Follow Us On Twitter RSSPrint

About ERP Systems

ERP and Leadership

Michael Roman - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

By Dan Valentine, VP Sales, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

I have been selling software for a quarter of a century and I see it over and over again. Companies buy some hot new software and expect it to miraculously fix their problems. I remind my clients that software is not a silver bullet and it is certainly not a replacement for good management decision-making. It is a tool, nothing more. To be sure, it is a tool that can enable you to do things more efficiently and effectively, but a tool, nonetheless. It can no more run a company than a power saw can build a house. It does what it is told to do and, in the hands of a skilled worker, it can accomplish great things.

Recently, I engaged with Manufacturing Practices, a management consulting firm that helps companies better leverage their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to run their manufacturing businesses. It would appear that less than one-third of all ERP users are using it effectively. This is not a big surprise because there are some key misunderstandings in the marketplace about what ERP does. True, it can help companies substantially improve production through-put, increase revenues and reduce costs but not in the way many who purchase this software think. ERP, at its core, is a data manager and an information provider. Therefore, it is a leadership tool. It gives company leaders the information they need in a timely manner to make better decisions. It allows leaders to see where production bottlenecks are and address them. It allows leaders to see how fast inventory is depleting and when the best time is to reorder. It allows to leaders to see where mistakes are being made in real-time so they can correct them. And when the leadership makes better decisions, a multitude of positive outcomes result – higher profitability, higher quality, higher morale, etc…

ERP can offer a company phenomenal benefits so long as it is used correctly. This means setting it up to properly collect the data you need, delivering that data to company leadership in a format that effectively informs and getting the leadership to use that information to make better decisions.    

As Goes General Motors by Jerry Tiarsmith

Michael Roman - Sunday, July 27, 2014

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

In January 1941, Charles E. Wilson became the president of General Motors.  The 22-year corporate veteran presided over the largest production expansion ever as General Motors shifted from its manufacture of automobiles to the production of machines of war needed to achieve an Allied victory.  At the end of hostilities, General Motors returned production once again to meet the pent up demand for automobiles. 

The popular quote, “As goes General Motors, so goes the Nation,” often mistakenly attributed to Wilson during the process of his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense in 1953, most likely came from news reports on those hearings.  However, one cannot refute the relevance of that statement.  Wilson understood that the economic strength of American industry overwhelmingly contributed to the defeat of the Axis powers and to the containment of Soviet aggression in the Cold War.  More importantly, healthy industries proved vital to the vigor and well-being of American workers and their shared success in achieving the American Dream. 

Wilson died in 1961.  He did not live long enough to see the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the decline in the standard of living of the American worker, or the loss of stature of America in world affairs.

“As goes General Motors. . .”  Today, a mere six decades later, this once powerful giant of industry finds itself immersed in a crisis of confidence. GM remains heavily in debt despite central government attempts at a takeover and managed bankruptcy, unprecedented recalls raise concerns about GM’s commitment to quality, management seems beset by problems of accountability, and the firm, bereft of a moral compass and compassion, practically wanders directionless.  The fact remains that GM’s credibility suffers for many reasons.  It lost strategic focus in the 1960s.  The company grew complacent, innovation stagnated, and products became stale. Management failed to comprehend the paradigm shifts that resulted from increased global competition, union pressures, and government regulation.  

In the end, global competitors outmaneuvered, outperformed, and out-classed GM.  Internally, management focused more on obtaining concessions from unions than on providing an innovative product mix to meet consumer demands. In essence, the company’s rigid hierarchy, so blindly focused on production plans, failed to innovate, improve, and grow GM strategically as related to product mix, market demographics, and plant modernization.  It appears as though GM turned a “deaf ear” to the voice of the customer.  Unfortunately, what can be said of GM can also be said of many other American companies, including those outside of the typical “rustbelt” industries.  From steel to lumber to textiles, American manufacturing lost much of its competitive edge and allure by the close of the Twentieth Century.

Isn’t it about time that American manufacturing companies listen to the voice of the customer?

Jerry Tiarsmith serves as Vice President, Operations for Manufacturing Practices, Inc., a management-consulting firm that helps manufacturers realize dramatic productivity gains through more effective use of their ERP systems.

Ready to convert your legacy data?

Michael Roman - Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ok.  You educated the company about what an ERP System is and is not.  Everyone now knows the difference between a Master Schedule and a Master Production Schedule.  They have reviewed and addressed the non-value added activities in their processes.  They used those processes to define a set of vendor scripts and the company found the best fit for those new processes from a list of potential ERP vendors.  The contracts are signed the kick-off meeting is over and user training is finished.  Now you can convert your legacy data.  Is that correct?  Well, maybe not.

