Tag Archives: management

Company’s objective and product design

Disclaimer: This blog post is from my assignment in the Supply Chain Management course. It is copied from here

The long-term strategy of a company will reflect on how product of that company is designed, how people in the company work together to achieve the same goal. This long-term strategy brings the company ahead of other ones, creates innovation inside the company, and makes a huge profit for the company while others still suffer the economic recession.

http://www.onedesk.com/2011/05/product-strategy-tips-for-success/

Cost Cutting Innovation
IKEA
The last year was an economic recession year with unemployment above 9 percent and housing is 73 percent below the 2006 peak. Given the furniture is one of the worst categories of retail sectors, the support from government and Barack Obama in jobs help did not push this furniture sector much. In this difficult time, IKEA finds it easy to cut down the price of its products. In contrast to this move of IKEA, almost all other commodity prices increase.

Based on interviews with IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson, the whole company culture focuses to produce cheaper products. They set the target price for the product first, and then, by any means, to achieve that price. By improving the efficiency in product design, factory manufacturing and then distribution and delivery, it can cut a significant amount of cost.

http://noellebullock.posterous.com/?tag=ikea&page=2

However, one of the key factors is via its supply network, when it can try to use the least sustainable materials in this world. This may mean some long-term impact but that is acceptable for IKEA to reach their long-term goal: cut the price.

Tata Nano
Tata Nano has innovated a new “Open Distribution” system. This system operates by a modular design approach. Every product is designed in terms of modules, or components, which can be built and shipped separately to different assemblies around the world. This helps Tata Nano to achieve its goal.

By using this Open Distribution approach, it allows suppliers to compete for better qualities and lower price to bid for supplying. To push this even more, Tata Nano has its own internal suppliers. These suppliers need to compete fairly with the outside suppliers, so the general competition level is increased.

These innovations help these companies to move forward faster, affect all of their product designs as well as the process to manufacture the products and ship them to assemblies.

Environment Safety First

In contrast with the approach to cut the cost by all means, there are companies that focus on making value and meaningful social responsibilities. These companies also gain high returns through social values, which would enable them to follow these values in the long term.

There is a trend in designing, manufacturing and distributing new products with the most sustainable materials. These materials help companies to achieve its environmental goals.

Herman Miller
The goal of Herman Miller is explicitly stated in its website:

We put Herman Miller’s corporate environmental goal quite simply: to become a sustainable business – manufacturing products without reducting the capacity of environment to provide for future generations

That’s clear. It is the goal of all employees and all products of Herman Miller, to create a sustainable business. That is a meaningful value for everybody, so all employees are proud and happy to work at Herman Miller, to create a social value.

An example of this strategy is when they make a decision about choosing between PVP and TUP. PVP is cheaper, easier for suppliers to work on and there are multiple existing suppliers. TUP, though, is more sustainable for environment but is a new thing and few suppliers are able to provide to Herman Miller with low price. They finally choose to implement TUP since the new product, so they do not have to redesign the existing product and they can be proud about this new product.

This environmental safety first also puts them ahead of other competitors. Due to the strict environmental regulation rules of the governments in product manufacturing, their competitors find a hard time to follow what Herman Miller does.

http://www.hermanmiller.com/about-us/things-that-matter-to-us.html

It also helps Herman Miller to get the best employees for their business, which put them in a competitive advantage position comparing to other companies. The Youtube video clearly demonstrates how Herman Miller could make their employees proud of what they are doing.

These examples give us a broad view of how the company’s long-term strategy and objective affects all their business: from product design to decision-making process to the culture of the company. IKEA has chosen the price to be their competitive difference, and then ignore the environmental side of their works. However, Herman Miller focuses on building sustainable products and business. Both long-term strategies put the ahead of their competitors and make a difference in their business.

