Monday, August 31, 2009

Mythical Skills Gap

Welcome guest blogger, management consultant, colleague and Deputy Representative to the Veterans Affairs Voluntary Services Advisory Committee at the Daughters of the American Revolution, Joy Montgomery. The Mythical Skills Gap Around the world, discussions have been taking place about the Skills Gap for years. From information technology to manufacturing to fire fighting, employers and agencies discuss their inability to find skilled workers. From another point of view, recruiters discuss how difficult it is to find skills like team spirit, a solid work ethic and leadership. While discussions about this problem continue, another problem grows as if it’s not related – as if it’s not a solution to the problem. While efforts are being made to bridge the skills gap in many ways, the most immediate solution is largely ignored. Our returning Veterans are the people employers are looking for. In many cases, our returning Veterans cannot even get an interview for the kinds of jobs they are qualified to do.

Employers want highly trained professional and technical people. They want employees who can work under stress, employees who focus on the goal, employees with a solid work ethic, employees with team spirit, and employees with leadership skills.

Veterans have earned careers that will engage their very solid, stress-tested work ethic. They know how to focus on a goal. They can apply their skills to contribute to an employer’s success. They are, above all else, goal-oriented team players. They are leaders.

World War II Veterans came home and deservedly became the much hailed “Greatest Generation.” We all know about the skills and qualities they brought to our country and to our workforce. Today’s returning Veterans are met with cheers but the cheers are followed by silence when they look for their place in the economy. One of the reasons for the silence is that neither employers nor returning Veterans know how to translate military experience into real civilian language. Attempts have been made by the military programs but they don’t quite make it. Here, in fact is the gap to bridge. The “Skills Gap” needs to be addressed in the schools for the future but it needs to be addressed with Veterans today.

One Marine, tasked with keeping systems operating in their quarters when he wasn’t in combat, came home to find that part time work for minimum pay in a gun range was the best he could do. He was understandably angry that his voluntary service seemed to have eliminated the chance for a normal life, that “couch-surfing” was his future. With a decent translation of his non-combat accomplishments, he is employed full time in a facilities management position.

A career Marine who made the effort to achieve two college degrees toward a civilian career when she retired from the Marine Corps, is doing clerical work. The translation of non-combat accomplishments for her has opened her eyes to high level opportunities where she will be able to influence policies that will help all returning Veterans. She’s on her way to the career she has earned.

A disabled Army Reserve Veteran continued the truck-driving job he had before deployment in spite of extreme pain. He had a family to support and saw no options. In his case, the current economy caused a reduction in force and he was let go. The new “GI Bill” provided funds for training in a new career and a translation of non-combat accomplishments and certifications put him ahead of fellow graduates.

Another Veteran, a telecommunications expert who set up installations under combat conditions, is stocking shelves for a grocery store. People whose job is to help others find jobs are able to feel good about their work if they can find a job for a person. It isn’t always possible for them to find a job that a Veteran deserves because it isn’t always possible for them to understand what the Veteran has to offer. Effective translation of terms is getting him interviews in his field.

While discussions continue about how to resolve the Skills Gap and plans are made to provide the work force we need for the future, the work force we need to get us to the future is already here and being squandered. Instead of taking their proper place in the economy, many Veterans are underemployed. A growing number are homeless, divorced, and losing hope.

The solution? Translation!

Small groups have tried to take this on and found it daunting. What’s needed is for the Veterans Administration or a national professional association to take on the project, translating the military terms into truly understandable civilian terms for the employers who are suffering from a belief that there is a skills gap and for the employees who have paid a high price for the skills they have to offer.

Joy Montgomery

---- In her professional life, Ms. Montgomery is a management consultant, building business systems so people can build their businesses. Ms. Montgomery is developing ReBoot Camp for the Livermore footprint of the Palo Alto Health Care System, an effort to provide returning Veterans with the transition tools they need to reconnect to their families, their communities, and their careers as a changed person.