Have you cleaned up that legacy data?  How many part numbers do you have for a 12” by ½” Standard Thread Bolt?  You hope that there is only one per material type.  Nevertheless, there is also Part 11205 - 12” by 0.5” Standard Thread Bolt.  There is also Part 1205 - 12” x 0.5” Bolt with Standard Threads and also Part 112005 -  twelve inch x ½ inch standard thread steel bolt.  You also looked at your vendor list and you see Jones Plumbing and Supply, Jones Plumbing, Jones Plumbing Supplies, and Jones Supplies.  Strangely, they all have very similar addresses like 1225 Oak, 1225 Oak Street, and 1225 Oak St.  You find some of the same problems in your vendors.  You check the AP Terms and see a Net 10, a Net 10%.  Do you still think it is time to convert your data?  Where else should you look?

You can ignore those problems and choose the one Part, Vendor, or Customer most often used, but what happens if there are balances for some of those abandoned items?  Say Part 1205 has 12000 on hand, Part 11205 has 400 on hand, and Part 112005 has 400000 on hand.  You must not forget you are you are using last cost, and each of those Parts has a different inventory value.  What if there is an AR balance for a customer with three names but the same entity?  Alternatively, what if there are open balances for the same Supplier with three different names?  Do you still think it is time to convert data?  How will you be able to compare inventory values after the conversion to insure data integrity?

That is not an easy question to address and if you ask an accountant they will likely say compare the inventory value between the old and new systems.  So are you going to bring those problems into the new ERP System?  That may be ill advised.  What do you do?  Currently there are not a lot of tools available to remove data duplication for these types of problems.  Often times, companies accomplish control through a set of manual standards. 

We had this problem at a company and quickly addressed the problem for the parts file by creating a description definition template.  The client had 30 Engineers in the company and each was responsible for product development.  Our implementation time line did not allow time to spend attempting to reach consensus in that effort, so the VP of Manufacturing made a command decision.  He defined by material type for our source materials (steel, titanium, aluminum, etc.) and by function, bolt, screw, washer, nuts, etc.

We also created a set of database rules that looked at how we defined supplier and vendor addresses and applied processing rules to not allow ST, St, ST, St., Ave, AVE, etc, etc., ETC, ETC.  We spent a good portion of the conversion effort creating those database rules and new screens.  Continuity moving forward was our goal and besides, we had a huge number of Bills-of-Material that needed changing to remove the old parts and use only one version of those parts moving forward.  This whole effort required much more time on the schedule than the original implementation plan had.  Nevertheless, the company management felt that it was time well spent.

How has your organization addressed this issue?  What have you done to clean-up legacy data during the conversion process?

Consulting 101

Michael Roman - Friday, May 02, 2014

This past week, a potential client called and asked for a review of their business.  Truthfully, prior to our visit, we did not understand their operation; however, we were able to determine from that initial conversation, the business owner is “making money in spite of the manner in which the company does business” and not “because of the manner in which it does business” (his words).  This led us to believe this company could be the perfect client for our business consultation firm.

Our initial survey uncovered that their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system was “not an effective tool for providing business and financial information” (his words).   During our conversation, the owner was candid about his dissatisfaction with their inability to get the proper information necessary to manage the business from their ERP System in a concise fashion.  Our discussions also identified at least one area that required prompt attention. 

At the client site once our observations were complete, we confirmed the business owner’s determination of the problem was in line with our initial assessment.  This generated a deep degree of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of working with this client.  The business owner understands the real problem.

During the next few visits, as the teams interact, the energy and chemistry between each reveals itself. That is an important ingredient in performing management consulting.  Regardless of how flawless the methodology, regardless of how skilled the consulting team, unless the chemistry between the two work teams is correct, there will be resistance  to the changes we (our company, and the business owners) need to accomplish.  If we cannot get the client teams to “buy-in” to the project, it will not progress successfully without major problems arising.

There is a trinity of groups at work at a client site.  One group is comprised of the consulting team and the business owner.  The second team is the consulting team and the client user teams.  The third group is the business owner and the client teams.  Consistently, we work with the business owner to help bring the system users to a necessary level of competency.  Twenty plus years of management consulting has taught us this secret. 

