Who needs “process” when we’ve got each other?

3D Businessmen Inside Gear. Business Concept

Let me get something off my chest. If you’re a business owner, process is your friend.

I’ve heard too many business leaders say that process inhibits their organization’s creativity. Or flexibility. Or culture.

Hogwash! Process is a discipline that enables companies to grow and make a profit. If you don’t embrace process, you won’t have much flexibility or creativity left. Or much of a business, for that matter.

I don’t say this just because I’m an engineer, or an efficiency and effectiveness expert who has worked in plants for Toyota, Honda and other industrial giants around the world. I believe this because I brush my teeth twice a day (sometimes three). I floss. I change my clothes daily. I set my alarm the night before. Because processes – disciplined, repeated behaviours that produce specific outcomes – are key to overcoming everyday human inertia and achieving results.

It’s natural for leaders to shy away from formal processes. I get it. They fear that their innovative, consensual organization will suffocate in an avalanche of rules. They dread resistance from colleagues who distrust change. Some even fear losing their own autonomy after years of operating their business on the fly.

But the operations they see as consensual and common sense may in fact be chaotic and wasteful. Where disciplined processes are in place, everyone knows what to do and why. Without such systems, everyone may be working hard, but they may not be working together.

Here’s a case study. A mid-sized producer of telephone systems called me to solve a problem: after booking new orders, they were waiting six months for payment. When I investigated, I realized this wasn’t a cash-flow issue. It was an efficiency problem and a shortage of accountability.

Here’s what was happening. The sales team had quarterly goals, so they pushed hard only four times a year. This created fulfillment problems as the company overloaded suppliers by requesting extra components. (One saving grace: as there was no timetable for ordering parts, some calls went out late.)

There was no process for standardizing information on customers’ locations and special needs, so once the installers arrived at clients’ offices, they often discovered problems that required more cabling or specialized equipment. Finally, while the company’s invoices clearly noted “30 days net,” everyone ignored it – and the company had no process for encouraging payment.

Together we introduced clear standards for sales activity, ordering, client information and installation – and enforcing non-payment penalties. The company quickly turned around, and became the leader in its industry. Sales, which had been slipping, grew 20% in a single year.

Yes, there was resistance at first. Even the manager who hired me thought the basic problem was a too-complex business – not his failure to manage that mess. Once we showed them our solutions, everyone became proud champions of clarity and simplicity.

Systems and processes don’t create complexity – they reduce it. Where standards are absent, people generate their own processes. Chaos, it turns out, is like tooth decay: easy to prevent, but hard to fix.

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Will you help us by taking this Intrapreneur Assessment?

Great Idea. Creativity Concept with light bulbs on chalkboard background

Will you help us by taking this Intrapreneur Assessment?

As a global thought leader in intrapreneurship, I have been asked to collaborate with Multi-Health Systems, a people analytics and solutions company. MHS is currently developing an assessment on entrepreneurial competencies, and they are looking for participants to help them in the final stages of testing. At my request, MHS has agreed to incorporate individuals who self-identify as intrapreneurs. 

Will you help us by taking this 20-minute online assessment? We are looking for leaders, entrepreneurs and individuals who identify as intrapreneurs (i.e., they are employees of a company and are officially responsible for creating something new, or for solving problems using entrepreneurial skills). I am sure you will find the assessment questions interesting and thought-provoking. And in return for participating, you will receive a personalized report that will give you new insights into your entrepreneurial skills and behaviors.

To me, intrapreneurship is not a “program.” It is a necessary mindset that all organizations need to embrace to thrive in fast-changing, competitive markets. Ultimately, MHS’s research will provide an even richer foundation upon which Spyder Works will help our clients build more successful cultures of intrapreneurship.

Thank you in advance for participating in this important research project.


PS: As a member of my network, I would also like to offer you a 25% discount for the upcoming Intrapreneurship Conference in Toronto, Nov. 15th to 17th. The conference theme is “Building an Innovation Ecosystem.” To register, please enter the promo code IntraCnf-SpyderWorks. (I’ll be speaking on Nov. 15, to share four key insights for creating a more successful intraprenership program. Hope to see you there!)

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Small Steps, Epic Announcement.

Jeff_bkgdImage jeff

One of Canada’s brightest business minds has just joined Spyder Works.

Jeff Holland started as a manufacturing engineer who cut his teeth at Toyota. Then Honda hired him to be a Product Launch Leader, and then he became a manufacturing problem solver and troubleshooter for McKinsey & Co., jetting around the world to rescue troubled factories. Later he led the process and innovation performance practice in Canada for Accenture, and then he joined McKinsey – AGAIN! – to specialize in Operations and Organizational Transformational Change.

And now he’s become Spyder Works’ Vice-President of Organization & Operations.

You can see our opportunity. A seasoned pro like Jeff wants to work with growth-minded clients who don’t fear the future. You understand that ongoing technological and market disruption create big opportunities for organizations with the right mindset, processes, and aligned, positive teams.

Jeff is smart, funny, personable and modest, and he really wants to help. He’s totally about achieving great outcomes for clients. So, we want to keep Jeff busy with challenging projects that require all his skills in innovation, process improvement, organizational change and leadership development.

If you’re a market leader striving to stay on top, Jeff is eager to assist. Backed by Spyder Works’ deep expertise in business strategy, innovation, intrapreneurship, marketing and customer experience, Jeff can help you get ahead and stay there.

Here’s more about Jeff:

  1. He calls himself a “recovering” engineer, because he’s a people person.
  2. He loves to play guitar and banjo, and used to play the mandolin. His secret ambition is to make guitars for a living.
  3. He really cares. Ask him about the week in April 2014 when he flew around the world and saved nearly 3000 jobs. He’d been asked to monitor a plant in China that was scheduled to be closed. Just before leaving, a colleague asked him to visit an open-pit mine in South Africa that needed to reduce costs by 30% – and expected to cut 1500 jobs. Cut a long story short: after one day at the mine, he saw that a few organizational changes could slash costs and save all those jobs. Then he spent three days assessing problems at the manufacturing plant in Guangdong. He saw that their problem wasn’t manufacturing, but an undisciplined ordering process back in North America. “It was one of the best plant sites I’d seen in 10 years,” he says. “I gathered evidence to show that the planning and scheduling people were killing the plant. We postponed its closure, and it’s still going strong today.”
  4. Jeff still likes problem-solving. Even better, he enjoys helping and transforming organizations. “I want to work with companies that are growing, and people who are growing.”
  5. What’s the secret of a good client relationship? Jeff says great relationships are built on
    trust and openness. “I like situations where I have their back and I can feel they have my back. Where we can have truthful conversations in a risk-free environment. Don’t hold back. If you tell me exactly what you think and what you’re feeling, we can get down to business and solve the problem sooner.”
  6. Jeff is a true believer in design thinking, the fuel that powers Spyder Works. “To me, design thinking means two things. 1: Focusing on all the systems in an organization that need to be understood and integrated. 2: I want to be able to design into organizations the agility to anticipate what could happen, instead of what has happened.”
    People like Jeff don’t come along every day. As our CEO, Ken Tencer says: “Jeff Holland helps us expand Spyder Works’ impact, translating high-level corporate strategy all the way to the production floor or the customer’s loading dock. His work across five continents also helps strengthen Spyder’s international footprint, which already extends across North America and to Europe.

“But he works fast, so we need lots of projects to keep him busy.”

If you have bottlenecks to clear, new strategies to carry out, or questions about the future, give Jeff a call at (506) 852-1422. Or email Help us put off that guitar factory as long as we can.

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