(c)Copyright 2009, Joy Montgomery. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

#703: Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane The faster you go, the behinder you get. —Anonymous In the last few months, my enlightenment has reached new levels. Seems everything I read talks of my two favorite phrases (at this moment in time): "order of magnitude" and "vantage point". There is a great TV series called simply enough, Life. Thank goodness for the net and the ability to watch and/or buy episodes of the show. Like the third episode from the first season, "Let her go" where Charlie Crews acquires the Buick Grand National. Talk about fast. I was out of the fast and furious driving phase by time these monsters screamed onto the scene in the late 1980s. Come on, they were made by Buick! Who could have guessed? But the turbo V6 and advanced electronics produced a definite order of magnitude in performance over my 1967 GTO 400ci or 1968 Chevelle 396ci. But I digress... We used to say that there was no subsitute for cubic inches when it came to performance cars. But in fact, there was: the turbo charger for one. By changing the vantage point, it was possible to produce more horsepower with less size. The 3.8 liter V6 in the Grand National was only 232 cubic inches! But produced more torque and horsepower than my GTO's 400ci. V8! What challenge are you facing for which you find yourself running faster and faster? That may not be the best or smartest approach. Give me a shout and lets consider some options that might not appear to be all that obvious. Maybe we could then chat about orders of magnitude? Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Throughput and New Media

Welcome guest blogger and Media Theorist, Seth D Brown. Throughput issues in New Media Throughput and New Media Recently in talking to independent small business owners, I've found that many are unsure how to use new media to their advantage. By 'new media' I mean the social networking services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and the many derivatives thereof, as well as Twitter and to a lesser degree FriendFeed; also lets include the website/blog as it stands in its current state. Let's take a trip up to the mezzanine level above the lobby to look at these services in a more abstract way. We have:
  • Deep content inherently networked (LinkedIn, Facebook, et al)
  • Short content inherently real time (Twitter, AIM, Skype, SMS, et al)
  • Deep content inherently additive and inherently static compared to the other two (Website/Blog)
Don't concern yourself with names of the services or the minor differences in how they operate. Don't make a distinction between MySpace and Facebook, they are for our purposes, more or less the same. Our goal of course, is more throughput for our efforts and reducing the 'chicken-with-the-head-cut-off' feeling of running around from service to service trying to spread the word about your business. Its important that we focus on core principles to be most effective and efficient with our time. From a broad perspective, we have services that allow us to attract attention from potential clients and we have services that allow those potential clients to learn more about us, and learn more about our product or service in depth. A major loss of throughput is data entry and relearning new services. Lets not do double-duty on deep content. (What a mess that makes!) Go out and get yourself a third party application that updates Facebook and your blog or website at the same time. Don't want a blog? You don't need one, just use LinkedIn and Facebook for your deep content, get really good at using their tools to express your ideas. Importantly, choose one or the other, or use third party tools to replicate information, don't wear yourself thin with data entry. Now, lets turn to the ever-so-addicting Twitter service, and lets go up to the mezzanine level where Twitter, AIM, SMS text messages, and Skype chats look mostly the same: short messages exchanged in real time. This is where things start to get interesting. You could spend all day long promoting your product or service in these formats and still get diminishing returns. Remember your competitors are doing the same thing. This is the first mistake, promoting your product or service, and not promoting yourself. These spaces are used most effectively as intimate conversation spaces and not as large reverb chambers where you echo the same message all day long. I know that I will choose a service, or pay more for a service if I feel comfortable with the proprietor, or more simply, if I like them. If you live in a city you may have a preferred convenience store that is a block further than another store, but you will take the longer walk to share 5 minutes of conversation with the owner or clerk. If you live in the country you may pay more for your lawncare service because you feel comfortable talking to the owner and workers. This is where short messages in realtime become your greatest asset. Follow your passions, not your profits and you will be rewarded with both. Have you ever heard someone say, 'I heard this great tip from a guy on the golf course' or 'A guy at the bar told me about this new restaurant'? Conversations are built on common ground and listening. When you use short message services, talk about yourself. Talk about the new coffee machine you have in the office, or the miles per gallon of your car. It doesn't matter what you are talking about as long as you are being honest and being yourself. I enjoy conversations with interesting people who are passionate about their lives. Most of my business life overlaps with my personal life despite my efforts to keep them separate. Guess what?, its all life. And, the new media is catching up to who we are, people, plain ordinary people living our lives. I will follow-up on a person in Twitter if I feel that we have something in common. Then I'll check their website or their LinkedIn or Facebook profile. If I find a quality product or service, I will recommend it to friends. I'll take the time out to promote that product or service for the proprietor for no other reason than the fact that I like that person. Stop wearing yourself thin. Start being who you are. Get your deep content right and walk away. Start meeting people and start listening, start finding common ground, and you will find more throughput. Seth D Brown (c)Copyright 2009, Seth D Brown. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Note to Prez: No car, car lots