Our experience has given us the understanding that there is an Art and a Science involved in working with clients.  Process certification goes a long way to ensure that consultants have the science part down.  APICS, ( is the leading provider of Operations and Supply Chain Management, and our senior consultants have that certification.  The art of consulting comes from understanding people; more importantly, how to help the individual team members understand “what’s in it for them”.   

This business owner is ahead of the curve for most of our clients.  Some business owners do not understand the benefits of using an ERP System to acquire the information necessary to manage a business effectively.   These business owners drive their business by reviewing the effectiveness of actions that already have taken place (in some cases, what they review is from several weeks in the past).  A better and more effective approach is to understand where the business is today (inventory, margins, customer service, BOM Accuracy, Routing Accuracy, P&L, etc.).  Otherwise, business owners are driving the business by looking in the rear view mirror and seeing where they were instead of where they are going. 

In the real world, it can lead to a fatal accident by driving in reverse or by staring in the rear view mirror.  Business schools should teach their students the folly of driving a business by looking in the rear view mirror.  It can lead to a fatality for automobile drives as well as business leaders. Teaching students to be open to the where the business is today and planning based on current data will help keep the company healthy.

APICS and Supply Chain Council Merge

Michael Roman - Monday, April 28, 2014

An IMPORTANT message from APICS Headquarters

28 April 2014

We are very pleased to share with you that the boards of directors of both APICS and Supply Chain Council have approved an agreement under which Supply Chain Council (SCC) will merge with APICS upon ratification by SCC member vote. The APICS Board vote was conducted at the meeting on April 25. We expect the transaction to be complete in mid-July.

The Channel Partner Services team will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 30 at 11:00 a.m. CT, to discuss this exciting news with our North American Chapter leaders. Please check your inbox for an invitation that will arrive soon.

The merger unites two industry leaders with complementary offerings to create the premier global provider of supply chain research, education and certification programs. Together, SCC and APICS offer a single-source solution for individuals and corporations looking to evaluate and improve supply chain performance. The combination:

  • Creates the industry-leading portfolio of brands. The combination unites entities ranked #1 (APICS) and #2 (SCC) recently by SCM World, each holding the most respected brands in the markets they serve. The SCC SCOR® model and SCOR-P certification brands will be leveraged along with APICS’s Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation brands.

  • Ensures investment, improvement, innovation and continued relevancy of training, standards, certification and intellectual capital. The combination offers greater resources and access to an expanded network of subject matter experts and volunteers intent on maintaining the organization’s reputation as the source of industry standards, benchmarks and thought leadership.

  • Builds strong a platform for growth. The combined product portfolio offers significant cross-sell opportunities including the marketing of SCC's highly respected training programs based on the SCOR® model to APICS's clients, as well as the marketing of APICS's industry-leading courseware and designations to SCC's clients.

We are very excited about what is on the horizon for the new organization and confident this merger will strengthen our efforts to advance supply chain performance.

Best regards,

Four Superhero Ways to Show Courage in Leadership

Michael Roman - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Manufacturing Practices, Inc. guest blog by Lee Ellis

What is your greatest fear in your work? What is the one thing that you don’t want others to know about you? Perhaps it’s burying past mistakes or poor decisions, or maybe you’re in a new leadership role where you feel ashamed or ill-equipped about your lack of formal education or work experience. If you don’t handle these nagging, fearful thoughts and feelings, then they will manifest unhealthy leadership attitudes like control and manipulation. 

Unfortunately for many people, the term courage has been limited to the examples that we see in action films or books—the superhero leaping from building to building, jumping out of an airplane to land on a moving train to get the bad guy, or simply using sheer power and strength to overcome obstacles. In reality though, most courageous acts happen in everyday life, but they may never get as much recognition on the movie screen.

Here are some powerful ways to show courage every day in your work –

1. Be open, honest, and transparent

From my experience as a junior ranking prisoner in the Vietnam POW camp*, I was able to observe the leadership of our highest and best officers and occasionally some of the worst. The most consistent theme was courageous transparency. In the POW camps, all the niceties of leadership were immediately stripped away along with the former advantages of power and authority. Higher ranking officers were naturally the ones that the enemy focused on first and the most often. They were subject to torture more often, more isolated, were beaten more often and yet they still had to lead, make policy and then live by the policies they made. They could not hide their interactions with the enemy because it was obvious to everyone; however, they were transparent about it. When they were beaten into submission, they would admit what they had done. The environment was amazingly transparent. There was no pretending, which quickly revealed true character. There was always temptation to take a shortcut or say something to get the enemy off your back. In that process, I saw that courage was the key to leading with honor.

