The Efficient Leader

Practical Ideas You Can Use Today

Tapping into the Organization’s Brain Trust

What would you expect the impact on decision-making to be if additional, quality intel were available?

Would the decision be more solid? Would you be more confident that the best decision was made? Could this level of intel lead to desired results more quickly?

Who has the real-time, highest quality information on how things are operating on the floor, in the shop, in the field, or in the back office?

The operators, agents, sales people, and admins are the experts when it comes to how things are currently being run. Front Line Leaders and their directs have the best information on the current situation in key operational areas.

Tap into the brain trust of the employee base before making key decisions that affect daily operations to gain strategy-altering information. (And the best part may be that this strategy raises engagement levels.)

  1. Share with the team the process you will follow. This may include asking them to provide input and insight on a problem, provide potential solutions to a problem, or solve the problem and implement the solution.
  2. Provide the details of the problem to be solved or project to be completed.
  3. Depending on the level of input you desire, provide a facilitator to gather the information or provide project completion timeline
  4. Put boundaries in place so the outcomes of this very important strategy don’t backfire.

When properly executed, this strategy yields better decisions, which can lead to better outcomes in a more timely fashion, and employee engagement increases.

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2020. All rights reserved.

Translating Tech-Talk So Everyone Can Understand

Every work group has its own lingo. Acronyms. Technical jargon. Euphemisms.

“After completing Process 919.2, we initiated the C.R.A. on the input.”

Say, what?

When you need to communicate (or sell) your ideas to persons outside your immediate work group, you most likely will need to translate certain concepts. Here are several ideas you can use today to ensure that your intended message is sent correctly. These ideas work well when creating slides, too.

1. Write the message as if you were saying it using your regular terminology.

2. Edit as if you were going to explain this concept to a 5th grader in story form. This is not to say that your audience has the IQ of a young child! This will help you explain it in simple terms so anyone can understand . . . especially those who don’t fathom your particular vernacular understand your terms. 🙂

3. Create an introduction by using a sentence or two to get their attention.  Ask yourself, “Why do they want or need to know this information?” Perhaps by knowing the info, they will be empowered to save 10 hours per month, save thousands of dollars on an upcoming project, or have more flexibility to get what they want. Asking a well articulated question that is focused on WIIFT (what’s in it for them) usually does the trick.

4. Explain the concept in story form, complete with beginning, middle and end. Use pictures. When using graphs with a non-technical audience, ensure they are simple to follow!

5. Prepare a conclusion based on the purpose of your presentation. If it is to inform, then summarize your concept in a sentence or two. If the purpose is to motivate people to take action, then state what you want them to do, indicating WIIFT. (On a slide, make it a short sentence at the bottom of the slide.)

6. Avoid using bullet points on slides.

When you translate your tech-talk so everyone understands, you will be in a much better position for the hearer to understand and gain the full advantage of your message!

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2020. All rights reserved.


Project Management Made More Effective

What if your Project Management System were more effective? How much more would you and your team accomplish? How much time would be saved and other waste reduced?

Here’s a checklist of important steps in project management. If only one of these ideas can be used to improve your System, you will have made it more effective. (If your current Project Management System does not contain most of these elements, contact me about how to easily implement a System.)

1.Project name — Each project should be given a descriptive name.
2. Responsible party — This is usually the Project Leader/s.
3. List of tasks per project PLUS expectations for each — Each project will have a list of tasks. It is important that any and all expectations or standards be communicated in writing.
4. Start date — For each action
5. Due date — For each action
6. Resources — What resources do you need for each action? List them. Create a New Task within the Project if you need to secure additional resources.
7. Project Notes — This step is crucial. Each person is to take a moment to record his/her actions taken in regards to each task. It is equally important that the person sign his/her name and date the notes! Each person on the project is to take personal responsibility for doing his/her part and communicating all the info necessary so others can do their part.
8. Check for OTIF — Ultimately this is the Project Leader’s responsibility; however, we strongly suggest that each person on the project take responsibility for determining if the project is being completed On Time and In Full (or per specifications).
9. Make necessary adjustments — This step reminds the team to make adjustments as needed to complete the project OTIF.
10. Record date completed — Recording the date (and time if important) that the project is completed brings closure to the project. It’s also important to remember to celebrate the completion of those projects that took extra time and effort!
These steps are built around the Continuous Improvement model, Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust (PDCA). Steps 1-6 are the planning phase. Step 7 indicates what is being Done. Check at step 8 and Adjust at step 9. Step 10 can serve as an additional quality check as well as project closure.
One final thought. Some people think Project Management has to be complicated. Good news: It really doesn’t. A very important part of good project management is being disciplined enough to make notes, which can be taught and practiced.
Our Project Management System workshop can be taught in-person or by video conference. In addition to the workshop, we include the Umberger Project Management System and resources for other systems that can be modified to fit your projects. Contact Jo at to discuss how improving project management can improve productivity and efficiencies. Check out clients’ results and thoughts.
Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2013. All rights reserved.