Dear ObamaMotors: Just came from my local Chrysler dealer. I love what you have done with the place. Plenty of parking. No waiting. Went straight to the head of the line. However, there is one thing that does not make sense. Of course, being a country boy from the lower 40 (so to speak), it may just be I have it all wrong, but see, there aren't any cars to pick from. Yes, we have no cars There was a total of five new 2009 cars on the lot. Well, that ain't exactly accurate. There were four new 2009 trucks and one new 2009 car. I thought it was said that part of the problem in America was all those gas guzzling trucks? So, why does my local ObamaMotors dealer have 80% of his inventory in those vehicles that you fired Rick Wagoner over? Well, what I really want to know, is how the economy is going to recover, if you don't have any real inventory to sell? Seriously. What am I missing? Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey UPDATE: Here is a podcast on this subject and SugarCRM Open Source tool: SugarCRM CE (mp3) Via iTunes (iTunes will launch) (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You might want to sit down for this

Notice anything wrong with that arrow? Exactly. But let me start at the beginning. I get this call. A client of a client needs a guru in say, XYZ Technology. So far so good. Better yet, I know the perfect guru for the challenge. And they are available. And willing. Amazing. But hold on... not so fast. The guru gathers some insight, pitches the best solution, and waits to hear back. Nothing. Guru follows up and learns that the client's client likes part of the solution. Did some sort of cost calculations, and threw the rest of the proposal out. Actually, they decided not to proceed at all. Still not clear? Lets try an explanation that might be easier to understand. And by the way, I only heard one side of the conversation, so I may not have all the details. But I do know how thorough the guru is. A true master. But I digress. Lets say you call me and want your steam powered airplane to go faster. And carry a lot more people. At least an order of magnitude faster. Likewise on the people moving. Why? You simply are no longer competitive. If you are not competitive, your market share will fall. Sales will fall. Profits will turn to loses. Got the picture now? Great. So, once you look at the expenses and the approach and start "cost accounting" out the solution, you come back with a counter offer. That seems reasonable, right? You say, "Give me two of the three jet engines." Great. What about the jet fuel? You inform the guru that you don't like the expensive nature of jet fuel. You will stick with the water tanks and firewood to power the airplane. "Houston, we have a problem." Jet engines don't run on steam. See the problem? Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tuesday's with SKI

NE Ohio's Newest MEETUP Check it out. Hope to see you Tuesday at 8AM. Out by 9am. What biz idea are you working on? Need someone (or a group of entrepreneurs) to bounce your ideas off? What better place to meet up (serving a great cup of coffee) than "Grounded" on New Phila's southside.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

If it is Thursday here, what time is it there?

Happy B*Day JR The big 3 0 ... Time flies. And yet, as a wise man once said, it is relative. How true. Life is exactly what you make it out to be... no more. No less. Everyone has victories to celebrate. Everyone, struggles. I recall the surprise birthday party my wife gave me for my 30th birthday. Seems like yesterday (it was not!). It also seems like a hundred years ago. As old Doc Brown said to Marty's girlfriend: "Your future has not been written. No one's has. So make it a good one." Exactly. Or, as King Solomon suggested:
A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke. —Proverbs 13:1 The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul... —Proverbs 13:25
There you have it. A few words to consider over coffee this morning. Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey aka "the dad" (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SKI Podcast on Using LinkedIn

SKI talks up LinkedIn for Networking SKI on networking Check out the Throughput Podcast on iTunes: Using LinkedIn Connect? Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What's your GNP?

USA GNP almost $14 Trillion I love the idea that is Wolfram|Alpha Whenever I am looking for answers that are numeric, I try W|A first. But as most have discovered, we do not always know how to formulate the right question in order to get an answer. Much like life. In my seven years as a business consultant and the previous twenty years as an IT/IS consultant, one thing is clear. Crystal clear: Success comes from asking the right questions. Not happy with your results? Ask better questions! Like what portion of the Gross National Product (GNP) was based on my contributions? Consider Apple's — $AAPL — $34.56 Billion in gross revenue. Its like one-quarter of one percent of the US GNP. But it is a lot more than mine! But we all have to start somewhere. Where are you going to start? Looking for a Job? Maybe I can help. I recently started a group on LinkedIn to help. Consider joining the "U2TB" (UnderUtilized Talent Bank) group and sharing your talents. Provided you are willing to show off your talents before you expect a paycheck. Ever notice the older you get, the smarter your parents get? My dad (Sonny the Big Cat) told me at the age of 16 (or so, best that I can recall), "Go up to the Sunoco gas station and offer to work for free for two weeks to prove yourself." Yep. Wise beyond his years. He would have been all of 36 at the time. That is the premise of the group. Sitting around the house feeling sorry for yourself. Kicking yourself for voting for "change" when it seems like all we got was a ... sorry, I digress. Check out the group: U2TB Or stop by my profile and connect. Together, we can make a difference. Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey P.S. Yes, I did get the job at the Sunoco station. (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What is Lean?

