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How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

Certified Petra Coach Rob Simons draws upon his 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, brand expert and business coach. Rob founded PixelWorks Corporation in 1993 to serve the interactive advertising industry and in 1996 he founded Toolbox Studios, Inc., one of the most respected branded content marketing firms in Texas. Rob sold Toolbox Studios in 2015 to focus exclusively on business coaching, which includes certification as a Gazelles International Four Decisions™ coach. An active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Rob is currently a “Master” EO Strategy Summit Facilitator and an EO Accelerator Instructor. In 2007, the San Antonio Business Journal named him one of San Antonio’s “40 Under 40.”

Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.

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Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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Business News

Should you alter your business travel due to the Coronavirus?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Got a business trip coming up? Worried about the coronavirus spoiling those plans? Stay up to date and safe with this cool site!

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The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University has created a website that tracks one of the biggest trends of 2020: the coronavirus. Also known as 2019-nCoV, this disease has already spread to over 40,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with over 900 deaths (as of when this article was published, anyway.)

Not to mention, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that we still don’t know exactly how the virus spreads from person-to-person. In fact, there’s quite a bit we don’t know about this disease and although some people are reported as recovered, it’s only a small fraction compared to how many are sick.

So, what’s so great about this tracker? Well, first of all, it updates in real time, making it easy to keep track of everything we know about confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It’s chock full of statistics and visuals, making the information easy to digest. Plus, with a map front and center, it lets you know exactly where there have been reported outbreaks – and how many people have been diagnosed.

Because the site sticks to cold hard facts like statistics and maps, it also means you can avoid the racism and general panic that’s accompanied news of this outbreak.

This is a great tool for staying informed, but it’s also extremely helpful if you’re going to be traveling for work. As the virus continues to progress, you’ll be able to see just how many cases of coronavirus there are in the areas you’re planning to visit, which will allow you to plan accordingly. Even if you don’t feel the effects, you can still risk passing it to other people.

(In fact, the CDC recommends those traveling from certain areas in China practice “social distancing” when they return to the US, avoiding public spaces like grocery stores, malls and movie theaters.)

Of course, if you have something planned several months from now, don’t cancel your conference plans just yet. A lot can happen in that amount of time, so avoid the urge to check the website every couple hours. It’s supposed to be a tool for staying informed, not staying stressed out.

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Business News

New startup curates resources to simplify any remote job search

(BUSINESS NEWS) Finding a remote job that supports travel has never been so easy with this new remote friendly job-finding website, Remote Planet.

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remote.io finds a remote job

Have you ever wanted to travel the world only to have your boss completely reject your request to work remotely? Or maybe you’re not working right now and you’re having a hard time finding a job that will allow you travel? Well, let me tell you, you’re not alone!

As 2020 begins, it’s pretty clear that remote working is not only an option; it can be a way of life that can not only empower an employee, but also increase efficiency and production for their company.

15 years ago, finding a remote job was almost like spotting a unicorn. It was an extremely rare opportunity – one that very few had the pleasure of experiencing. But with technology growing so quickly, and with the benefits being so clear (for both employer and employee) companies are quickly making changes that allow their employees to live and work almost anywhere they’d like – as long as there’s a good Internet connection.

Because of this, working while traveling has never been so easy, and with a massive uptick in dedicated remote workforces (we’re up to 18% of the U.S. workforce being remote), it only makes sense why websites like RemotePlanet.io are becoming so popular.

Remote Planet is an online platform that allows you to search for a job that is 100% remote. Their goal is not only to help find you a job that meets you needs, but also to provide “Curated Data for Remote, Digital Nomads & Travellers”.

J.P. Aulet is the freelance web developer who created Remote Planet. In an interview with him, where I asked him about the website, he said “RemotePlanet.io helps digital nomads (DN), remote workers, travelers and others to find the best resources in different categories, like remote companies, articles, insurances, housing and co-workings, among other things.”

When asked why he created his website, he said “Since I quit my job 2 years ago, I’ve been traveling and working as a [digital nomad], and since then, I curated a lot of interesting and helpful websites that help me with my travels, and I wanted to share with others to make it easier to start their remote journey.”

The website takes a Pinterest-like approach to helping its users find jobs, too, making it a very visual experience. What I mean by this is, the platform appears to aggregate data from 3rd party sites, like Remote.co and Remote.com and filters through their data for remote jobs. Whether it’s automatic or manual is unknown, but the important thing is that Aulet then publishes this data to his site in a sort of board that allows you to click the link, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or “like” it.

In addition, it looks to pulls in data that remote workers should stay on top of, like various tools, and companies that fully endorse the “work from anywhere” lifestyle.

remote job tools

But the coolest thing about this site is that it takes a lot of the searching work away for people who already otherwise have busy lives. After all, given the nature of the lifestyle and the level of importance travel is to those who seek this type of work, looking for a remote job and traveling at the same time can keep one pretty occupied.

So, whether you’ve been looking for a remote job for a while, or you’re just getting started, we highly suggest checking out Remote Planet for, at the very least, their tools and resources.

Now, with all of that said, their website won’t be any help to those who still have difficult bosses or work for companies who are adamantly against work from home situations, so if this scenario sounds familiar, we suggest checking out this guide on how to convince your boss to let you work remotely. We wish you the best of luck in convincing your boss to loosen the reigns.

On the chance the meeting doesn’t go so well (hey, let’s face it, it happens), and you’re considering another job that has much more flex, we also recommend reading this recent story on “How to crush your next remote job interview.”

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