Lesson Eight: The Oxygen Mask of Self-Care

Lesson Eight: The Oxygen Mask of Self-Care

This is the eighth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

 

Every airlines’ safety announcement includes these instructions: “In the event of a loss of air pressure, oxygen masks will be released overhead…Be sure to secure your own mask before assisting others.” Self-care can seem selfish. Shouldn’t we help others before thinking of our own needs?

The urge to look after others is very strong. If you’re a business leader, your job is to fulfill your team’s needs, troubleshoot on behalf of others, anticipate customers’ problems and provide solutions. Looking after yourself is often at the bottom of the priority list.

Especially in these highly stressful times, burnout is a danger among hard-working, hyper-responsible, achievement-focused leaders at all levels of business. Have you stopped to consider what would happen if you ran out of oxygen (in a business sense)? Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary, not just for your own mental and physical health, but for the health of your organization.

Try these stress-reducing self-care techniques recommended by the Mayo Clinic:

  1. Get active– Physical exercise produces endorphins, the “happiness hormone.” Any exercise is good, but outdoor activities have the added benefit of contact with the natural world.
  2. Get still– The deep, controlled breathing of yoga and meditation calm the anxious thoughts that create stress.
  3. Get healthy – Good nutrition helps to keep stress hormones at bay. Avoid smoking and overconsumption of alcohol.
  4. Get connected – Socializing with friends and family breaks up the stressful thought patterns of introversion.

If you notice you’re having to force yourself to go to work, having trouble controlling your moods, feeling bone-weary every day, you may be experiencing the kind of stress that leads to burnout. Step back, give yourself a much-deserved break, and take care of your needs.

Many people rely on you. The most responsible thing you can do is to look after of yourself. Put on that oxygen mask. Then you’ll be able to assist everyone else.

 

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8 Steps to RFID Success: The Systems Approach

8 Steps to RFID Success: The Systems Approach

Congratulations! You’ve made the wise decision to incorporate RFID into your business operations. Now what?

Your business may already be using RFID in one area – inventory management, for example. Now you’re expanding your RFID system into your manufacturing operations, or adding RFID security to your office and storage access.

Or RFID may be completely new to your organization, and you’re starting with, say, a personnel proximity tracking system to maintain social distance and analyze workflows.

Whether RFID is a trusted tool or an unknown quantity, new systems brings change. And without a plan for change management, your exciting new technology might become a dust-catching doorstop.

Keep a laser-like focus on your goals for your new RFID system. Quoted in RFID Journal, Cougar Automation Technology’s New Projects Manager Alix Russell says you should avoid getting “tag-happy,” forcing your operations to fit your RFID tags’ capabilities. Instead, RFID systems should be designed to fit your operations.

Russell recommends taking a systems change management approach, following these 8 steps to ensure successful RFID integration:

  1. Define the objectives– Be specific about what you want to achieve. “Better inventory control” is too broad; “accurate automated daily reports” is specific.
  2. Educate the team– Include the entire team, top to bottom, in the information loop, and ask for their feedback. You’ll get valuable insights, and you’ll certainly get their buy-in if they feel included.
  3. Plan for business-case data– RFID offers quantifiable benefits: greater efficiency and less shrinkage, for example. These benefits mean dollars. Prepare to capture data about these benefits, calculate ROI, and make your business case.
  4. Determine the technology– Based on your objectives, work with your RFID vendor to identify the right type of RFID to fit your objectives (see #1 above).
  5. Execute a pilot– A trial run in a single location or department lets stakeholders experience the reality of RFID without a company-wide commitment.
  6. Analyze the pilot’s results– Review the pilot’s benefits data (see #2 above), and tweak the system to avoid any speed bumps and swerves discovered during the pilot. This is the time to adjust the plan.
  7. Roll out– Install your new RFID system in all planned locations. This step includes familiarizing staff with the new procedures and policies, and troubleshooting any human error that might short-circuit a successful roll out.
  8. Monitor and adjust– Continue capturing usage and benefits data. Work with your RFID vendor to see where adjustments would make even greater improvements.

As with any complex technology, successful implementation of RFID is a team effort. In house, it’s vital to involve stakeholders from Day One. Outside the organization, it’s essential to collaborate with an experienced RFID vendor.

 

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Lost Productivity: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Lost Productivity: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Paper is still the gold standard for many types of documents. Major personal events – marriages, wills, deeds, birth certificates – are still memorialized on paper. Such documents are typically filed away, and rarely accessed again. They’re a passive form of media.

But in business, paper documents operate differently. Paper is a highly active medium in any paper-reliant organization, going in and out of file cabinets, across desks, through many hands.

The more times a document is touched, the greater the loss of productivity.

Paper-based processes kill productivity in three ways:

  1. Movement– Inputting information by hand (a form, for example), and walking a document from one place to another (an approval process , for example), all happen at human speed. And if the recipient isn’t present to immediately handle the document, or the document travels via the USPS or another carrier, the process becomes even slower.
  2. Loss– DeLoitte & Touche have calculated that the average U.S. manager spends 3 hours per week looking for lost documents. That’s roughly 150 hours per year, per person, in lost productivity.
  3. Security – It is estimated that 70% of businesses would fail within 3 weeks in the event of a catastrophic loss of paper records due to fire or flood.