References

1. Tutle, B.2011, Everything at IKEA is getting cheaper, MoneyLand, viewed on 06/02/2012

2. Hamilton, S.2011, IKEA cuts price of US shelves as outlook dismiss, Bloomberg, viewed on 07/02/2012

3. King, B.2011, IKEA cut shipping costs with switch paper pallets, Sustainable Brands, viewed on 06/02/2012

4. What matter to us, Herman Miller, viewed on 06/02/2012
http://www.hermanmiller.com/about-us/things-that-matter-to-us.html

Shifts and Trends in Supply Chain

The Latest State
The supply chain has changed significantly in the last decade. Demand is changing due to new business model with global trends and market. Information Technology then creates the opportunities for companies to serve this new business needs.

The shift in business focus

There is a new shift from an individual company to a whole view of a supply chain, cross multi companies in the network. The old thoughts about supply chain are to fulfill the orders, in other words, to deliver the right products in the right time. However, this new shift has made an impact. Now, supply chain strategy involves from product design, introduction, promotion, fulfillment and recycling.

This trend has shifted the business focus to new things: from cross-functional department to cross-enterprise, from supply focus to demand focus, from single-company work to collaborative and concurrent works from different companies. One key of this shift is to change the focus of a business from cost reduction to best value creation for customers. This not only includes better customer service or product design but also tailored offerings and new business models to serve customers better.

New Supply Chain Process

Figure: The New Supply Chain Process
Source: The Supply-Chain Management Effect, Kopczak L., Johnson M.

Required Attributes for Companies
To make this shift successful, Ketchen, D 2008 (Best value supply chains: A key competitive weapon for the 21st century) analyzed that there are 4 aspects: speed, quality, cost and flexibility. The competition game between companies is to try to balance these 4 aspects to attempt for the best value supply chains. One critical example is the competition between K-Mart and Wal-Mart in the late 1990s. K-Mart tries to challenge Wal-Mart by a price competition but then it failed soon after that. Wal-Mart has a very powerful and sophisticated supply chain and logistics network that helps them to withstand the war and win K-Mart.

Moreover, there are some key concepts that managers in supply chain need to understand and apply successfully: agility, adaptability, alignment, strategic sourcing, logistics management, information system and relationship management. If the companies can make a good system with these attributes, the company can maintain a good supply chain network that offers the best value.

How it applies in reality

In reality, there are human and natural disasters that affect strongly these supply chain networks.


Figure: Chip Manufacturing in Japan
Source: http://www.spacedaily.com/images-lg/chip-tech-spix-lg.jpg

The latest earthquake and then nuclear disaster was an example. Right after these disaster happened in Japan, managers immediately go into the meeting room and consider what the impact can be in their supply chain.
Japan plays a vital role in the semiconductor industry, chips and lightweight flash memory used in smartphone and tablets. Therefore, the impacts on any company’s supply chain were big and there was no certainty when these Japanese factories reopened.
However, HP and Apple reacted quite quickly to the situation with their own big inventories that can help them survive for the short time. In the long time, they have switched the suppliers to their backup suppliers in some few days. This helps these companies to survive this “Global Stress Test”.

My 1st lesson – Altitude

Second Prize Medal

Second Prize Medal

The picture is the medal that I got for the Second Prize in Ho Chi Minh city Mathematics Olympiad. It has always been in my desk since that time. Not because it is the greatest thing I have ever done. It is there to remind me of one of the biggest failure in my life. It is there to remind me what I did and felt when I was in 11th grade.

 

 

 

 

My feet were off the ground
The second highest winner in the Southern Mathematics Olympiad turned out to be a bad motivation for me. It killed my love with maths. It made me feel that I am too special. It made me overestimate myself. I believed that I couldn’t fail. That was a big mistake.

I didn’t prepare well enough and didn’t try hard enough on the next city contest. The result is: I couldn’t step into the next round. My friends and family wouldn’t know what happened. But I knew what was wrong. I put myself off the ground!

This failure led to the next big failure.
Depression

Now, imagine that everybody is looking at you; the next second, nobody gives you a shit. That was what happened to me. I felt totally useless and lose my orientation. I did not know what to do next, if I should continue studying maths or focusing on other subjects to pass the university entrance exam. I did not know what to do when losing all the attentions people gave to me. I was thirsty for that fame.

