Friday, January 26, 2018

Create Clear Company Visions through Cascading Policy Deployment

By: Chuck Werner

“Lost but making good time” is never a positive situation for an organization, despite its comedic origins. Unfortunately, companies of all sizes suffer the impacts of this condition. The team might be working hard on activities that will not drive the bottom line. Or, worse yet, working on the most important initiative within the company and not know it. Studies indicate that somewhere between 85 and 95% of employees have goals they are not aware of, do not understand or that are not aligned with the goals of their organization. These poorly identified goals can have negative impacts on performance at all levels of the business.

Foggy Visions: Disjointed Policy Deployment
At the individual level, workers might have expectations that conflict with the overall strategy of the organization, leading to dissatisfaction and turnover. A lack of goal alignment throughout the business can cause employees to perceive priorities from above as intruding upon their individual goals. These seemingly impeding priorities may be completely in line with the overall direction of the business, but individuals are unaware of this due to poor communication and skewed priorities.

Among departments, misaligned goals create divisiveness and resistance to working as a team. This occurs when each team or department comes up with their own definition of success, which might not all connect to the overall strategy of the company. This makes it difficult for team members to recognize the priority of an objective not set by their own group. Additionally, the teams move at a much slower pace as all decisions become centralized, deferring them to a supervisor or departmental manager for prioritization and authorization.

What happens at the company level? Simply put, the business does not execute its strategy, missing out on opportunities for profit, growth and success. There is a direct correlation between a company’s performance and an effective business policy deployment. Sometimes it really is about the destination. If you doubt that, try jumping in a taxi and giving the order to “just drive.” You either won’t get anywhere, or if you do, it won’t be where you wanted to go, and it will cost you a lot of money. The same holds true for a company. If an organization’s leaders are not clear about their vision, departmental managers will not understand their tasks and employees will have misplaced focus, so the company will not get where it wants to go.

Policy Must Cascade
For an individual to be effective, it is important that they understand their goals and objectives and know how their success will be measured. For an organization to be effective, it must establish a line of sight, where each team member is able to explain how their work is contributing to the vision and mission of the organization. When a line of sight exists, the organization can achieve a level of synchronicity, which allows each of the parts to operate in a more autonomous manner, assured that they are in line with the direction of the whole company.

The best way to achieve this synchronous operation is by using a cascading policy deployment. As the term “cascading” implies, each successive level of the policy deployment plan is created by better defining the level above it. This entire process involves a number of steps, including the creation of a vision, mission, strategy, objectives, goals and managing performance.

The deployment begins with creating a vision statement. There is some conjecture on whether vision or mission comes first, but think of it like this: the vision statement is what the organization desires as an end-state, while the mission statement addresses the question of how to get there. For example, if you were planning to go on a trip, you could not select the mode of travel until you have first chosen a destination.

Typically, the vision, mission and strategy are all determined by top management, or ownership, of the company. As the deployment progresses from strategy to objectives, other employees will need to be included in the process. Department managers or subject matter experts should be brought in as they can provide important details, such as specific activities to be involved and required levels of performance, as well as costs associated with achieving both.

Achieving Synchronicity: A Case Study
To better understand how this policy deployment is carried out, consider the following case: The new owner of a hotel determines their target market is tourists visiting the local area. With that in mind, her vision is for her business to be the pleasure traveler’s first choice in local hotels. The owner then meets with her leadership team to share her vision. At the meeting, the team creates their mission statement, which is to provide a drama-free experience so guests can enjoy a stress-free stay.

During business planning sessions, the managers work to define and measure “drama-free.” Drama, to them, translates to complaints. To analyze this, they have two sources of data available: internet commentaries on their website, and surveys collected from customers. They find that their historic rating average is 3.5 out of a possible score of 5. While this is better than the average, it is not sufficient to be the first choice of hotels. To be preferred, they need to be at least higher than the scores of their competitors. Benchmarking data shows a few of their competitors routinely score around a 4.0 rating. This shapes the hotel’s strategy.