Before beginning a culture change process

I lived outside the US for nearly two years. While those were two of the most fascinating years of my life, I learned some difficult lessons about cultural differences. Even though we planned for two years prior to the move, one of the key takeaways was that I must adapt to the new norms or experience continual upheaval.

The same is true for those who seek to define or change the corporate culture.

Before embarking on a corporate culture shift, nearly every aspect of the current and desired (new) cultures must be examined. And this is simply the beginning! Here are a few key questions to consider as you begin the journey.

  1. Do all upper level executives support the change management initiative?
  2. What do they collectively believe their role in the process to be?
  3. “Culture” means “the way we do things around here.” Describe the desired (new) culture.
  4. What is driving the need to change the culture?
  5. Who is providing the direction for the new culture?
  6. How does the new culture differ from the previous one/s?
  7. How many different owners have held the current operation over the past 30 years?
  8. By group, what are the attitudes of senior leaders, mid-level managers, supervisors, leads, and employees toward the tenets of the new culture?
  9. How will each of these groups benefit from the new culture?
  10. How will the organization as a whole benefit from the new culture?
  11. What are the greatest obstacles in transitioning from the current culture to the desired one?
  12. If there is resistance from people, how deeply entrenched is it?
  13. If there is resistance, is it directed toward change in general or toward something specific about the new culture?
  14. What is the leadership style of each of the groups listed in #8 above? As it relates to the employee group, how do they go about influencing peers?
  15. What are the attitudes toward the necessary changes in each of these functional areas – HR, Continuous Improvement, Learning & Development, and any other areas that will be intimately involved in planning and implementing the changes?
  16. What are the primary challenges in leading this initiative?
  17. What is the level of difficulty for each of these challenges?

Which of these is most important to your organization’s culture?

© Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2013-2018. All rights reserved.

214.697.0242 | | Umberger Development Partners Inc.

When priorities are in stiff competition

“Too many people say their projects are urgent. So many projects, it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes I just do what’s on top of the stack.”

Here’s help for managing competing priorities.

Use these questions to put first things first.

Level 1:

How valuable is each task? When is the client’s deadline? (in-house or outside client)

Level 2:

Who is involved? What do they need in order to contribute more and be more effective?

Level 3:

How much time is needed? Do I need to train others to help?

Use these questions to gain perspective on your competing priorities. Then you can let go of the stress and get them done!

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2013. All rights reserved.


How to be happier with your employees’ performance tomorrow

Sometimes the best continuous improvement project is to rejuvenate the people. To give them an opportunity to use their best gifts. To give them a chance to shine and feel great about their contributions.

When leaders are not happy with their employees’ performance, it’s time to re-focus on the people. Then what happens?

1. We achieved over $700,000 in future savings in the first quarter alone by putting into practice the concept of demonstrating to people that their ideas count, as we discussed in the leadership development program.

2. We project an estimated annual savings of over $25,000 by improving set up time.

3. By working together with another part of the plant, one of our team members was able to save the company roughly $4500.00 in parts and labor. He was told to perform the job a certain way and by using his experience and knowledge, he was able to come up with a more productive way to get the problem resolved. I sent senior management an email, breaking down what he had accomplished, and he was recognized at our quarterly meeting.

​​​​​​​​​4. In an effort to make changes and fix issues as part of the leader program, I learned more about the processes of one of our partners. I looked into it further and came to the conclusion that there was a way to eliminate over 24 hours of delayed time. The board accepted my proposal. This will be a savings of over $51,000 and that does not include the amount of money we will save in the process on our end.

5. By giving an employee the opportunity to move from Level 2 Delegation to Level 3, I estimate I will save about 1,000 man hours per year of my personal time.

If these are the kinds of results you want your employees to pursue, it’s time for a development program that walks them through the process of achieving these kinds of results!

Read more results . . .

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2013. All rights reserved.

Great Continuous Improvement Strategy!

Respect for People. It’s certainly not a new concept. It’s one of the foundations of Continuous Improvement.

I think this excerpt does a good job of describing a problem sometimes associated with this strategy.

“The early Japanese literature on Just-In-Time and Toyota from the 1970’s & 1980’s emphasized
the human side of the system as one of two underlying themes: 1) Eliminating Waste and 2)
Respect for People. For a variety of reasons, the “respect for people” aspect was mostly
lost in transference to the West.1”

I’ve heard it said that respecting people “ought” to be second nature. In our experience, it simply is not at the top of everyone’s value list.

