Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

What to Measure to Encourage Innovation w/ Ben Branham


Innovators don’t just wake up and decide to innovate. They work towards objectives — and those become the moments when innovation happens. 

In this episode, I interview Ben Branham, Director of Global Quality at Abaco, about innovation en route toward objectives. 

What we talked about:  

  • What to measure & what not to measure 
  • Getting your team positive & motivated about the goal 
  • Appropriate risk in prioritizing objectives 
  • What makes a tool valuable  

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Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assume the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rossen. Hi, thanks for joining the Innovation Nation podcast. From to Zoot, this is Jasmine March Rossin, and my guest today is been Brandham, director of quality at Abaco Systems, which is a global company that manufactures commercial off the shelf equipment of rugget embedded computer devices, and their primary customer base is the military and airspace that they are those rugged devices that survive really harsh conditions. Welcome, Ban how are you doing during Great Jasmine? Thank you for having me well, thanks for joining the PODCAST. So I'm curious you know ragged devices. A lot of innovation. Just the device itself is an innovation of concept, right, it is to survive her absolutely. Tell me how you drive innovation with a lot of different ways. First thing that is we don't really think about innovation is we wake up in the morning and today we're going to innovate. That's not our style. The style is what's the objective? What do we want to achieve? So we start off with what the success look like and then we drive, we drop towards that goal and an innovation just comes out of that. Right. So myself on the global quality direct for the company and being a commercial provider in...

...this industry creates unique challenges, right, and so we're always trying to figure out how do we how do we communicate with our customers, how do we communicate with our suppliers, how do we communicate internally? And there's probably a where a lot of the opportunity for innovation comes and it's trying to be figured how to be successful with that. And so what I've seeing recently, like, like with Tuv, we had to be successful for the audit activities during this environment of Covid nineteen and we had to communicate well. It's unique challenges that involved us to to make decisions and pivot pretty fast. That's a very important point. In fact, most innovators do not think of Oh, I'm going to be innovating today, but they work towards objectives. Yes, so can you tell me what strategies you have in place to ensure that your meeting the objectives or even adjusting the objectives as new data in facts present themselves? So starts with you have your fundamental Kpis right. What is your goal? What's important to measure and what is your goal? That tells you, and you're not as you but it tells your function, your cross functional teams, it tells your your employee there what's important. Right, you can measure everything, but how do we measure it and how did it is measurements relate to each other, and then from that that tells you where you need to go. You know whether it's revenue or cost, whether it's delivery or quality. Having a good directional measure let you know where to take the company and where you should focus your efforts to innovate. You mentioned a critical point. You said you can measure everything, and implicit in that is but do we actually really need to measure everything? Absolutely not, absolutely not. So now you don't need to measure everything. In fact, that's one of the things you should work on first. Is What is important, right. That's the critical... that's so important. Again, knowing the priorities, and that helps drive innovation more than walking down to a supermarket island looking at five hundred products, right. That, yeah, yes, absolutely, so, you got it. You got to know your critical for you and I've come up with a term. In fact, it was actually getting to me about one of our advocas plant managers. It's called the run the business metrics. And so you have the Kpis the critical indicators, right. That should be the select few that you make sure everybody knows. You have a host of other metrics called run the business. You need. You need to understand inventory, you need to understand maybe some low level calls and different areas or a on time delivery of a project. Right. You have metrics all over the company, but those are there to kind of run the business or may have a smaller group of people interested. What I'm talking about here for really the big innovation is your KP has the strategic direction of the company of the critical few that really matter, and I like understanding those two and I like teaching those two in my companies so the people don't get lost. And the and the groceryality, you said, we don't get lost with all the metrics and forget which one's are important. That's critically important in market research projects and so studies. I always advise the stakeholders, let's measures things we can action. Yes, yes, yes, because if we can't action, yes, will know the measures, but it's kind of dispiriting exercise because people then did not feel empowered to do something about it. You. Yeah, so you're absolutely right. Now, some of the challenge that I've encountered has been with when the team doesn't know how to Action Right, and so I still encourage putting a metric. Again, it may not be the KPR for the for the team or the company of the business, because maybe where we've already done that and so we're...