The explosive growth in work-from-home (WFH) adds a fourth productivity challenge. WFH staffers need access to papers locked away in the office. When staffers travel to the office, the commute time translates to lost productivity. And when documents are taken out of the office, there’s an increased security risk. 61% of data breaches in small businesses involve paper. Productivity plummets while damage is assessed and repaired.

The solution to paper’s productivity-killing tendencies is digital:

  1. Imaging (document conversion) of paper documents creates secure, accessible, searchable digital documents. Instead of moving at human speed from one desk to another, imaged documents move at near-instantaneous internet speeds. Imaged documents never get lost under a bookshelf or left in the copier. Usage authorization is managed and monitored for improved security, giving remote workers the access they need to be productive.
  2. Enterprise content management (ECM) software helps businesses move many of their paper-based processes to a digital format. Documents originate digitally, and remain in that medium throughout all operational processes. Errors are reduced, and, like imaged documents, these digital-origin documents move quickly and safely through the pipeline.

Even when businesses convert to ECM, however, paper is still generated. Signatures may be added, hand-written revisions can be made, notes may be added. An imaging program works alongside an ECM system to preserve a record of those document outputs, in digital format. Can your business gain efficiency and productivity by going digital? If you have paper-based processes, the answer is Yes.

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Lesson Seven: There are No “Wrong” Emotions

Lesson Seven: There are No “Wrong” Emotions

This is the seventh in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

We’re all taught from an early age, “Don’t cry.” “Suck it up.” “Rub some dirt on it.” As adults experiencing difficult times, it’s only natural to have an emotional reaction to our external circumstances. And yet we were trained long ago to ignore or deny our feelings of shock, fear, and anxiety. We refuse to acknowledge these “wrong” emotions.

Not surprisingly, denying our “wrong” emotions only adds to our stress load. Fearful, anxious feelings are associated with weakness and vulnerability – and weakness, whether in your personal life or your business life, feels dangerous. A feedback loop is formed; the sense of danger amplifies the fear, which in turn increases the feeling of danger. Sounds extremely stressful, right?

Much of our personal stress these days is related to work: Will I have a job next week? Will I have to close my business? Will I ever find another job, or start another business? Work-related stress inevitably affects job performance, which then increases the overall stress level. Stress makes us less able to think clearly and act with conviction.

Interviewed in Forbes, Kelly Turner, Ph.D., outlines three steps to manage work-related stress:

  1. Make a list of the things creating stress, both personal and professional. Put the biggest stressors at the top, and address them first.
  2. Make a plan for alleviating the stress. Get ahead of the stress by anticipating an upcoming challenge. Being prepared with a plan keeps the stress level lower.
  3. Make new daily habits to replace old ones that add to your stress burden. Include time to exercise and time to “stop and smell the roses.” A walk around the block or a few minutes of a funny video will make a great difference.

Turner recommends reaching out to trusted colleagues, mentors, or coaches for a friendly ear or insightful advice. This helps to short-circuit the stress loop of fearfulness and vulnerability.

Turner also advises releasing those “wrong” emotions. Identify what you’re feeling and examine the source of the emotional triggers. Once you name the feelings, they become manageable.

There’s good stress, like the feeling you get when you close a big sale, or push yourself to accomplish an exercise goal. And there’s bad stress, the kind that disrupts your professional life, your business life, your health, and your happiness. Within both those stresses, there are emotions. And none of them are “wrong.” Acknowledge what you are feeling, and you will be taking the first step toward putting bad stress behind you.

 

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Think RFID Isn’t Right for Your Business? Think Again

Think RFID Isn’t Right for Your Business? Think Again

RFID began as an inventory management tool, but now it interfaces with every part of an organization. Today there’s an RFID application that will make your operations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, no matter what your business is.

RFID’s digital records replaced pen-and-paper recordkeeping. As Jeff Schmitz writes in Forbes, RFID began by tracking the location and number of tangible items in a company’s inventory. Its speedy information delivery gave businesses a greater degree of agility in managing the flow of goods.

Then operations managers began to realize that RFID could transform from an inventory monitor to an enterprise-wide information system.  An RFID-based “enterprise intelligence” system provides real-time or near-real-time updates on:

  • Levels of supplies
  • Work in progress
  • Staff location
  • Equipment condition

In addition to inventory reports, of course.

RFID is even integrated into automated manufacturing, connecting manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the production floor.

But RFID doesn’t stop with manufacturing and warehousing. Service industries too are benefiting from the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of an RFID intelligence system. Just a few of the service sectors making use of RFID:

  • Transportation, Logistics and Postal Services– Have you received a notification of a package delivery or updates on a shipment? These service companies use an RFID-to-customer-order interface to keep recipients informed.
  • Law Firms and Libraries– RFID doorway readers monitor the movements of paper documents embedded or tagged with RFID. One-of-a-kind documents are no longer at risk of being lost or misplaced.
  • Healthcare– Medical equipment, medications, and staff can be located without delay,
  • IT– Equipment in system control rooms and server vaults is tracked to eliminate loss or theft. Company-owned electronic devices (tablets, laptops) assigned to staff are tracked throughout company facilities, and as they leave and return to the building.

The bottom line: Practically every type of business has a need for RFID in many parts of its operations. But as Schmitz points out, “There is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single ‘best’ RFID solution for all organizations — or even for a particular industry.”  An experienced RFID integrator can develop a custom solution for your unique business, and you can begin accruing the benefits of expanded digitalization.

 

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