This post was guest-written by our friend in lean and life, Martin Tierney, from Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, you can experience the amazing things Martin and his team are doing with lean in our blog post.

 

I recently visited Cambridge engineering to learn from their awesome team following their visit to Seating Matters in Ireland. We, too, are in manufacturing and wished to visit Cambridge to learn how they’ve implemented lean, developed their culture of respect and care for their colleagues and grown a successful business as a result. 

This video only gives 5% (or less!) of the lessons I took away from visiting Cambridge. Their unique blend of hard work, creativity, respect for people, clever project management and an impressive drive for growth is something that cannot be bottled into a 5 minute clip. 

They are truly bringing glory and dignity back to manufacturing. Their people and their leadership have created something truly special.

 

Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The "practice" of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they'd like as the group stretches - some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others - like Steve, our Controller - take the opportunity to be creative. Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time! 

Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital. [caption id="attachment_199" align="alignnone" width="300"]value concept handwritten on blackboard value concept handwritten on blackboard[/caption] Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them? Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization. 1. Deepening Relationships with Customers 2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language 3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language: We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away. Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success. Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.