Here are a few practical ideas that I’ve seen work on the job at Fortune 50 to mid-sized manufacturing clients.

1. Leaders, acknowledge the people you meet in the hallway with eye contact, a nod, or a “good morning.”

2. Employees, don’t take part in bash-the-leader or criticize-the-company group conversations.

3. Ask people what they think rather than telling them “the real way it is” on opinionated matters.

4. Involve peers and employees in problem-solving. They are often the experts.

5. Inform the people who need to know. That’s usually not a small group.

While different cultures demonstrate respect in various ways, making an attempt to be courteous is likely to help move morale up a notch, which translates into momentum for Continuous Improvement!


1The Human Side of Lean Manufacturing website. Strategos
Consultants, Engineers, Strategos. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2013. All rights reserved.

Your Business Success Depends on Others’ Attention

You can’t control the timing of others’ attention. Not your employees’. Not your vendors’. Not your customers’.

You may influence them, but ultimately each person is focused on whatever has their attention at the moment . . . and so many people are vying for their attention they have to make critical decisions.

A great example of this is the sales cycle. Our clients’ attention is not always on taking the next steps we help them take or on solving frustrations we help them solve at exactly the same time that we are ready to serve them. So we stay connected with them, ready to serve when the time is “right.” This, of course, means when their attention is focused on the issues that move them to contact us.

Rather than fretting when others are not acting on your time schedule (unless you are the boss), ask yourself a few questions:

1. What else, if anything, can I do to get their attention or move the deal to the next step?

2. Should I do anything more at this time or should I give them the time they need to get to my issue?

If the answer to #2 is “give them time,” then

3. Adjust your expectation to fit the reality rather than continuing to be frustrated over an unrealistic goal based on something you can’t control.

P. S. What will you pay attention to?

The answer may lie in whomever or whatever pops up next, but then that would indicate poor time management.

You will find greater peace when you focus on the issues that are aligned with your values.

Breaking Down Silos

“Silo mentality” behaviors are destructive within any size group, whether an entire corporation, a site, or department. People divide, withhold necessary information, compete with those with whom they are supposed to cooperate, and perhaps more damaging than anything, people gossip. While the short-term effects are very annoying, the long-term effects can be devastating.

So how can a group break down silos? We will focus on breaking down silos on a site leadership team (SLT) for the purposes of this article.

1. Teach the SLT the real definition of consensus: “Everyone agrees TO THE DEGREE that he/she will support the group’s decision.”

2. Engage all team members in creating the values by which SLT will operate.

3. Facilitate the process of the SLT creating a vision for site leadership that is consistent with the larger organization’s vision but crafted by the SLT.

4. To begin to boost appreciation for the unique experiences of one another, give each SLT member an opportunity to share with the rest of the team one of his/her greatest accomplishments and lessons learned.

5. Using a standard set of qualities needed on a team, ask each team member to assign 3 qualities to each team member and share the information with the entire team.

6. Get away from the site for a team-building day (or two) that includes training/coaching that utilizes experiential learning exercises, fun, and relaxation. Take plenty of pictures and post them where team member will see and remember.

7. At the right time, perhaps at the end of the off-site, ask each team member to share two characteristics he/she admires about every other team member. This should be the last activity of that day so people can remember what was said while they walk away, giving an opportunity to ponder.

8. Train the SLT on various problem-solving techniques, then allow them to solve real problems rather than solving every problem for them.

These are but a few of the techniques we have used throughout the last 20 years to help teams break down silos. Your additional comments are welcome!

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.

Facilitate the Planning Process…Rather Than Doing It All Yourself

Engage others by facilitating the planning process, rather than doing it all yourself.

Questions to Consider

1.   Whom will we involve (engage) in the planning process? Consider involving influencers from across the company/plant/area. Everyone involved in creating the Change Plan will want to know the following information:

(a)  What is the change? (part of the boundary)

(b)  What will be the effect on me? (one of the roots of motivation)

(c)   Why are we making this change? (one of the roots of motivation)

(d)  What am I to do? (part of the boundary)

(e)   How do I do what you want me to do? (“Freedom to do things my way within the boundary”)

If their inquiries are not answered satisfactorily, where will their attention remain? Where do we want their attention to go?

2.   What is the most effective method for rolling out the change?

3.   Who will do what by when?

4.   How will we measure progress and success?

5.   What resources will the Change Planners need?

6.   What could go wrong and how can we prevent it?

7.   What additional information or training do the Change Planners need?

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