...focused down to a smaller subset of the problem. I still encouraged to measure it. When people are saying what, you can't action it. Yeah, because just by putting that measure together and looking at it routinely, at some point you will start to kind of mentally categorize that, you will start to divide that up. You you will start to sign the action. It just may not be readily available yet. You just may you know, mentioned a very critical point if you said people don't know how to action. But getting started from where? I mean a lot of the time that's where innovation gets stifled. Because, let's say, if you're thinking of writing a book, you can have a whole book at once, but you need to have an outline, title, chapter, page by page by page, you get a book together. But to try to produce a book overnight, that's not going to happen now. So, in fact, I just had this conversation with my team yesterday. This is a journey, right. So if you're writing a book, you don't say I'm going to write a book today and then tomorrow your books done right and you're only kind of final editing critique. It's a journey. You know who in my company, where we're always driving our qms, where a global company with many, many sites. Some sites are brand new to our company where we have procured them. Some sites are very mature with our business. I've been here for a long time and each one or on their own journey through that and as we as we pull them together, as we continually improve on that, you have to understand that it's a transition activity, right. It's not about so yes, we know success is a final book, write a single book that everybody's want to buy, but we have to go from the starting point we're currently at to that point. And in a global company like mar like ours, each site and different functions may not maybe in a different chapter of that book, and so you have to understand where everybody is and it kind of transitions them together to get to that final state. That's a very, very important point. Yes, how... you encourage the people to be on that journey? What behavioral changes are you trying to drive to sustain the journey? So, first of all, is just a positive attitude. I was taught this by a gentleman name actually Chris commings. taught me this and he is the simple thing of good morning, good morning, is amazing. Good Morning. When you walk into the meeting and you say that to the team, it just sets an attitude with the team and it sits an attitude of positivity and engagement and that is something I'm a firm believer, and so I think by doing that itself gets the team just in the mindset of how do we work together and move forward, how do we solve this problem? So you kind of write humanizing it, write the basic little courtesies that we exchange, that really, you know, emphasize the human element. Those are game changers. It is a game changer and it's weird because it's so small and it's not a big thing and it's not hard to do. But I have found that to be a big activity, a major activity, and fostering change and moving it forward and get into that goal after that. Now that that's a pretty quick thing. You set the mood, you get people engage, you get that positivity. But now you need to have a plan right. You can't walk into a meeting with no plan, because you get through that positivity and now everybody says, okay, what are we doing? And if there's no plan behind it or no kind of Straw man idea, then race every way will very quickly say look, I've got work to do. Your waste my time, you know, and you have to understand that those people, everybody in that room, wants to succeed. It's very few people in this world that wake up in the morning say I'm going to go to work into a bad job. Right, everybody want actually, cannot agree more with you. I've found the same thing. Actually, most people have exactly the same goals in life. We like... think we're all very unique and different, but most people want similar things out of life. It's just the paths people take something. Some are more effective, others are less effective. Exactly. So, if you if you know that people want to succeed and people want to do a good job, right. So, then how do you encourage that? Or if you're solving a problem, why did they make a decision that took them a different direction? Right, that was counterproductive throughout the company was doing. So you have to ask you some of those questions. A lot of times it'll come back to the KPIS and the measures. What do they think they were being measured one? What did they think was important? If, from an engagement standpoint for innovation, you have an idea that you have, why? Why are they or are they not engaged in that project? Right? So to understand what they deemed success is and to make sure that's all online with the company and what you're trying to do. Easier said than done. It's very challenging, but it's also it's key to getting culture, change and innovation and a company that's fantastic. The sets I'm getting from what you describing it, Apaco system, is that the KPIS are living guidelines around your road map. They're like you're guiding principles that and define the road map. Yes, yes, you know, absolutely it. There what tell us where we headed as a company? Who Do we want to be? What's important and where should we should focus our effort right now? Sometimes some of these Kpis were achieving our goal. All right, we're delivering on it. So if you're always hitting your goal, then it's either time to wratch it up, that goal and make it harder to achieve, or maybe it served its purpose right. So you may have an important KPR or important goal that you kind of put in the parking lot because it's it's working, and then you bring up one that is not working right and you make that the highlight because that's where you want your folkus focus, your company's intent and if time so, what you're describing.

