IIE Annual Conference blogging – Tuesday sessions

I hope my notes from yesterday were beneficial or at least interesting to read. Here are some notes from the sessions and tour I attended today. I think this could be a good way for members to get an idea of what they can find at the Annual Conference so I hope to continue this for future conferences. I also met up with a couple other chapter members who are here and I will see if they would like to share information from additional sessions. (Ed note: I started this on Tuesday so that’s why the time-sense seems off.)

Coaching and Advising the Next Generation of IE’s (panel)
• Successful IE’s not only have good technical skills, but strong leadership, finance and analytic skills. The are usually self-motivated and perform well with minimal direction.
• IE’s should pay attention to diverse tool sets – solving the next unknown problem – and core fundamentals – how to tackle a problem regardless how technology makes it easier to solve.
• How do you get someone out of a rut? Get uncomfortable. You are typically too comfortable if you’ve been in your role 5+ years.
• Best career advice the panelists have received? Deb: Plan your next move a year ahead; it usually takes that long to set in motion so be a step ahead. Mike: Look/plan for your 2nd move, and do the best you can in your current position. Hans: Run for an IIE office; it is a safe place to develop leadership skills (he is on the IIE Board of Trustees)

Pepsi Bottling and Frito Lay tours
• The Pepsi site was equipped to fill all 4 types of vessels – cans, bottles, gallon jugs (iced tea) and bag-in-box (for soda machines). All production lines are fully automated, from vessel loading to palletizing.
• They have separate quick turn (local distribution) and deep (regional distribution) storage.
• 1-2 years prior they insourced part of their bottle manufacturing. They realized that they were wasting money shipping air when a vendor made their bottles. They now order preforms – basically looks like a large test tube with a twist cap top – and do their own blow molding on site.
• The Frito Lay site is the oldest facility in that part of the company. On the production side they are very similar to the Topeka facility (which is key if the product is going to be uniform for all customers from 30+ facilities).
• As a result of their current location and neighbors, they do not have the room to expand to automate the packaging and warehousing functions.  All post-bag fill processes are done manually. Despite this, the Orlando facility has been in the Top 4 facilities in cost and production improvement over the previous year for the past 4 years. (Most sites are only on there one year at a time.)
• Internal studies have shown that newer facility in Perry, GA, which has approximately twice the production capacity with the same staff as Orlando, can nearly cover the Orlando production demand at the same cost – transportation included.

What Leaders Look for in Promoting IE’s to Management (panel)
• Some qualities looked for in leaders: transferable leadership skills – moving between groups and still being effective; collaborating for the greater good; big picture perspective; big picture perspective; connecting the dots between technical requirements and strategic outcome; developer of talent; ability to influence outcomes.
• Understanding the importance of cultural fit: “Drink the Kool-Aid!” Being a leader is about inspiring the people you work with, embodiment of the culture.
• Recognize, understand and navigate office “politics”, but stay above the fray. Don’t burn trust. Use politics to your advantage – know how to effectively lobby your decision makers.
• Biggest challenges of transitioning to management: the aspect of delegating tasks and accepting the work/answer received without trying to re-do it yourself; delivering negative feedback.
• The need for IE’s in the future: Human Resources. Their systems and processes are similar to where health systems were 20 years ago.
• How to recognize potential: keep an eye on the results your new talent is producing, give direction to their leader as needed; identify candidates that can be your replacement; “Strong leaders hire people smarter than themselves.”
• Needs beyond the technical background to get into high positions: Operations experience is always well received; transferable skills and lateral moves; be willing to volunteer to take on new experiences; external volunteering – charity, religious, philanthropic, etc. (not just an IIE plug); learn what to do from your good bosses and what not to do from your bad ones.

Guerrilla Transformation – Change an Insurgency into a Movement
• Even though many companies hire “the best and the brightest”, a feeling persists that they eventually become lazy and uninspired. This is usually because they are beaten into cogs via corporate culture.
• Corporate culture is rooted in nostalgia – compare Facebook and Google to General Motors, IBM and Kodak. It creates incremental evolution at a glacial pace, even in technological areas.
• Corporate culture is a type of social network/community. Communities have predictability, they hold core beliefs and values, and embrace customs & traditions. This is why it can be very difficult to affect change in corporate culture.
• An element of game theory is needed. A variant of the Nash Equilibrium posits that people in a group (community) continue to behave as naturally expected. Therefore you need to create a credible disruptor to create actual change.
• Creating a credible distruptor consists of 1) defining the strategy, 2) determine the tactics (how to achieve the strategy), 3) organize the logistics (what is needed to support the plan), 4) execute – do it, don’t just talk/think about it.
• Communities have subgroups that you will need to be aware of. Minority 1 is those keen on change, such as new hires. They are usually not a problem. Majority 1 is those who resist/resent change, still embrace the good old days. Majority 2 is those who don’t care either way. Obvious focus should be on Majority 1.
• Control the distruptor: Communicate the vision & program to all; Commitment & Support – dedicate a proper budget and allocate proper resources; Reinforce staying power of program and consistently highlight accomplishments; Don’t try to do too much to fast – set a sustainable pace for the program; Monitor progress & Reassess.
• Change the emphasis of measuring dedication from inputs to outputs
• Reward failure. Innovation requires risk and if they are afraid to fail they won’t take risks.