Welcome guest blogger and newest addition to the Throughput consulting world, Harry Wood. By day he is a Lean Facilitator. Here, Mr. Wood has offered the definitive "What is Lean" response. What is Lean? I have been following several discussions lately (here and elsewhere) on various topics concerning Lean. One that I found a little strange asked "Can you apply Lean principles to employees?" I always thought that was the idea. So my question is this; if you had to summarize "Lean" for a group, any group, what would you tell them? Here is how I would answer my own question Five words, two concepts, one mission, that’s it, there is nothing else. If you have seen at least one presentation on Lean you have likely seen the TPS Temple (TPS stands for Toyota Production System). They are always different, some have two pillars, some three, and some have four. The problem is they are always labeled wrong. What most people do when they create their templates is to use the tools that Toyota developed as the pillars. When you boil Lean down to it’s essence: Eliminate Waste, Respect for Others, you will find that Lean can be applied anywhere and everywhere (except government). Think of the quest for a Grand Unification Theory in physics, if it is true, it is true everywhere.
Only one response contained both of these core principles. Most stated more or less that Lean is just eliminating waste. This is not sufficient for this simple reason; if you cannot mobilize every single person in your organization with the singular purpose of eliminating waste you will fail. And you cannot achieve this without treating everyone with respect. That is the most difficult of the two to accomplish. Back in the 1980’s I was involved in creating a “Just In Time” program and was told by my manager that I should just do my best because, “This won’t work here. The Japanese have a cultural advantage”. Is that true? In a sense, yes, the Japanese through their long history had to be mindful of waste. Why? Because as a nation they have few natural resources, so they could not be wasteful. And Japan is a small nation, about the size of Montana, and mostly mountains. So the population is crowded together, therefore, they decided to treat each other well. With respect. So culturally they have an advantage and didn’t need to be trained on the core concepts. Toyota just started building the tools. But as a nation, America seems to have endless natural resources, so we waste them. We have vast territories, so if we don’t like our neighbors we just move. But is that really one of our traditions? No it is not, think of the frugality of our heritage. Think of our forefathers, they were so frugal that when they moved they burned down their buildings just to recover the nails. The best example we have today of frugality is the patchwork quilt. A beautiful work of art, made out of small pieces of fabric most people would throw away. Think of our Christian traditions, Jesus said we should love our enemies. Yet when we get work we gird ourselves for battle. So what is the problem here? Well frankly, when we leave to go to work we leave that all behind. So we must start our journey to Lean by training our employees to bring their best with them when they come to work. Several comments contained a fatal flaw (that is very unproductive), that of equating Lean with Toyota or Lean Six Sigma. The two pillars of Lean are what Toyota built their system on, Lean Six Sigma is the combination of TPS and Six Sigma. Which seems very odd, TPS says “don’t allow defects” as that is wasteful. So why would we marry a “Quality” program with TPS? We do it to get the tools. The Toyota tools and the Six Sigma tools. And they are great tools, but this is like giving a child the master’s toolbox. You are not going to know what to do with all of these beautiful tools, and you certainly will not be able to build a masterpiece. What you need to do is start with a couple of tools, master them, then add more tools as your skills increase. This is the toolbox you need to start with: start with a hammer (5S) and a saw (Value Stream Mapping). Master these two tools first. By mastering these first you will know not only which of the master’s tools to use next, but you will also be prepared to use them. Another common remark mentioned not only TPS but also muda. Japanese for "waste". Nearly every Lean program starts with teaching every employee Japanese. Why would anyone think learning Japanese first would be helpful? The terms are not easily remembered and some do not have a direct Japanese-English translation. So lets forget about using the Japanese terms of Muda, Mura, Muri, Poka-yokes, Kaizen, Kanbans, and Jidoka. Unless your workforce is Japanese, use English terms; Waste, Balance, Burden, Error Proof, Continuous Improvement, Cards, and Empowerment. When I started my Lean journey I started with Kanban so that term is second nature to me. When Taiichi Ohno (father of Just-In-Time and Kanban) toured the US he was impressed with Ford’s assembly line but saw its one fatal flaw, inflexibility. But on the same tour he also stopped at a supermarket and saw the reorder cards that were used to signal that a product needed restocked (they are still there, look for them). This simple innovation would allow him to take the Ford assembly line and add the flexibility that Toyota needed. Ohno found inspiration in the most unlikely of places. You will too: in your employees. Empower them, get them involved, and above all build your own (Your Company Name Here) Production System. Look for inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Read the histories of the pioneers to get a perspective. Lean was not invented by the Japanese it was adopted by them, then made into their own. Find out how and why they did it. I find my inspiration in two books, one is on waste and the other is on respect. I would encourage you to read them both. The book that I would recommend on waste is one of those “unlikeliest of places”, it is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. After you read this you will gain a fresh perspective on what waste really is and how to eliminate it. The book on respect that I would recommend comes from “the most likely of places”, the greatest personal relationship manual ever written, The Bible. It’s not just for Sunday morning anymore.

