PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH ‘THE BUSINESS DOCTOR’, MICHAEL MARSHALL
Prior to your extensive business career, you started with engineering and medical.
You have education, training and experience in both of these.
I can imagine how having these backgrounds help you in business.
Please share with us what specific things from these backgrounds that you utilize most often in business and the things that seem to be in common with business.
Much of my medical background comes from the psychology and psychiatry disciplines.
I utilize psychology and social human behavior fundamentals on a continual basis in business.
It applies to everything!
From my medical background I also have a true compassion for others; customers, fellow staff, employees, company ownership and most everyone else.
From my engineering background, I apply fundamentals of structure especially the need for a strong footing and foundation.
Besides psychology and the importance of good structure, are there a few things that really stand out that you utilize often.
‘Root Cause Analysis’ and ‘Problem Solving’
‘Creativity’ and ‘Innovation’
Without continual ‘Creativity’ and “Innovation’ a business organization will decline and eventually go out of business.
New products and new services is the ‘life blood’ to businesses that will help business grow.
Without new products and new services, businesses will decline and die from ‘business malnutrition’, so to say.
Without ‘Root Cause Analysis’ and “Problem Solving”, business organizations struggle, are inefficient with wastes of all type and do not improve.
This too, will contribute to an organization decline and going out of business.
In today’s business world, it is easy to understand that ‘Creativity’, ‘Innovation’ with new products and services are critical for business growth.
Please expand on the importance of ‘Root Cause Analysis’.
Maybe you can give us an example of ‘Root Cause Analysis’ and its importance.
When asked about ‘Root Cause Analysis’ I often use a specific example that is an actual story that did occur at a company.
I will also give you an example that is an actual story that illustrates ‘Compassion’ and how this can influence business improvement and business growth.
I also have an example and story about ‘Problem Solving and Analysis” that is quite interesting
Well tell us these stories and examples.
Regarding ‘Root Cause Analysis’;
There was a company that had engineers complaining to HR Human Resources about how the employees were unreliable and constantly finding reasons to leave work early which was causing issues with production and on time delivery to customers.
The HR director hired an outside consultant to evaluate the situation.
The consultant finds out that the reason for employees leaving early seem to be due to their clothing getting paint on them.
The consultant talks to the company’s maintenance and painters to find out they often paint and do not have ‘wet paint signs’ to put up.
The signs come from an internal parts department.
Follow-up with the parts department finds out that they do not have a computerized inventory and ordering system and all is by hand.
The parts department also claim the problem is with maintenance and the painters who never tell the parts department in advance of when they are planning to paint and how many ‘wet paint signs’ are going to be needed.
Follow-up with the maintenance department uncovers that maintenance is scheduled sometimes daily and weekly even though it could be scheduled more proactively with a longer lead-time.
The consultant asked employees where they are getting wet paint on their clothes the most often.
It is uncovered that most wet paint is coming from a bench outside where employees take their rest breaks.
The consultant goes outside to look at the bench and find that it is an old wood bench sitting near a golf tee of a golf course right next door.
The golfers are putting their golf shoes with metal spikes up on the bench to tie their shoes and clean the bottom of their shoes.
The consultant’s recommendations were:
1. Replace the old wood bench with a metal bench that does not require painting
2. Automate the parts inventory and ordering department
3. Maintenance department to become more proactive and schedule maintenance and painting a month in advance
4. Maintenance to automate material ordering requests
5. HR to coordinate company postings of any painting or major maintenance to be done
The issues and ‘Root Causes’ had nothing to do with employees poor attitudes and not wanting to work.
That is a great story to illustrate ‘Root Cause Analysis’
It also shows how compassion towards others can contribute to business improvement.
Do you have another story to illustrate ‘Compassion”?
At another company, engineers are complaining to HR Human Resources about how the employees on the production line keep talking to each other when they are not allowed to talk during the work and this is hurting productivity.
Here again, the HR Human Resources has a consultant come in to investigate.
The consultant observes the production line and speaks with both the engineers and the workers on the production line.
What is uncovered is truly amazing.
When the consultant asks the production line employees why they talk, they say it is because they are bored since the production line is constantly stopping due to problems and are having to just sit there for long periods of time with nothing to do
The consultant asks the workers if they know why the production line is having difficulty and constantly stopping.
They say yes and give details about the problems, what to do to fix them and prevent the production line from stopping so frequently.
When the employees are asked if they have communicated this to the engineers, they say no.
Further investigation uncovers a big problem between the production line workers and the engineers.
The workers feel that they are mistreated in many ways including not being treated respectfully.
The engineers feel that the workers are lazy, have little to contribute accept plain labor and cannot be trusted.
The consultant’s recommendations were;
1. obtain the workers recommendations for fixing the problem and implement
2. develop work teams that include the production line workers for analyzing any problems and improvements
3. develop incentive and recognition programs for employees to stimulate suggestions of improvements
4. engineering staff needing some training and coaching on team effort and working with labor
5. coordinate company social activities that could help improve relations between the engineering staff and the production line employees
Do you have any more stories or examples?
I will share with you one more story.
This one illustrates ‘creative problem solving and analysis’.
A senior executive with a business organization in New York City needed to promote one of his staff to vice president level.
The issue was that there were two individuals that were capable, both with the same amount of time with the organization and both deserving of the promotion.
The senior executive did not want to alienate the person not getting the promotion but both deserved it.
Only one vice president position was open, though.
The senior executive had both individuals come into his office to discuss the situation.
The executive explained his dilemma to both individuals.
The senior executive decided to offer the individual who volunteers Not to take the advancement to vice president several things;
1. free automobile parking space across the street
2. additional vacation time of 1 week
3. small salary increase of 5%
4. additional small quarterly bonus
The senior executive asked the two individuals to go home and think about all of this but come back tomorrow at 10 am and to discuss as a group.
