Maintaining Quality And Value While Moving Fast
October 17, 2019
It All Starts With The Fundamentals: Team, Team, And Team
According to an old adage, in business we are fortunate if we are able to choose any two of the following: speed, quality, or value. But in those rare instances where we are able to simultaneously enjoy all three, we experience a sense of fulfillment that keeps us coming back to that supplier or partner loyally. So how do companies achieve this, not just on the rare “good day”, but consistently over and over so that this becomes a core promise they can make to their customers? Not easily, so let’s go through it, step by step.
Regardless of the endeavor, especially the grandest technical, commercial, and societal undertakings we are familiar with, they invariably have a common element: strong teams of complementary contributors. It all starts with the fundamentals: team, team, and team.
Landing men safely on the moon a few short years after the call to action is perhaps the single most incredible example of team effort in modern human history. Without enormous effort to align within and between hundreds of companies, thousands of teams, and hundreds of thousands of individuals, reaching the moon – or even low earth orbit, would still be in the realm of science fiction.
You may counter with instances of sole contributors having achieved great things: perhaps the Dutch master Rembrandt. But he too was often supported by teams of understudies who did much of the foundation work, preparing canvases, mixing paints, with the master adding the defining flourishes to elevate the work to a transcendent level.
Shared goals and distributed efforts have made some of the most incredible individuals who they are.
When it comes to executing at a high level in business, it is naturally also all about the team. Strong organizations put intense focus on elevating the performance of their teams as one of the top corporate priorities for good reason.
Performing consistently at a high level requires everyone to understand and execute their individual role well, communicate with their peers to remain coordinated, understand the objectives, and embrace the strategy and tactics to achieve those objectives as individuals, sub-teams, and as a complete organization.
This is why sports analogies are used so often in business. We have all seen how effortless the pros make it look even when they execute complex plays against extremely capable adversaries. This doesn’t happen by accident or based only on the raw talent of the individual players. It comes from intense dedication to the results of the team ahead of the results of the individual, years of training and bonding as a unit, and strong leadership to focus the team’s energy on achieving the goal. We have all seen how fluidly plays evolve, seemingly telepathic connections between the players as they advance, adapting, acting, and reacting as a group until they succeed.
It can be breathtaking. Conversely, we have all seen a team out of sync with itself, unable to win even if the individuals are superstars. Teamwork is above all else the key to success.
The best team still needs the right approach to achieve its full potential
Continuing with sports, we have all seen the overwhelming favorite team adopt the wrong strategy for some reason, or make an incorrect adjustment to the current flow of a game, only to lose to a much weaker opponent who works well as a team and deploys the better approach. How do the teams that win championships year after year avoid this? Systems and discipline.
Systems are necessary to instill the best possible practices consistently throughout an organization. Systemic transfer of knowledge, systemic approach to strategy development, systemic product development processes, systemic refinement of manufacturing processes, systemic targeting of customers, suppliers, and partners. It is all about weaving a systematic approach to virtually everything an organization does into the fabric of the company and its culture.
This is not to say that systems should be limiting or burdensome, quite the contrary. Some systems are designed precisely to foster freedom of movement and thought. Some of the most successful design consultancies have very well-defined approaches to getting the maximum creativity out of their teams, encouraging unstructured exploration in certain defined phases, because this is what is needed to consistently arrive at novel solutions to design problems. The same genius designers without process would be much less likely to arrive at beautiful and clever results as frequently.
Discipline is simply a non-negotiable “must” for any high-performance organization. There are very, very few examples of Olympians, World Champions, virtuoso musicians, Nobel Laureates, or bestselling authors, to name a few fields, who are not extremely disciplined in their approach to success. Naturally, their approaches may be wildly different, but to get to the top of any field of endeavor, the team and the individuals must maintain discipline to do the work, follow the strategy, trust their teammates, and follow the system in order to achieve the maximum possible result.
So how do these fundamentals result in achieving speed, quality, and value in our industry?
Our clients come to us looking for very specific solutions related to launching their new products. Most are under intense time pressure due to the normal course of business, and some are needing help in recovering lost time in their project where the pressure is even higher. In every instance, our clients expect us to deliver what we agreed to do, on an accelerated timeline, and for a competitive price.
Fortunately, we have the privilege of serving thousands of clients each year from a wide range of industries – aerospace, automotive, consumer goods, defense, industrial, and medical, representing a broad spectrum of applications. The only way we can succeed at this consistently is being great at the fundaments: team, process, and discipline. Fall short on one of these, and we will not maintain delivery schedules, or perhaps the quality will slip, or our costs would become uncompetitive. Our domestic and foreign competition are constantly raising their games to try to catch us, so we must do more every day.
Our team comprises professionals with decades of experience in our field, years of tight collaboration together, recurring formal and informal training at all levels, and a very strong sense that we are working together towards a common mission of enabling our clients to bring their products to market as quickly as possible. This explicit focus on our clients’ objectives is the “guiding star” for the team in helping stay aligned on what is important and right in every project. Just as in sports, the more obvious the objective, the more aligned the team will be in getting there in the most efficient and effective way.
Excellent communication is absolutely essential to teamwork and coordination with our clients. We invest the time in every client engagement to explore their project objectives, the context of the project, and the definition of success to be sure we are aligned. This may seem extreme when we are “just making a few plastic parts”. We don’t see it this way.
We are making components on the critical path of our clients’ multi-million-dollar product launches, so understanding what is needed and why is commensurate with the value of the projects we are doing. Once a project starts, we ensure tight communication between all team members and our customer contacts, facilitated by our proprietary enterprise management system. Should course corrections be necessary, we tighten the communication loop even further to be sure our clients are fully informed and involved at every step.
Secondly, our process to achieve speed, quality, and value relies on streamlining every project phase as far as possible without cutting essential steps. Just as an Olympic sprint relay team moves with incredible speed and fascinating precision with absolutely zero extraneous movement from start, through several hand-offs, to the finish, our team moves from step to step doing only what has been proven to be the most effective activities. Design for manufacturability enhancements, mold design accelerating methods, CNC code generating routines, machining setups and tooling optimization, molding press operation simplifications, and logistics enhancements all have been developed to save hours here and minutes there with the ultimate goal of repeatable success as quickly as possible. When the team deploys this streamlined process with discipline, it is unbeatable.
Our organization’s success in delivering consistently has been built over time through continuous improvement initiatives. The philosophies that drive the organization have been steady for many years, however our approaches, processes, and technologies have always been under the microscope for ways to improve. It was not an exaggeration to state that we look for minutes of time savings across entire projects, or ways to improve quality further by a few percent. These matters are discussed and acted on daily by our teams. Without this level of attention to detail we cannot hope to meet the ever-increasing time pressures of our clients.
Summary: striving to continuously deliver faster, better, and more valuable services is central to Xcentric’s culture
Xcentric has become a leader in our segment of the product development and manufacturing industry because of our team, systems, and discipline. We do our utmost to exceed our clients’ expectations through excellent communication, streamlining every aspect of our organization and processes, and repeatedly ask ourselves what more can we do to be better. We have the drive and ambition to be the best we can be for our clients. That is Xcentric.