I'm hearing you say that you do not tackle all at once. We have to have priority to them. You can't write you you have to. It's all about in the world of as any one, hundred and and aerospace, we talk a lot about risk, right. So you have to look at what have you committed and promise your customer base, and you have to look at risk mitigation as well. All right, you want to improve, you want to be best in class everywhere. That's what you want, that's what everybody wants. But realistically, we all live in this world, and so you have to choose with appropriate risk right and with the your customer in mind. Where do we take our time and resources? Right, it's in our engineering team. We're developing new products for a customer base all time. Right, we do have set resources. Where's the right focus? Can you share an example where we have prioritized something over something else, without breaking any confidences and where you had to make a tough choice? But then there is a time for every choice to take its turn. That's a that's a bealy. It's a little tough right now. We have so many projects going on in so many different areas. Yes, I think the here. So we have some internal tools. I got to be careful. What I say here, but we have some internal tools that help us measure our operational commitments on how we're delivering, Right. We know that we can. We can improve those quite a bit by using an external tool called some Microsoft tools for power Bi and analytic tools. All right. So we know that those tools can help us innovate, right, and can help us see through the data faster and better. All right. So we know that's there, all right, but we also know that there are other ways through just our arp data,...

...just pulling, going direct to the ARP data, we can move faster, right, okay, that we can get to the action of its faster. So it's not as an innovative that you would and it's not. It doesn't have that kind of long term feel where you could easily maintain this long term, but allows us to get to some critical actions faster so that we can work on those projects and make those delivery performances, operational performance changes faster. And then we'll come back. We'll come back to the pretty data analytics, will come back to the stuff that's more sustainable going forward into the future. And that's a scenario, that's a preser situation where operationally we said Hey, we should do this because it's got all the sustainability and everything. But we can do this, get some really cool actions in place and drive delivery for our customer better, right, and we just have to do it through kind of manpower and earp data, and then we can come back and put the tools on top of that and and that will create a very sustaining system. That's very helpful to see. So any tool is only as good as the people who use it. Yes, yes, ma'am. How do you promote the right usage of the tool? It's it starts with the leadership engaging with a tool and being sold of the value of it, right, and so you have to make sure that the tool has integrity in the data and the leadership team believes and it's in its value and what it's offering. And then from there you bring it down to typically you, you share that in a broader, more public view within your company. Yeah, I'm also a big fan of not hiding data, right, I don't. I'm not a fan of private data boards and private analytics. You know, the more people that see it, the more people that look at it, it builds the integrity of the data and the buying as you talk, as you shared. So when you transparent with the data, you also have to be clear about the...

...why. But yes, why is it important? Yeah, right. Why do we care about this? Why do we track this? That's as a very good question. Yeah, so usually when you people understand the why, they have better buying yes, yeah, perfect. Absolutely. Any other questions that you wish I'd asked and you'd answer it, or insights you'd want to share? Well, I guess one. I just want to site thank you for this opportunity. I'm passionate about kind of communication. Right now. We're in this scholobal industry. where I'm used to be, I'm used to living on airplanes every two weeks. That that's where I said I I'm either want a plane to a customer site, or I want to airplane to a supplier site, or I want to airplane to one of my own site talk to my own team and support them. So I'm usually on a airplane about every other week. And the world environment we're in with COVID has challenged that and so this year for me is a ben how do I communicate differently? And that I think I've been a fus fix. A lot of innovation there, on our virtual presentations like this, on tools that are message type tools, a lot of different ways to to bring my team together differently than it ever has been, and that's been big on my mind and continues every day. And I think here at Avoca we've made some really interesting changes this year on how we communicate. You know, the teams are not one site, the teams across. We're destroying those is invisible barriers there and we're talking differently than we have in the past and I don't my team specifically as as really challenging that and doing some really cool things are. That is so true and I think it's true all teams everywhere. I think so through as the world has been combatant covid everybody has set to actually think fast a line and really lean on communication. So I really appreciate your time and thanks for joining us today.

Really appreciate hearing your insights. That's been random. Thank you. Thank you, Jasm and thank you for a good day. You too. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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