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How to get the right things done (an evening with Maryland manufacturing)

Jeff Fuchs of MWCC welcomes everyone.
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"Good companies always get stronger in difficult times." -- Pascal Dennis

Imagine a business that every year has the privilege of cutting its price 10 to 20 percent and then has to improve its operations and reduce its costs by more than that to make a profit?

Welcome to the competitive environment for U.S. manufacturers in a global environment.

April 8 was the annual dinner meeting of the Maryland World Class Consortia at the B&O Railroad Museum in downtown Baltimore, which we attended as sponsors.

How do they do it?

One word -- lean! (And by the way, lean is not just for manufacturers!)

According to MWCC Director of Development Jeff Fuchs, that's what separates the Maryland manufacturers who are surviving from the rest.

He should know. His organization is a big reason for that. It was great to see how Maryland has created this world-class consortia to support our Maryland manufacturers. Then, there was more good news from the deputy secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, Dominick Murray, who shared the short-term focus of his organization to help Maryland businesses. He articulated four key areas:

  1. Restore business confidence
  2. Re-establish DBED as the voice of business.
  3. Build on Maryland's core strengths and leverage our federal, scientific, medical and university assets.
  4. Link Maryland businesses with opportunities from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

DSC00022 For a minute, I thought he was talking about our Maryland Business and Accounting Expo. Our theme of "Collaborate, Innovate and Grow" covers 1,3 and 4, and we hope to provide a venue where we can showcase all of the organizations and resources (like MWCC and DBED) that are available to help Maryland businesses. (They are both sponsors of the Expo). 

I loved it when Jeff introduced the guest speaker and showed a picture of his copy of the book with all of the notes, dog ears and tabs in it. As I said in my tweets, I knew this was going to be good.

Pascal Dennis of Lean Systems is author of several Shingo Prize-winning books. His claim to fame is his experience with Toyota and its famous TPS (Toyota Production System). He is an accomplished "lean" expert, a methodology that we think is very relevant in today's environment.

Last night, he talked about strategy deployment in difficult times from his book, Getting the Right Things Done. Pascal stayed around and signed some books. (Pictured above are me, the MACPA's Pam Devine and Kim O'Neill, and Pascal.)

His message was simple but important. The three things we need to do as leaders are as follows:

  1. A leader's job is to frame reality.
  2. Say "thank you" when the job is complete.
  3. Eliminate obstacles for your people.

Addressing the current economic crisis, he used a quote from the roman slave Epictetus, who turned adversity into advantage through hard work in words he called a "profitable difficulty." Epictetus went on to become a teacher of emperors.

I came away from that night with a sense of renewal and faith that we will prevail and make use of this "profitable difficulty" that we are all faced with. Thanks, Pascal and Jeff!

Are you using lean to improve your operations? How are you framing reality during these uncertain times?

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