This made me lost my focus, forgot what was good for me, what I would like to do. It cost me 4 months living in jeaulous feeling with winner guys before I could realize what was meaningful to me. It was maths! Not the prize, but maths! I felt good that I recognized it early enough to be back on the right track and focus on what I love.

Both of them gave me a difficult time, and always kept reminding me of what is my true value, what I should aim for.

The purpose of this post is to try to remind me of what happened in the past. I know that people are talking a lot about me right now, but keeping my feet on the ground, being focused on my long term goal was the highest priority work.

High Risk – High Return

The best way to predict the future is to create it

The best way to predict the future is to create it

People always say about how passion can make you successful, and there are plenty of books around that topic. So for now, I will just look at the problem by some limited financial perspective: High Risk, High Return. Well, all financial guys know this theory, huh? So, I just try to see what I did and achieved in these terms.

Since I was in high school, I started thinking about what would motivate me, what would make me feel good when I did something. I preferred taking risks to get a really good outcome rather than staying and following a safe path since my high school. Until some recent days, I recognized that this is the only way for me to get an excellent outcome in a short time. High Risk means High Return.

 

The Safe Zone

There is not much fun and passion if I just stay in my safe zone. Everybody does that, there is a safe way for you to go. And most of the time, I feel bored with going that safe way. Passion is important, but I feel that if I don’t go further and take some risks doing what I love, I don’t love it enough. Is it so much fun if you always know how the future works?

Passion will always give you to the edge of the safe zone, you can understand and see further than other people. Now, the thing is that you need to step out of that safe zone and take risks. If you are really passionate about something, do you want to see it become a huge success. If yes, make it! make the future!

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Since the beginning of my career, I started asking myself “What to learn next in the IT career?” and how I can predict the future of this IT industry. And then, the more I move forward into the career, the more I know that the best way to predict the future is to create it. That’s why I get more involved in what I love and believe, joining open source community, try some start-up and cutting edge technologies.

No surprising, one of the most risky situation in IT is to try to invent some new product. People may or may not adopt your product, you may not find any users. And nobody may believe in your idea except yourself.

What’s the biggest lesson I learned so far this year?

Lesson over plan and time management

Biggest lesson this year

My learning progress this year has been increasing so fast, many things change in my life for the last 3 months. I changed to new living environment, new learning environment and start up my business when I came here. There are lots of lessons that I learnt as a manager in my new startup and a student in CMU. I think the 2 biggest lessons I have learnt so far this year are: planning and time-management.

Plan and Vision

Let me tell about my story first. My plan has been changing every month since the last November. The event that I went to CMU has changed my plan for my master degree and my career. You can read over my past plan here. I had a plan to work hard and plan for the master degree 2 years later. Then that plan changed. Next, I plan to study hard in CMU. Then, chances came and plan changed.

The main point that I want to get is my visionary. My vision and objectives over all of the plans do not change. I want to become an entrepreneur and build something that can change the world, something innovative in terms of technology and business. Planning is a tool for me to set up my vision, to see what will happen for me and other trends and I am more than willing to change any plan when necessary.

I have learnt significant lessons over financial planning in my CMU, which will help me over my company growth a lot. I think that this is what I lack from my undergraduate career. Money. Financial. These are important for any business technology people. I believe if you want to be successful, you have to understand about 3: Money, People and Technology.

Time-Management

The last few months, I ran in a crazy way, not like ever before. Look, everybody, who knows me, will know how fast I learn, implement new ideas and improve myself. However, I never see I learn and work at that crazy speed before. Lots of things got done, lots of breaking news. And I am still looking for more.

There are a couple of issues and lessons I learn from that fast moving. Time-management. I got a few problems at the first time when I have too many things to do than the time I can have. Then, I try different approach to optimize my time, calendar, todo list and time saving strategy. I now work much more efficiently than months ago and can really focus on a thing that I do. That’s why I love moving fast. Only by moving fast, you can learn really fast.

