The Porch discusses… GXP compliance and quality

fda

Today, The Porch includes a compilation of 7 previous postings that deal with the areas of GXP compliance (mostly relating to pharmaceutical compliance) and the general topic of quality (not settling for less than great).  Hopefully, you’ll find this useful.  And, if you have a topic of interest to you that you would like The Porch to address in the future, please feel free to include your suggestion to me in a comment or separately.  Have one of your “best days yet”!

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The Porch discusses… wisdom

owl

Those that seek to learn from others are wise. So, today on The Porch, we highlight previous posts that quote other, very wise individuals. We cover a broad spectrum of “experts”… from Winnie the Pooh to Benjamin Franklin and everyone in between. If you need wisdom today, you will likely find it someplace in the links below. Enjoy and have a great day!

Leaving it all on the court

basketball 2

There is an illness that affects our society this time of year often called “March Madness.” It not only affects avid college basketball fans, but even those more casual fans get involved. The tournament designed to crown college basketball’s national champion seems to dominant our weekends through the month. After each of the 67 games of the tournament, interviews with coaches and players always occur and a common statement made is, “We left it all on the court. We just had nothing left to give by the end of the game.” This simply means that the players gave every ounce of energy and effort they could to win the game. They left nothing undone.

The concept of “leaving it all on the court” is also a good one for us to consider with our career, with our free time, and, overall, with our life.  Erma Bombeck, an American humorist and author once said,

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” – Erma Bombeck

Leaving it all on the court can mean many different things, but, to me, it can be summed up with a few of these:

  • Taking that trip you’ve always wanted to take
  • Taking a risk by speaking up and saying what needs to be said despite the risks
  • Speaking of risks, getting out of your comfort zone and doing something that makes you uneasy or uncomfortable
  • Learning something new
  • Taking that class, getting that certification, or taking that new job you’ve been hesitant to try
  • Taking the initiative to make a new friend or to solidify an existing relationship
  • Considering and using the talent God has given you that you have, so far, left sitting on the shelf
  • Planning a vacation to someplace totally new
  • Beginning something new that you have been avoiding (better diet, more exercise, more reading, less work)
  • Re-examining what success looks like – Does it have to mean that next promotion, that new car, or a bigger office?
  • Taking a day just to enjoy time with your spouse, your children, or your grandchildren
  • Taking a huge plunge that you’ve been afraid to even consider, such as starting your own business, moving to another state, or retiring early

I think you get the picture. Basketball teams that play it safe, that pace themselves comfortably, and that fail to try something new seldom win big. Those that go all out all the time typically have greater success. And, individuals that live their lives so fully that, at the end, they have no regrets are happier, more fulfilled people. Are you playing it safe or do you need to pick up the pace in your own life?

You’ll know it when you see it

General 207

Today, we start with one of Henson’s Fables:

The Zebra and His Friends

Once upon a time, a zebra wondered into the forest. He was quickly able to win many friends among the other animals. One day, he took a walk with four of his bunny rabbit friends. He paused and asked the first one, “What do you think I am?” The bunny looked at him puzzled and replied, “Why, you are a zebra, of course.” Immediately, the zebra roared like a lion and gobbled up the first bunny.

He then asked the second bunny, “What do you think I am?” This bunny had just witnessed the fate of his brother bunny, but replied, “You walk on four legs, you have black and white stripes, and you gallop like a horse.  You are a beautiful, harmless zebra.”  At that, the zebra roared and consumed the second bunny.

By now, the third bunny was becoming nervous.  When the zebra asked him, “What do you think I am?”, this bunny smiled knowingly and said, “Though you have stripes like a zebra, you are a lion, my friend.”  At once, the zebra roared again and ate the third bunny.

It was now the fourth bunny’s turn for the question.  The zebra asked, “What do you think I am?”  Without hesitation, the fourth bunny immediately turned and ran away as fast as he could.  As he ran, he said, “I really don’t care what you are at this point!  All I need to know is that I am a rabbit… and rabbits run!”

Moral of the story: You are defined by what you do, not by what you appear to be.

We are often very quick to jump to conclusions just by what we see.  When we see a very tall man, we assume he must play basketball.  Tall girls must play basketball or volleyball. Men with perfect hair must be in sales or marketing.  We all have examples we could use in which we generalize about people or their capabilities simply because of their appearance. How wrong we are!  Appearances no more define who we are that the stripes worn by the lion in the story above.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Leaders are defined by how they motivate, guide, and encourage, not by the title they hold, the power they claim, or the volume of their voice.
  • A friend is defined by the support they give, their unending loyalty, their trustworthiness, and the experiences they share, not by the shallow words they use… they are defined by what they do, not merely by what they say.
  • Character is defined by what you do, not be what you plan, promise, or say you’ll do.
  • Integrity is defined by your honesty, your service to others, and by how you make the world a better place, not by your money, position, power, or intentions.
  • Love is defined by commitment, sacrifice, and service, not by plans, potential, petitions, or paper.
  • A winner is defined not just by what you accomplish, but by how you did it.
  • Happiness and contentment are defined by what you feel inside, not by what you have, own, or accomplish.