2. Learn to trust and be trusted

Leaders need to take the time to build trust. It’s so important for success in work, and I don’t believe that much emphasis is given on this important principle during formal training and leadership development. Most leaders know that they need to do some teambuilding, but they automatically think that’s singing Kumbaya and hugs; but to create an authentic level of trust, you must get to know each other. One of the best ways to be open and gain trust is taking a personality assessment and sharing the results. A personality assessment** is the common denominator to understanding somebody’s leadership style, his or her strengths, struggles and fears. Knowing that about each other helps to build trust among team members.
3. Apply accountability through a core set of values and ground rules

The issue of accountability is huge and doesn’t get enough attention; it’s often absent when clarity is lacking. Accountability and clarity go hand in hand, and those two important concepts require leaders to define a core set of values. Organizational or team values have to be operative and not aspirational. You can have aspirational values, but you need to be clear that that is what they are. For instance, if the value is against gossiping but we still gossip, then it’s not a value; it’s an aspirational value. Having those few core values, then preaching them from the highest to lowest levels so they are inculcated into daily work life, builds a work culture. Values will hold you together and give you the freedom to empower people in ways nothing else will. Teams that build ground rules or rules of engagement for how they will work together can hold each other accountable in positive ways.

4. Make steady, daily progress developing your team or staff

Professional development of others may not seem like a courageous act, but to do it on a consistent basis is a hallmark of great leadership. Leaders have to be developing their people all along the way, all the time, and they need to go first by setting an example of personal growth. This allows the leader to have the credibility to mentor, coach, and make expectations known, all the while clarifying why you do things a certain way and telling stories about how you learned about this value or that leadership principle.

Making the Shift

There are many ways to be a courageous leader, and these are just a few practical ways. But you may notice that the common thread in these examples is shifting your inward focus on fears and inadequacies to an outward focus on doing the right thing to be an example and help others. If you’re focused on building and equipping others to succeed, then courage will eclipse your own personal fears. Choose at least one of these courageous acts of leadership, and commit to applying it in your daily work. What other powerful ways do you show courage every day? Please share your comments – 


Watch my definition of courage and leading with honor in this clip:

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at



Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Honor of Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM

In 2004, when Manufacturing Practices, Inc. began, I once again called on Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM a mentor and dear friend for guidance and joint business opportunities.  We began working on a book and several seminars to help focus the book.  Unfortunately, Don’s health very rapidly failed and I lost him to the ages.  He wrote this piece several years earlier and delivered it at an Atlanta APICS dinner meeting in the 1990s.  He told me to use it when the time was right.  After engaging in a recent discussion on LinkedIn about Part Numbering schemes, this seems the appropriate time.


Let’s go back to basics when we talk about part number attributes.

  • First, part numbers are the data elements or objects that enable us to separate each part from all others as we, in design and operations management, communicate information to each other.
  • Second, the part number enables us to access all the data elements associated with any part in our systems, validating its uniqueness and ensuring we are processing the part we intended. 
  • Third, a part number, assigned to a document, such as an inspection or test report, should appear on bills of material. 
  • Fourth, construct the part number in the simplest lean manner—a pure, sequential numeric form. A good rule for part number length is to add one digit more than the maximum conceivable  number of parts that will ever be in the system. With just eight digits, we can define 99 million unique parts!

People who object to this principle are mostly holdovers from punch card days when, because of the space limitations on the cards, putting intelligence into part numbers.  That perception was the thought that it is necessary for part recognition. Experience, which goes back more than 50 years, was that, even with the limitation of 78 usable columns in a punch card, we could rely better on good part descriptions, rather than remembering the part number, to communicate for what the part number stood.

One of the lessons learned early was to make the part number and drawing number identical, saving a critical amount of space in the part record and making configuration management via revision codes much simpler. We increased the length of the part number to 10 characters, left justified, with the format nnnnnn-nnn, where the first digit represented the drawing size (1 for A size, 2 for B size, etc., so we knew where the drawing was filed). The dash and last three digits we reserved for use with tabulated drawings where several parts represented on the same drawing. An example of this was a set of heat sinks, all made from the same extrusion, but with different lengths, hole patterns, and inserts.

Today's part master databases, with a hundred or more data elements or objects associated with any part master record, enable us to find and visually determine the uniqueness of each part right at the workstation. Original drawings are most often digitally stored rather than on paper. String searches are quick and effective, zeroing in on the part in question in a matter of milliseconds. Just clicking on the part number gives access to all the needed information. We can even hyperlink to a 3-D drawing of the part if necessary.

