What are the biggest stress points in your company, department or life? I am talking about the things that seem to put everything in a tailspin when these events come to the surface; they wreak havoc. Sometimes the events are obvious and other times we may wonder, “What just happened and how?” Sometimes these events have a recognizable root cause which is clear, and at other times, the source is vague. However, one thing is consistent and universal, productivity and efficiency gets compromised. Ultimately the company, department or individual(s) pay a price.

One of the biggest ah-ha moments of my personal development came in 2010. The topic several speakers were addressing on that given day was “innovation.” Prior to that moment, I associated the term “innovation” synonymous with adding technology or some new device or tool that created efficiencies. I never really related the term innovation with perspective of process improvements. How we view something or the degree of attention and focus we apply towards it. Focusing on the right key leverage points compared to focusing on what seems to be an endless list of influential leverage points. The conclusion – all leverage points are not equal. In fact, not only does each leverage point carry its own unique influence, some of these levers will carry a much bigger punch than others. The key is identifying the right levers to apply relentless focus and attention to innovate and generate positive results.

The stone fabrication industry is littered with what appears to be endless opportunities to chase down inefficiencies and seek process improvements. However, we all have limited amount of time and resources. Applying your time and resources on the right things becomes the game changer. If you want to be wildly successful, spend the time to identify the key levers. You cannot do it all, so choose where to apply your efforts and attention wisely. Warning, most people get hijacked away from the key focal points because of all the noise and commotion being generated from other areas. It will require discipline and knowledge where to apply the focus. It also helps to keep those priorities in front of you with spotlights on them at all times.

I can reduce my shop supply expenditures by 20% if I apply enough focus and attention in that area. However, if I applied the same amount of energy towards reducing material costs, it will likely have a greater positive impact on the bottom line. Material costs are a much bigger lever in a stone fabricators world than compared to shop supplies.

How can you determine the few leverage points to be worthwhile of your relentless focus and pursuit? What are biggest friction points? What events cause the greatest amount of chaos? Play the “what if” game and run through possible scenarios. “What if” we reduced rework by 20%? What type of impact would that have on the company, department, and individuals? How much time would that save our employees? What would be the financial impact? What if we reduced our material costs by 10 or 15 percent? What type of financial impact would that represent?

Once you have played out several different “what if” scenarios, determine which ones would have the biggest impact. The potential results from the playing out the “what if” models will start showing you where the opportunities exist. Then start asking yourself and your team to answer this question. What would have to happen to get to the desired future state? (reduce rework by 20 percent, reduce material costs by 10 percent, etc.) Then map out the plan and strategy to best achieve the desired future state. Do not forget to develop a scoreboard in the process. You will need to determine if you and the team are moving in the right direction and gaining traction. Make sure the information is relevant and timely.

The ability to identify the key leverage points, prioritize them, strategize and execute a plan to move the lever in the right direction is innovation. Sometimes technologies and a new mouse trap are adopted in the process. However, more frequently, small process and system improvements shared and adopted by the entire team will translate into great results, which have a very positive impact on the entire team, internal and external customers. It is all about focus and perspective. Where are your biggest opportunities and leverage points to make a difference? What are the possibilities if friction points can be removed forever?


E. Tryon