Again, what I want to say is you have to focus, and have a good timing management skills to control your time. Time cannot be bought!

Remote working and management


My Office

My Office

Working as a freelancer, I have to deal with many remote works, including working remotely with my customer, my colleagues and my employees and it certainly has some different difficulties from other sitting together jobs. Here are lessons that I have been learning from these jobs:

Communication
Our good tool for communication is skype, IM and teamviewer. We try to keep a good and frequent communication with clients before our approach is too far from what they expect, or in case they want to change their requirement frequently.

As other oursourcing jobs, it is normal that we have to wake up early or sleep lately to match clients’ time as well as developers’time. Communication requires lots of patient and understanding from both sides. Many clients told me that they never meet a software developer like me, who can sit down, listen and talk with them about what they need, how to improve their app’s qualities. I am happy with this commendation. Sometimes, I even do not need to ask for bonus, but they are generous to give me more bonus to reward my efforts working for them.

Trust
Remote management requires trust on your employee. I am never a fan of a strict manager. My strategy is to manage adult, not manage children; therefore, we have to trust them working hard and passionate. We try to hire best developers that we can, and they should do their jobs automatically with integrity without any strict control from managers.

People may keep asking me how I manage my employees when I am in Australia, how to prevent them from cheating me. I do understand that with a loose management like this, it is hard to ensure 100% no cheating but whenever I hire a best developer with high motivation, they will just work on it themselves. An important part of managing is to foresee, to plan over the next few months to few years strategies not to just stand behind every developer to make sure they do not cheat. Trust and integrity are important.

This reminds me the time working at MultiNC, my first job. My boss was never in office, rarely asked us where the project was going on. What we, as developers do, is to try our best to create a best application based on the strategy that we set up. We frequently brought the products to the manager and asked for feedback.

Self-motivation
Trust will relate to self-motivation. You can only motivate yourself when you know that your managers trust you and you feel happy and freedom about your work. I would not be surprised when many developers feel bad about their jobs and think that they just do low level jobs. Because managers treat them as resources, give them low level jobs and never trust them in doing their jobs best. Money is not enough to motivate people. For me, people are motivated by giving them enough money, enough challenge and enough respect to do what they love doing.

Freelancer Lessons and Strategies

freelancer jobs

freelancer jobs

As my plan in Adelaide, I want to get some job to earn money as well as keep me up to date with industry technologies. However, this turns out to be much harder than I believe when Adelaide is such a small city that does not have many IT companies here.
Then, I started my second option in my plan to looking for freelancer jobs and going to websites that offer freelancer jobs to see what I can get from there, and things are growing up fast enough and I learnt some key lessons over the my new job.

 

Price

Price was my first concern over deals and bid to get accepted a project. However, I can see that most of times, price is not the top priority for employers. What they care is they can have a high quality product in a short amount of time with a reasonable price. My strategy is to pick a fixed hourly rate for myself when competing and then just calculating over the number of hours I need to work and give them a general price.
I try to convince people about quality, in many terms: communication and product. I think it is true for any work with clients to try to exceed their expectations, try to understand their problems well and do exactly what solves their problems. The price can be higher but we can save time, money and make people feel safe, they would hire us. So, don’t aim for only price. Put one that is reasonable and prove clients that it is worth every penny

Outsourcing

This is always a way to cut down the business cost. People hire me because they want to look for more reasonable price with the same quality. And I can make another step to outsource them back to Vietnam developers. It cut down the price for me and the client and I can save my time to more important jobs, such as studying in my university 🙂 (Supposed to be the most important one)

There are certainly more aspects about management when you have to do outsource and communication with customers when both of these are remote only. I don’t forget about technology lessons that I learnt and expect to learn and work over these freelancer works. These will be shared on the next entry.

References:

Image source: http://freelancejobfeed.blogspot.com/