In analyzing the customer satisfaction surveys to see what impacts responses, they discover a main contributor is rooms not being ready at check-in time. Meeting with the front desk, housekeeping and maintenance departments, the cross-functional group determines why rooms are not ready at check-in time. Based on data collected and knowledge of the team members, most occurrences of rooms not being ready occur at peak volume transitions going into the weekend. Although it is now up to the housekeeping department to improve this situation and achieve the objective, all departments are aware of its importance and understand they may need to subordinate their own goals or supply resources to ensure it is ultimately achieved.

The housekeeping manager now has responsibility for several activities. First, he needs to determine an acceptable amount of time in which to successfully prepare a room during peak transition times. In this case, the desired time is 20 minutes. A resource and budget plan must be established to ensure the objective can be met. Finally, a method of tracking the goal (metric) of time taken to clean a room must be implemented. Once these are all in place, the time to clean each room can be tracked, and barriers to meeting the goal can be identified and eliminated.

With cascading business policy deployment, the members of the housekeeping team now all understand that a room must be cleaned within 20 minutes. This ensures that all rooms are ready by check-in times. Customer satisfaction can then be maximized, ensuring a customer satisfaction score of above 4.0 and keeping the customer’s experience drama-free. This success will contribute to making their hotel the pleasure traveler’s first choice in local hotels, achieving their ultimate vision.

When mapped out, the entire process looks a little like this:

There are various methods of policy deployment used by companies today, with Hoshin-Kanri and True North probably being the two most famous examples. Whether you use these approaches, or simply follow a line-of-sight methodology, the benefits of using cascading policy deployment can be seen in all levels of a company. Whichever method you choose, alignment of purpose throughout the entire organization is key to making your vision a reality.

Chuck Werner
Lean Program Manager

Chuck has been a Lean Program Manager at The Center since 2016. His areas of expertise are in Lean, Six Sigma and Quality. Chuck has devoted many years to practicing Six Sigma methods, ultimately earning a Six Sigma Master Black Belt in 2011. He is passionate about helping small and medium-sized manufacturers become more prosperous using a variety of tools and methods gathered from over 27 years of experience. Additionally, Chuck is a certified ISO/QS9000 Lead Assessor, Training Within Industry (TWI) Master Trainer and is certified in OSHA Compliance and Accident Reduction.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Friday, January 19, 2018

Project Management Issues? Your Scheduling May Be the Problem

By: Roger Tomlinson

Completing a project on time and on budget is not an easy task to accomplish. Although there are
many variables involved in this process, one way to ensure breezy project completion is to improve your project scheduling. How you choose to schedule your project plays a central role in predicting both the time and cost that will be involved in a project.

A number of techniques for approaching project scheduling have been developed to assist in planning, managing and controlling projects. Read on for two examples of proven methods that can help you better schedule and manage your next project.

Critical Path Method
One useful approach to managing your project schedule is the Critical Path Method (CPM), which maps out the activities within your projects, along with their respective durations, to help you understand how long your project will take. At the beginning of this process, a graph is created which gathers each activity that must be completed for the project, along with estimated duration for each and the order in which they must be completed. The graph will look similar to this:

Once your activities are laid out in this way, a diagram can be created which lays out all the activities involved. This includes the essential steps that must be completed, in order, before a project can be completed. For example, your diagram might look like this:

After each activity is put on the map, you can more easily see the paths involved in your project process. A path can be defined as a series of connected activities from the start to the end of the project. For example, the succession between numbers 1, 4, 8, 13, and 14 (End) is one path included in the map above. This will help with the next step of the CPM, where you create another graph which draws out the paths in order and includes the total duration for each. In this step you will discover the critical path. This will be the longest of all the durations in your project paths, which tells you the earliest possible day that your project can be finished. This graph will look like this:

In completing this process, you can better visualize how long each step of your project will take and will be able to predict when your project should be finished.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique
Another technique for project scheduling, commonly used in conjunction with the CPM, is the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). This tool can be used to construct a schedule when you are not sure if you will have the resources necessary to complete a task, or if you are unsure of how long it will take to complete a certain task.

