Friday, February 16, 2018

The Super Bowl of Manufacturing: Are You Built to Win?

By: Jamie Headley

Whether you are a New England Patriots fan or not, there is no denying they are consistently one of the best performing NFL teams. In fact, they have played in more Super Bowl games than any other team in the league, with a total of 10 games played and five won. But how do they keep up their winning streak? Many people attribute it to them being “built to win.”

What does it mean to be “built to win”? It all comes down to strategy. The Patriots have earned a reputation as being one of the best football teams of our time by having a solid strategy in place, supported by exceptional tactical execution. They win because they have found the perfect balance between strategic and tactical planning.

The Road to Winning
There is a hierarchy to this type of planning that allows companies to be proactive and in control of their overall destiny, rather than reactive to the market or customer demands. Achieving this type of control begins with establishing a clear Mission Statement. The Mission Statement should be a realistic, high-level description of what is important to the company. This lays the foundation for the business.

The company’s sales and operations plan, or business plan, follows the Mission Statement, which is essentially the high-level objectives the company seeks to achieve in support of the Mission Statement. This might include goals such as wanting to increase sales 10%, reduce costs or enter a new market. Once these plans are in place the tactical plan comes into play, which lays out how your company will achieve the goals of the Business Plan. It is absolutely essential to perform these tasks in this order to ensure all high-level goals form the basis of business plans and tactical decisions. This process looks a little like this:

Order is Everything: Why Tactical Must Come Last
A common situation (mistake) I see among companies is that executives generate lists of tactical objectives to immediately accomplish, rather than starting with a strong strategic plan. Although it can benefit a company to accomplish such goals, doing so without being connected to a business plan can reduce the return on investment.

For example, an organization I was working with requested supervisory skills training.  When I asked about the issues they were trying to fix, they explained how supervisors were being stretched too thin, chasing quality issues, double checking paperwork and having to fill in for absent workers.  As I continued to ask questions and listen to the situation, it became clear that the training they were requesting was not going to fix their issues. Although the training would help supervisors better manage their time and communicate more efficiently, it would be akin to putting a Band-Aid on their particular “wound” and would not address the root cause issues. 

I pushed further and asked if they had a business plan outlined, but they admitted they had not had time to create one yet. Instead, using the Mission Statement written on the wall of their lobby as a guide, we went through the key components of their company: Customer Service, Quality, Engaged Workforce, Profitability.  As we talked about each of these elements, the leadership team admitted they were having issues in all of these areas but could not quantify the impact since they had not assigned metrics to measure success within each area.

After more discussion, it became clear that we would need to address the large-scale issues of culture, waste and quality systems if they wanted to make long-term improvements and achieve their mission. To accomplish this, we would need a strong strategic plan that would enable us to identify high-level issues, prioritize how to address them and establish metrics for success. After the strategic plan is in place, and only then, we could begin with tactical planning, such as laying out departmental plans or considering training. By starting at the most basic strategic level of the company, then creating business and tactical plans from there, we were able to identify more targeted and effective solutions to the root cause issues present in their company. When done in the proper order, such planning can be immensely valuable for driving your company’s high-level goals.

Plan Your Way to the Top
Embarking on the creation of a business plan can sound arduous, but it does not have to be.  There are many tools and templates that can help guide this process, as well as resources like The Center that can facilitate the process from start to finish. 

Many executives claim they do not have the time to sit down with their leadership team and develop a plan, but continued success is not random. It is worth the time invested as companies that continue to operate in a reactive mode with only short-term plans will consistently find themselves out-performed by those that embrace a proactive, thoughtful strategy.

Although it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day firefighting and forget about the importance of planning, it is clear that having a proactive strategy can serve the higher goals of your company, provide a better return on investment and establish more targeted problem solving. When used correctly, these tools can help your company become the Patriots of manufacturing. You might not make it into every Super Bowl, but you will be built to win.

Jamie Headley
Senior Business Solutions Manager

As Senior Business Solutions Manager, Jamie works as an advisor to Michigan manufacturers in the Southwest region of the state, helping them to “manufacture smarter.”  Jamie is a seasoned operations professional with expertise in change management, strategic planning, leadership, process improvement, lean implementations, cost containment and operational excellence. With more than 25 years of manufacturing and consulting experience, Jamie has served as Director of Supply Chain for Catalent Pharma Solutions, Vice President of Operations for and President and CEO of Dementia Services Group.  

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

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