Harry Wood Senior Lean Facilitator

(c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dreamer 1st Class

SKI's 1st Turismo Cycles Custom American ProStreet If you can dream it As I have said on many (many!) occasions, "How you gonna have a dream come true, if you don't have a dream?" Of course, I was not the first to observe this truism. But that does not make it any less true. If you are a struggling entrepreneur, then there is one book above all that you need to own. Own? Sorry, that is not strong enough. There is one book that you should buy, read, study, and make the ideas contained therein your own: Purple Curve Effect (Item# PCE-111). As I finished writing it on a "freedom run" to Ft. Lauderdale in the winter of 2003/2004 on an old Kawasaki Vulcan, I shared one of my dreams in the book:
If your goal was starting a custom v-twin motorcycle manufacturing company, can you see yourself riding that new cruiser in front of the press at your grand opening? I can. In fact, that is a goal of mine, but one that I decided to hold back for at least the next 90 days. But v-twins are in my blood. My great grandfather, Geo. E. Buss, was one of the first 200 Harley-Davidson dealers in America. He had a store on the square in New Philadelphia, Ohio, in 1911. I had a location for my Tux Shop one-half block off that same square sixty-six years later!
Guess what? It took slightly longer than 90 days. As you can see in this slide show, it was not until Sturgis 2005 that my Turismo Cycles Custom 2006 American ProStreet was ready to rock and roll. And that vision of riding it in front of the press fell a little short. I had to settle for cruising on it at Sturgis among 500,000+ other bikers. Which is where this photo was taken. SKI at Sturgis in 2005 During my consulting at Red Horse Motorworks I had the privilege of test riding forty or more custom bikes. ProStreet and Choppers. Right and Left hand drive bikes (mine was RHD). Fat tired and not so fat. Which allowed me to craft the "best of the best" for my own scooter. Result: This beauty you see here. MSRP $29,790 complete with a HD TwinCam 88" So what? The material in my book works. Period. In fact, I just received another great review from another dreamer. Someone that I was congratulating on their accomplishment and trying to encourage to "take it to the next level":
"First of all, I want to thank you for the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the shaded boxes with you and Thayer's comments. I felt as though you were both in the room having a conversation in front of me. Very clever and engaging! I actually read through it last night already! I thought it was magnificent. For two reasons: 1) it made sense to me and 2) it was written in a style that was easy for me to understand." "I know how to work hard and go after things. The seven tips are realistic and things that can be put into practice immediately. I had already done the first two—writing down a goal and making a list. I am a list person! I love to check things off!" —VG
So, what are you waiting for?
Oh yea, your mileage may vary. But I am as close as your computer. Just in case you need a swift kick... Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey P.S. What dream are you working on? (c)Copyright 2009, Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Captain Kim Campbell and her A-10 Warthog

Pilot brings battle-damaged A-10 home safely OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
"I guess we all think we are invincible and it won't happen to us," Captain Campbell said. "I hadn't been shot at -- at all -- in all of my other missions. This was the first. Thank God for the Warthog, because it took some damage but it got me home." (Courtesy of AFPN)
"I lost all hydraulics instantaneously, so I completely lost control of the jet. It rolled left and pointed toward the ground, which was an uncomfortable feeling over Baghdad," she said. "The entire caution panel lit up and the jet wasn't responding to any of my control inputs."
Gulf War 2 Battle Damaged A-10 Click image for Complete Story & Photos