is again important to the experimentation here.

Bottom-line: Flirting With Technology = Great Deal of Experimentation.

SMART Global Reflections

I love traveling internationally and connecting with people from all over the world. As I fly the last leg of my trip home this evening I am reflecting on how blessed I was to be in Hamburg, Germany 🇩🇪 for the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit. Industry and manufacturing leaders from around the world came together to discuss current issues and promising practices. It was so great to be with Anna Beklemisheva, from Greece 🇬🇷, who is the GIA event manager. The last time I saw Anna in person was in Berlin back in 2018, pre global pandemic. I love working with Anna and will always make myself available to chair and speak at events for her. Every time I am with Anna I learn so much.

It was great to see individuals in person that I had connected with back in 2018. One big difference that we all noted in the discussions from 2018 to 2022 were how people centric the discussions have become. It seems to be a global issue with no industry exempt from having a talent shortage. They were kidding me that in 2018 I kept wanting to talk education and talent with only limited interest. Now in 2022, every speaker and every panel discussion ended up discussing the workforce. And, I loved it when they all agreed that we must be thinking about talent development down into the younger ages/grades of education. This is a passion of mine. We need to be thinking exposure, exploration, and experience much earlier.

It is so critical to have these global interactions and learn from each other. One leader from Poland 🇵🇱 discussed that we are setting ourselves up for failure if we believe that schools and teachers can keep up with changes in technology and other industrial advances to be able to teach effectively. He believes industry needs to step up and provide teachers. I have been advocating for years now that we need to be thinking about do we best put people who have actually done the things they are teaching in front of our scholars. We already do this in many of our career and technical education programs and I believe this is a way to increase our teaching in a relevant context and putting great teachers in front of students every minute of the day. Keep in mind that if we are creative about this a person might only teach one hour a day and be in their industry career the other part of the day. Or it could be someone who has retired from business or industry. This would take some logistical work and partnering between industries and schools, but I believe it could be done.

I am coming home excited that the world is thinking about how we become more people centric. We need to do a better job of talent mapping and development for our young scholars as well as our current employees.

Becoming More Effective Employers

I believe that every person has potential. We also need to make sure we are developing those we serve for what is going to happen. This development needs to happen on the front end and not on the back end like so many organizations do it. We must become more effective employers. Today’s employees need high level development opportunities and high level challenges. We talk a lot about transformation. Here is the correct formula:

_____(fill in the blank)_______ Transformation = People Transformation

Additionally, we need to find out what those we serve want to learn, accomplish or create that would benefit the team. Put them on a challenging project. Help them find a mentor. Have them be a mentor and teach someone else what they know. Invite them to participate in meaningful, tangible learning opportunities. Loving those we serve means we develop on the front end of change, freedom to choose, and paths that look different for each person.

Move And Prove

So much great learning is going on in Hamburg, Germany right now at the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit. It is such an honor to get to both chair, moderate a panel, and speak at this event. One thing is for sure after Day 1 is that we need to have innovative mindsets and understand change management. And, great organizations work on a bold plan! One of the concepts yesterday that jumped out at me was the idea of multi-use of information to get the big picture. In education we are constantly talking about multiple data sources of information, but it is interesting to think about multi-use. Because we cannot wait to know everything, we must move and prove. If we wait to know everything nothing gets done and we lose all agility.

In order to reach infinity and beyond we must move and prove. To do this we need to:

  1. Assess our current setup – no wish list, but reality
  2. Define our north star and explain it to everyone (eg. Tesla is not about cars, but about sustainable energy)
  3. Implement consistently in sprints (small edible bites)

The sprints part of this is important. By doing small pieces of a change at a time we can measure benchmarks and iterate along the way. This is editive manufacturing. We need to Be Open, Be Active, Be Infinite.