Due to the uncertainty involved, this technique requires duration estimates for each individual activity:

  • Optimistic time estimate (To): This is the shortest possible time in which the activity can be completed, and assumes that everything must occur perfectly.
  • Realistic time estimate (Tm): This is the most likely time in which the activity can be completed under normal circumstances.
  • Pessimistic time estimate (Tp): This is the longest possible time the activity might need, assuming a worst-case scenario.
  • Expected time estimate (Te): This is the best estimate of time required to complete an activity, acknowledging that things do not always proceed as expected.

These numbers can be found by using the following equation:

When using this method, it can be helpful to use the same graphs and maps as included in the CPM. To demonstrate, your initial graph of activities may look like this:

Next, your diagram of paths and durations would look like this:

Once this is created, your last graph can be drawn out, which includes each path involved in the project and its estimated duration. This also is where you discover your critical path, or estimated time of project completion. For this example, it would look like this:

By completing the steps involved in the PERT, you will be able to better estimate the total duration of your project, even if there are uncertain variables involved. This tool enables you to have a greater understanding of when your project should be completed, making for a more efficient and predictable project process.

Scheduling your project effectively is one of the most important elements of project managing. Each of these methods can help you to better manage the planning, time and money involved in any project you take on. While there is no fool-proof way of ensuring your project is completed effectively, gaining a better handle on scheduling is one huge step that can get you closer to success.

Roger Tomlinson
Lean Program Manager

Roger has been a Program Manager in The Center’s Lean Business Solutions program for 18 years. He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, operations management and process re-engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing management.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Friday, January 12, 2018

Revised NIST Standard Might Impact Your Compliance

By: Elliot Forsyth

The information security standard set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), known as NIST SP 800-171, has experienced multiple revisions since its original publication in June 2015. Following these changes, many individuals are left wondering where their company stands with compliance and what steps they must take next. The following brief history and explanation of NIST 800-171 is meant to clarify these and other questions about the standard.

In August of 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD) added an interim rule to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) which required all relevant companies with government contracts to comply with NIST 800-171 under clause 252.204-7008 and 252.204-7012. The original NIST 800-171 publication contained 109 controls that contractors had to comply with for all systems that contained Covered Defense Information (CDI), which includes Unclassified Controlled Technical Information (UCTI) and other categories of non-classified information that require special handling.

Since its release, NIST 800-171 has been superseded by NIST 800-171 Revision 1, published in December 2016 and further updated in November 2017. Among terminology changes, Revision 1 also included the addition of a new control (now 110 in total), as well as specific requirements for how a company can reach compliance. These requirements include the completion of an assessment of cybersecurity compliance, a System Security Plan (SSP), a Plan of Action and Milestones (PoAM) and an Incident Response Plan (IRP).

On September 21, 2017, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense released a memorandum which stated that, under the DFARS clause, contractors must implement the version of the standard that was in effect at the time of contract award. Meaning, if a company signed a contract after Rev. 1 was in effect, they will follow the updated guidelines. If a company signed a contract before Rev. 1 was in effect, they may choose to leave their contract as it is or work to have their contract revised. Contractors then must work with contracting officers to modify their contracts to authorize use of the most recent version of 800-171.

To help with these contract modifications, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense released a second memorandum on December 15, 2017 which requested that contracting officers handle contract revisions via the mass modification system. This system automates contract revisions electronically, making modifications simpler to identify and accomplish.

To put it briefly, as it stands now, all companies who have contracts containing DFARS clauses 252.204-7008 or 252.204-7012 and handle CUI should know the following information about the standard:

  • Contractors are bound to the version of NIST 800-171 that was published at the time of contract signage. However, without contract modification, they are potentially not protected or compliant based on current revisions.
  • Contracts signed under the original NIST 800-171 standard cannot necessarily consider completion of an SSP and PoAM as proof of compliance, as these documents were not listed as requirements in their contract. Contracts must first be modified in order to use these documents as proof of compliance.
  • Contractors can solicit their contract officers to have their contracts modified to include the latest version of 800-171, which will most likely be handled through the mass modification system.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) is available to assist companies who need to create and implement an SSP and PoAM. Learn more about how The Center can help your company reach compliance here.

The recent December memorandum, along with the September 2017 memorandum, can be found here.

Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance. 

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Friday, January 5, 2018

Disengaged Employees? This Post Is for You

By: Mike Beels

Most organizations now know the importance of having an engaged workforce, largely due to the undeniable link between engagement and profitability. Workforce engagement can be described as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values and a willingness to help colleagues. Essentially, it is interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. Engagement is something the employee has to offer to the employer; it cannot be taught and it cannot be required. Casual observation will not necessarily detect a disengaged employee. Instead, thorough analyzations are required to effectively measure workforce engagement.

More and more companies are beginning to invest in efforts to track, measure and ultimately increase engagement in order to improve business results. Gallup is one organization that has collected a great deal of information on the subject. When researching sources of engagement and disengagement in the workplace, they found fundamental needs that all employees share. Below I have listed those needs, separated into categories of Basic Needs, Individual Needs, Teamwork Needs and Growth Needs, as well as Gallup’s suggested approaches for how to tackle each problem.

Basic Needs:
  • Focus Me: Employees need to know how their tasks or expectations fit with the company’s vision. Ensuring workers have clear goals and responsibilities will enable them to commit, deliver and focus on what matters most.
  • Free Me from Unnecessary Stress: Give workers the resources necessary, such as materials, equipment and information, to reach the outcomes they are attempting to achieve. Show them someone understands their individual needs by proactively seeking and positioning the right resources accordingly.

Individual Needs:
  • Know Me: Team members want to maximize their contributions. Focus on how employees are internally motivated and find activities in which they are most naturally gifted. This will lead to a boost in morale and confidence that will manifest itself in business results.
  • Help Me See My Value: Best efforts should be acknowledged and valued. Offering
    recognition that is authentic and meaningful shows workers they belong to a team where recognizing others is encouraged.
  • Care About Me: Employees should know they are more than just a number. Demonstrate concern and show personal interest in all employees, treating them as people first and employees second.
  • Support My Growth: Employees might need assistance with navigating their career paths. As they search for the right role for them, they want to know there is someone encouraging them to grow and develop, helping to push them beyond their current thinking. 

Teamwork Needs:
  • Hear Me: Regardless of industry, all employees want to feel valued. Making a significant contribution to the work environment is a main area of concern for many workers. This can bring workers closer together, as well as reinforce self-worth.
  • Give Me a Sense of Importance: Excellent performance occurs when people are deeply attached to a sense of purpose in their lives. If employees feel that their job is important, they will want to do more.
  • Help Me Feel Proud: Although adherence to standards cannot be forced, employees need to know that their colleagues are committed to producing quality work. Open and honest communication is a necessity, along with understanding and respect for each other’s efforts.
  • Build Mutual Trust with Me: Friendship is the gateway to building mutual trust, and it creates opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. When employees have trusted relationships at work, their lives become richer and productivity increases.

Growth Needs:
  • Review My Contributions: Employees want to know how they are doing, how their work is being perceived and where their work is heading. Management should meet with employees to identify tasks that align with workers’ skillsets and create a development plan that supports each individual’s full learning potential. This enables employees to maximize their contributions to the organization.
  • Challenge Me: The need to learn and grow is a natural human instinct. One way that employees can accomplish this is to find more efficient ways of completing their tasks. The best teams are never satisfied with the current way of doing things; they always strive to find better, more efficient ways to work.

Workforce engagement is an often forgotten or ignored piece of a business’ success. Unfortunately, this can be especially detrimental for manufacturers, as the industry reportedly has the lowest workforce engagement levels. With only 20 to 25% of workers engaged, it is more important than ever for manufacturers to invest in improving engagement. In doing so, employees will become more motivated and focused, leading to better results than ever before.

Mike Beels
Lean Program Manager

Mike Beels has served in the role of Lean Program Manager for the Lean Business Solutions Team at The Center for more than 12 years. Mike’s areas of expertise include Change Leadership, Workforce Engagement and Succession Planning, as well as the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methodologies. He is a professional trainer and has the ability to command an audience and deliver the training message in a way that participants can understand in a clear, non-threatening manner. Mike always leaves trainees excited and ready to complete training transfer to the shop floor or office. 

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at