Innovation ~ your competitive advantage
Terri, programmer for a tire warehouse coop distribution company, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"Over the calendar years 2000 and 2001, our accounting department was spending more and more time doing pass-through billings. Our sales had doubled over the former two years and were doubling again. Our department's volume of work was growing at a staggering rate. There were two problems; labor costs, and this growing volume of work was being performed in a manual system with inexperienced processors, so human error was on the rise. The errors resulted in rising costs, frustrating rework, and the members of our co-op were growing upset at an increasing rate. Our CEO asked if I could find a way to automate the process so we wouldn't have to hire even more inexperienced staff. This was a complete departure from how we had used our systems up until then. I wasn't sure how to do it or where to begin. The first thing I did was install an OCR application that allowed me to scan a vendor invoice, pick out the areas of the invoice that I wanted (i.e.; invoice number, account number, etc.), and then write that information to a file. I then wrote a program to read that file and create an accounts payable invoice, re -bill the member store that the vendor invoice was sold to, email the re-bill invoice and a image of the original vendor invoice to our member customer, and post theimage of the vendor invoice on our member website for future
viewing by our co-op members. Since then we have added functions to automatically scan and process checks, and to scan and match vendor statements. Before I started this project, if you had asked me if I knew how to create any of the functions I have just outlined, my honest answer would have been, ‘No, not a clue. I have never done anything quite like that and I really don't know how to do it'. At first I wasn't even sure where to start.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is that if I courageously step into the unknown and build a solid foundation, there is much more that I and others can do than any of us ever thought possible. The action I call you to take is to continuously ask "how can I contribute to the continuous improvement of our processes". And when you launch a process improvement initiative, take the time to build that solid foundation, master your craft, go deep into the fundamentals of every aspect of your work. The benefit you will gain is exceptional growth and you will achieve things that you and others did not know or ever dream was possible."
Your job as an empowering leader is to elicit the reserve, determination, creativity and innovation that takes your team to where no one has ever been before. Your future and the very survival of your enterprise depend on this kind of innovation.
OPEN CLASS ~ JANUARY 2010
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