Friday, December 6, 2013

A Compulsion for Closure...


Bob Shein is a Program Manager for avionics, communications, and navigation systems at Northrup Grumman in San Diego, CA.
I’ve personally known Bob for over 30 years and respect his ability to see the "big picture" on any project and helping to keep a team focused and on task (as well as being a trusted and respected colleague, former business partner, and life-long friend).
Bob is the second guest blogger to appear in the OptiFuse Friday Blog.

"Put that coffee is for closers!..." 
~ Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
A Compulsion for Closure
I have it. I can’t deny it. I like for things to get done!
For me, it’s important to go that "extra mile" and I love that overwhelming personal satisfaction knowing that I did everything in my power to ensure success... whether or not I was truly successful...
Doesn’t everyone have this same personal compulsion?... you know... wanting to do what it takes to make sure all aspects of a project, be it personal or business, are completed to the nth degree?
The surprising answer is... no... they really don’t!
So why I am bringing up this subject?
I suppose I’m mentioning it because I have a lot of experience with projects and trying to get things done.  Hopefully my experiences can help someone else do the same.
I am a Manufacturing Engineer by education, but have had a versatile career developing products from inception through obsolescence. The products cover a wide variety of industries such as telecom, wireless, medical, and defense.
I have started and sold a company with the main contributor of this blog, as well as being a founder of a telecom start-up that was sold 12 years later (at a nice profit nonetheless).
I thoroughly enjoy and value all aspects of producing a new product that someone will actually use.
It begins with the concept,  then R&D engineering, then working prototypes are developed to support the new design.  After which, a manufacturing production line is created to produce the product.  Finally, on-going sustainment maintains and improves the product.
It is because of these experiences, that I believe that I really understand and value collaboration with engineering and manufacturing teams as well as the satisfaction of building high-quality, high-reliability products that meet the customer’s affordability goals while providing the company a reasonable profit.
Over the course of many years, I have had the opportunity to work with conceptual thinkers and idea generators, analytical engineers and design engineers (there is a difference which I can expand on when I get another chance at this blog!), manufacturing and supply chain experts, as well as marketing, sales, training and customer support organizations.
Through many years of hands-on experience, I believe that I have found a key characteristic of certain individuals who know how to succeed.
They seem to all have a compulsion for closure and find a way to push the organization through the finish line.
So what exactly do I mean by closure?
Closure is the ability to estimate and mitigate risks.  It is the thought process needed to avoid cost overruns and the ability to eliminate schedule delays.  Closure is about preventing those recurring mistakes that can doom your product and/or project.
How many of us have experienced similar issues or problems over and over again with our own teams?
One of my personal favorite axioms is the "Three Done Theory."
In case you’re not familiar with this theory, it goes like this:
  1. The team or company announces the product release and consider it done - Done #1
  2. The company starts production and delivers its first shipments but wait: the team discovers a problem that needs to be fixed. You hope it doesn’t cost too much money and time but okay, it gets fixed and now it is really done - Done #2
  3. You’re ready to move forward but then, oh no, another problem pops up.  Ouch, now you start to see negative margins, and you need to manage customer concerns and hope your competitors don’t exploit your recent missteps. Finally, though, you get to the really, really "Done" - Done #3

Finally after 3 costly attempts... the product is finally done... you have nailed the "Three Dones" and by the way... it’s not something to celebrate.  
So how do we avoid getting caught by the "Three Dones"?
Successful companies have a mix of people whose combined strengths help them move the business forward. These key players include idea people, business savvy entrepreneurs, great engineers, and those who will help take the project to closure.  These are the guys and gals who get the work done right and are willing to take reasonable risks and learn from their mistakes.
Great companies also have a mix of leaders and followers. Working together, this group has the ability to integrate concepts into reality while maintaining a creative culture and pride in the outcome. They understand the limitations and are nimble enough to embrace and implement change.
While there is in fact, great companies, closure still comes down to the individual contributors.
These are the people we trust to get the job done. They are the ones who "sweat" the details. They understand their limitations and know how to surround themselves with other bright, intelligent people that augment their skills. They are open, honest, willing to take educated risks, and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They are well-respected, and use their experience, knowledge, and aptitude to do what it takes to deliver the product on time, on budget with very few problems.
Over the years at various companies, I have seen the same problems occur over and over again and I’m constantly asking myself, "Why is this happening again"?  
I inherently know those companies should be able to do better. Why didn’t they just fix it right the first time? Are they lazy? Do they lack the experience, knowledge, and training? Do they even have a "Compulsion for Closure?"  
I think success is contagious. It requires all types of personalities, systems, and an keen understanding of the marketplace.  I have found the following characteristics within many companies and individuals that are keys to a successful venture: 
  1. Have a great idea and network, network, network.
  2. Surround yourself with the right mix of people that can work as a team.
  3. Develop common goals, a plan and be willing to change.
  4. Share the wealth of the organization. Profit sharing as a team is very motivational.
  5. Sweat the details because luck will only take you so far.
  6. Provide excellent customer relations.
  7. And hire the people who know how to close out a project!

Why is it so important to have a "Compulsion for Closure"?
The short answer is that we want success. We want to prosper. We want the personal satisfaction of knowing we have done what it takes to close the deal.
Closing, plainly, gets it done!
Obviously, not everyone has a compulsive personality and not everyone uses that compulsion to find a way to get things done but take a moment the next time you have a task or assignment.
First think broadly, how does what I do impact the company, the other individuals, our products and/or our services?  Then, narrow the focus to the task at hand, while not forgetting the global picture and finally, do what it takes to get it done right the first time.
Do it quickly, don’t cut corners, sweat the details and then finally, don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on what you have accomplished.
I wish all new found "compulsive closers" success and happiness!   
Thanks for reading... and for supporting OptiFuse and my friend Jimmy.
Bob Shein 

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