Highly visible good descriptions will eliminate any excuse for the extra non-value-added task of establishing and maintaining part number coding systems. Descriptions should have two segments—a generic standardized family word description followed by a modifier that differentiates each of the parts in the family. Examples: stainless steel passivated cross-recessed machine screw 10-32 x 1; film fixed resistor 1200 ohm ½ watt 1%.

The first exercise in standardizing part descriptions resulted in reducing the number of parts to support the master schedule from about 5,000 to about 450. The cost savings actually paid for the budding inventory management system.

Another lesson learned was never to use the supplier’s part number as the internal part number because it is too restricting. If you have to change supplier or add an alternate, you create another part number even though the parts are truly interchangeable. Today’s systems allow multiple entries of supplier, supplier part number, and even supplier price against any part number.

Finally, there is still a huge configuration management gap out there because engineering mindsets and product lifecycle management part master data use revision code, and our enterprise resources planning systems use effectivity by date, lot, or serial number.

Here is a word of caution. Do not arbitrarily change existing part numbers when upgrading or implementing new information systems. There is too much engineering, marketing, sales, customer, and supplier documentation out there with embedded legacy part numbers to justify making this type of non-value-added change. Set up a dual-key (alias) system so the system can respond to either old or new part numbers. However, do not allow the sins of the past to perpetuated in newly generated part numbers—use the simple, numeric, and sequential scenario.

Frankly, the only reason we have to put up with long, heavily coded part numbers today is tradition. All new parts generated should have simple, short numeric part numbers. After all, it only takes at most eight digitsto create 100,000,000 Part Numbers! Lean thinking demands we take this approach to intelligent part numbering.

Leadership Intuition

Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Several years ago my strategic partner and good friend Hugh Massie, Founder and CEO of DNA Behavior® International, mentioned that he was learning to trust his gut instincts more. That caught my attention since he is a CPA by training and a very results oriented, rational person.

Then as I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about this idea of the “second mind,” as he called it. Gladwell raised the visibility of the power of intuition, but I suspect that it was only for a short time for most people.

Last summer at the National Speakers Association Convention I met a leadership consultant who was building her speaking platform around the idea that leaders (who have mostly been trained like engineers to trust rationality and disregard feelings) needed to learn to use their intuition more to make better decisions. 

Just recently I read another impressive book, THE WAY OF THE SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed  and was interested to see that author Mark Divine, a former CPA and Navy SEAL, made instinct (awareness of gut feelings) a major theme of the book. His proposition is that leaders should train like Navy SEALS to intentionally use both rational (conscious mind) and instinctive (drawing from the unconscious mind) inputs to make the best decisions.

Albert Einstein didn’t read Blink, and he certainly wasn’t a Navy SEAL, but evidently he discovered this related theory early on, saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I’m seeing a pattern from these different points on the topic of intuition, so let’s explore it a bit deeper.

So what is the gift?

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instincts) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive. Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or business person.
Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made. So, intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires our tuning in to hear the signal.

Can It Be Learned?

The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me about this—what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions.  Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same. Reflecting, waiting, and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization, and in our increasingly fast-paced society it’s a lost art. If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.    

My Experience

I think that I’m a very logical and rational person, but I’ve also been blessed with a gift for patterns and a good memory. In recent years I’ve learned to value what these gifts reveal to me and trust my intuition more. I do have to be careful about not jumping to conclusions with too little rational information, but overall I’m feeling more confident in my decision-making and greater commitment to execution. 

What about you? What has been your experience? How often do you integrate your intuition in your decision-making? Why do you believe that some leaders ignore or don’t develop their intuitive abilities when it would produce better results and greater success? Please share your thoughts and comments.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at

More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to



Adams & Jefferson Leadership Traits

Michael Roman - Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

American presidents come and go throughout history, but think about the presidents that you regard as great leaders. Regardless of their political persuasion, do historically successful presidential leaders have common natural talents and traits? 