The next day, one individual spoke up right away and said they would volunteer to be passed over and to give the promotion to the other person.
The other person indicated that he really wanted the promotion.
The senior executive said thanks and that he would make his decision by end of day.
The individual who volunteered to be passed over for the promotion was asked to come back into the senior executive’s office to explain why he volunteered to be passed over for the promotion.
The individual simply explained how a parking space in downtown New York City nearby the office was worth over $36,000.
This plus the additional bonus, salary and vacation time added up to be substantially more than the raise from becoming a vice president.
He went on to mention that most of their customers, clients and fellow staff already considered him/her vice president level even without the official title.
Later that day, the senior executive promoted the individual who volunteered to be passed over.
The senior executive commented; “Anyone who can evaluate a situation like this, put it to dollars and ‘sense’ (not cents), and then put that above ones personal ego, I want that individual as a vice president in this organization”.
Also, that individual who ended up getting the promotion got to keep the incentives that were previously being offered to who ever declined the position.
He/she got it all.
You mentioned “Creativity” as important and a fundamental.
Doesn’t everyone and all business organizations say they are creative?
Yes, I would say that most say they are creative but in actuality most are not.
When I am in front of a group doing any training, I always include a portion of the training to ‘creativity’ since it is so very important.
I always ask for a show of hands of who thinks they are normally creative.
Almost always everyone’s hands get raised.
I then hold up high, a large paper clip.
I also hold up three extra large chocolate candy bars.
We then have an exercise in ‘creativity and creative thinking’.
I give the group 3 minutes to write down as many uses for that paper clip that they can think of.
The rules are that there are no rules and all uses are acceptable.
I give them guidelines that the more creative individuals will most likely write down 40-60 uses in three minutes and possibly the extremely creative people may have more.
Well, when three minutes are up, I ask all to put their pen or pencil down.
I ask for a show of hands for those who wrote down 30 to 40 or more.
Rarely are there more than 3 to 4 people with 30 or more answers written down, which is 10% of the group.
Observing the groups, normally most were able to write down about 7 to 10 uses fairly quickly before they stop and just stare at their paper.
It looks like their mind and ability to think ‘creatively’ and ‘outside of the box’ just hits a wall and stops.
We review everyone’s answers and then discuss more uses to get the amount of uses up to 100.
This takes about 3 to 5 minutes asking for inputs from the group.
Of course the three extra large chocolate candy bars are handed out to those who wrote down the most answers.
Last week, I was teaching a college session in “What Business Development Is All About In Today’s Business World” and focused on ‘Innovation’ and ‘Creativity’.
Doing this simple creativity exercise with the 40 students, sure enough only three people were able to write down 30 or more answers.
I get similar results when I do training in business organizations.
‘Creativity’ is something that people need training in.
Business organizations need programs to stimulate ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’.
Successful programs will have significant rewards and recognitions.
When business organizations say that they and their staff are creative and innovative, I always ask them to tell me about their training of staff and employees on creativity and their formal programs that reward for creativity and innovation.
This simple question gets mixed reaction but does put things in a more realistic perspective.
This is all interesting and compelling.
We mentioned how prior to an extensive business career, you had experience and education in both engineering and medical.
Please share with us those things in common in business and these other disciplines.
There are an extraordinary amount of things in common.
As in good or poor physical health, good or poor building structures;
you have good or poor business health.
As in viruses and diseases like cancer that can hurt ones physical health, there are factors that I often call business cancers that can hurt a business organization’s health.
As there are environmental affects on ones physical health and on building structures;
there are competition and market factors that can affect business organizations.
As ones personal health needs strong bones to stand on and building structures need a strong footing and foundation to stand on, business organizations need a strong infrastructure.
As ones physical body needs nutrition and new blood continuously being produced to replenish the body, business organizations need to use ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ as the nutrition to develop new products and new services.
New products and new services is the ‘life blood’ of a growing business.
When you are with a doctor for a physical check up or not feeling well, the doctor is asking lots of questions probing for symptoms, pains, aches and needs.
Engineers probe and ask multiple questions with their clients as well.
To serve a client or customer affectively, you need to be probing for their pains and needs both currently and in the future.
Both doctors and engineers are always seeking out new patients, clients and customers.
Business oprganizations need to be doing the same.
As various diseases and cancer can hurt one’s physical health, faulty or failing materials in a building structure can cause structure failure; various business cancers and faulty components of the organization can hurt the business and cause its failure.
People who have let their health decline to such a low level can challenge the best medical doctors.
Often, the doctors have little chance of helping in such situations.
The best engineers can be challenged with structures that have been allowed to decline to low levels.
They may have a low chance of improving such a situation.
The same for goes for business organizations.
If a business is allowed to decline over years, the most skilled executive or leader will be challenged to help turn this around and improve it.
They too may have little chance once it has been allowed to get in such a run down and declining situation.
With all three of these scenarios, obviously it is important to be proactive to prevent conditions from declining.
For medical help you should want the most trained and most experienced doctors.
For good engineering help, you should want the best, well-trained, skilled and experienced engineers.
For business improvement and business growth an organization should want the highest trained, skilled and experienced staff and leadership available.
Doctors and the better engineers of all types are continually going to school and training, to improve and keep up-to-date.
The same should apply to business leaders, executives and management level staff.
Poor physical health leads to death.
Poor structure and lack of needed reconditioning leads to decline and collapse.
The same applies to business organizations.
I can go on for hours pointing out numerous details of similarities but I think you are getting the idea.
As you have presented the information, it all seems so easy to understand, logical and obvious.
Thanks again for sharing information and insights.