More specifically, let’s compare presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson*. Both presidents were successful on many points. Here’s a brief look at their accomplishments

John Adams

- Massachusetts Delegate and Leading member of the Continental Congress

- Leading advocate and signer of the Declaration of Independence

- Author, Massachusetts Constitution

- Diplomat to France

- Negotiator and signor of the Paris Peace Accord ending the war with England

- Minister to England

- First U.S. Vice President

- Second U.S. President

- President of the Massachusetts Society of Arts and Sciences

Thomas Jefferson

- Delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress

- Author of the Declaration of Independence

- Governor of Virginia

- Diplomat to France and delegate to the Paris Peace Talks with Adams

- U.S. Secretary of State

- U.S. Vice-President

- U.S. President (2 Terms)

- Founder of the University of Virginia

- Godfather of John Quincy Adams

For most of us in society, we tend to have a list of requirements in our minds about the traits of great leaders. Some of them would be –

- Strong

- Charismatic

- Decisive

- Bold

- Fearless

- Intelligent

- Delegator

- Great Communicator

Then, we translate those same traits into our everyday lives and assume that we must have those same traits to be an effective leader; and if you don’t have those traits, then being a leader isn’t your destiny. Nothing could be further from the truth—we’re all leaders whether we realize it or not.

While Adams and Jefferson each had similar noted achievements, they had very different leadership styles. Through their own personality struggles and challenges, they still found a way to achieve greatness as leaders.

Take a look at these behavioral traits and note the remarkable difference between them**  

John Adams

- Take Charge Personality

Assertive, self-assured, got results

Intolerant of indifference

- Outgoing

A talker and entertainer

Passionate and good sense of humor

- Fast-Paced

Controlling, Never learned to flatter

Cranky, impulsive, tactless

- Spontaneous

Struggled with bringing order to his life

Had difficulty staying  focused on one thing at a time

Thomas Jefferson

- Cooperative

Subtle, soft-spoken

Moved slowly, cautious

- Reserved

Remote, little sense of humor

Rarely revealed his inner feelings

- Patient

Gracious, rarely disagreed with anyone publicly

Avoided dispute and confrontation

- Planned

Always polite, diplomatic

Neat, kept letter perfect records, detailed

Obviously, both leaders had their own unique set of strengths and struggles, but they worked within their traits to emerge as accomplished individuals in their own regard.  

So, what’s the point where your leadership is concerned?

- Know your strengths and struggles, and manage them well

- Lead from a place of humble yet confident authenticity,

- Balance your leadership by bringing others around you with different talent and traits.  

As we remember and honor our nation’s leaders on Presidents Day this month, think about the president that relates closely to your own leadership style and be encouraged to fulfill your own leadership role in society.  

Interesting Fact – Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Adams was 90 years old, and Jefferson was 83 years old.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at

*More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to

**Traits described in the book “John Adams” by David McCullough, © 2001 Simon & Schuster, New York


Executive Gemba Walk

Michael Roman - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In years past, one of the formal tools I experimented with as a consultant was a survey of departmental managers. It didn't work very well. The information gathered had limited use, partly because the tedious process irritated the troops and fueled existing cynicism about "how things are done." Surveying managers is an impersonal way to address issues, and does little to bridge the gap between departmental managers. So forget the survey, and instead... do the Gemba Walk! Get out from behind your desk, and walk the business!

I recently read an excellent blog about Gemba Walk, and what caught my attention was the author’s comment that “Gemba is rarely found at an executive desk.” The statement got my juices going, and it begs the question as to why that is true. As a management consultant, I have learned the value to my business and for my customers of asking why at the right time.

Before we answer the question, though, let me explain a few terms so we can all be on the same page. The Gemba Walk is an outgrowth of LEAN thinking and means “going to the place.” Asking questions is an integral part of the LEAN philosophy (the source of “Gemba Walk”) because it improves understanding and helps to establish and maintain the relationship between me and you, the consultant and the user. In this relationship, as the process owner, you are the expert in that “place” and I am the inquisitive student.

I perform a Gemba Walk before I commit to working with a client’s organization for several reasons. As I walk the shop floor, I look for clutter, which is an indicator of non-value activities.  Clutter in the shop, clutter in the shipping department, clutter in the receiving department, clutter in customer service, accounting, the business managers’ offices – they are all indicators that prioritization of the business is an issue. The more that clutter exists, the greater the problems that exist in the organization.

During the Gemba Walk, many of the answers to my questions are excuses, and from those exchanges, I learn the most about the organization. Excuses instead of answers can mean a business manager is probably creating problems instead of resolving problems. Excuses are also a good indicator of the overall management style of the organization.   

When performed properly, the Gemba Walk is a much more powerful tool than sitting at an executive desk filling out a survey. The reason is simple: The plant functions under the control of the business owner. Taking the Gemba Walk throughout the organization demonstrates how the executive is managing the enterprise; and there simply is no more effective management style than “going to the place.”