We must not be fooled by what we see.  Rather, we need to see the inside… that which really counts.

And for ourselves, we are defined by what we do, whether we like it or not. Despite our best efforts to appear to be something we are not, our actions always give us away. Don’t fool yourself… you are what you do.

The Porch discusses… Encouragement

compassion

Today, The Porch features 46 previously posted items that cover the topic of encouragement.  Who doesn’t need to be encouraged from time-to-time?  We need it, and those around us need it from us.  If you are experiencing “one of those days” and you need to find a good word, perhaps you can find it somewhere here.  Have a great day!

The truth about discernment

choices

“Discernment is not knowing the different between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” – Charles Spurgeon

When you boil it all down in the end, it is easy to identify the difference between black and white. However, when asked to differentiate between shades of gray, we often stumble.  I think Spurgeon’s quote above nails it! True discernment is knowing the difference between right and almost right, but I would add one more thing. I believe discernment has an action element to it, as well. So, once you know the difference between right and almost right, your actions must reflect that you know the difference. Many individuals may be able to see the difference, but it is the person of character that acts on that difference.

What are the facts about discernment? Are there components of discernment that should guide our work, home, community, and private lives? Let’s take a look at the facts, as I have learned about this not-so-simple thing called discernment:

  1. Discernment is a key attribute of character – Character is often defined as “doing the right thing, even when no one else is watching.” But, how can you do the right thing if you are unwilling or unable to know right from wrong, much less almost right? Being able to differentiate those shades of gray, then acting appropriately is the definition of character.  You cannot be a person of character if you cannot discern the right thing to do, then actually do it.
  2. Discernment can and should be predetermined – Most individuals have developed a built-in compass that differentiates right from wrong.  Not true for everyone, of course, but most individuals know when they are close to stepping across the line. It is much easier to avoid crossing that line when you have predetermined your actions. Let me illustrate… My wife and I tried to teach our three kids at an early age that they would be faced with temptations and options in life. But, if they made decisions about what lines they would not cross beforehand – before they were faced with the stress of an immediate decision – it would be much easier to just say “no.” For example, if they made a firm, early decision that, under no circumstances would they take illegal drugs, it would be much easier to walk away when faced with that decision with friends. Pre-determining what was wrong, or even almost right, made it easier to make the right decisions.
  3. Discernment can be learned, or at least sharpened – It is never too late to sharpen our discernment skills. Often, discernment is a matter of reflection before reacting. Our internal compass can often show us the direction if we will allow it. But, we can also begin simply asking ourselves this question, “If this right, wrong, or almost right?”  If we cannot say it is “right”, likely, it is an action that should be reconsidered.  Getting into this habit can change our overall discernment compass.
  4. Discernment may determine your ultimate pathway in life – Our ability to properly discern and act will definitively determine our path in life. I know of several individuals that have succumbed to “too good to be true” financial schemes. They relied upon advice from friends or colleagues on a “can’t miss” investment opportunity and lost everything. There are many ways to alter your life by choosing the “almost right” road.
  5. Discernment must not be confused with bias – Individuals often allow their personal bias to taint their own view of discernment.  Discernment has nothing to do with the outward appearance of people – it has everything to do with our own actions, some of which might relate to people.  Choosing to stay away from some people because of their actions or potential actions is discernment.  Choosing to stay away from other people because of their inherent differences from you is not necessarily discernment and may actually be bias.  Don’t confuse the two.
  6. Discernment must not become an excuse for perfectionism – Some individuals fall into the trap of perfectionism under the guise of “discernment.” Being a discerning person does not mean that you fear or avoid making decisions. It does not mean that you must avoid all risks. It simply means that you pause, consider the consequences, and act in the “right” way, whatever that means at the time under the circumstances. Don’t get caught in the perfectionism trap (see this link for more on The Perils of Perfectionism)
  7. Discernment can and should be taught – We need to help others understand the importance of discernment.  Certainly, we should impart this wisdom to our children and grandchildren.  But, leaders of any group of individuals must help guide their team to be discerning and default toward “right” and not accept “almost right”.

True discernment must be lead to positive choices. Otherwise, it is wasted. A person of character avoids “almost right” when “right” is possible and the better choice. It is knowing the correct choice to make, then making it… even if there is a cost or personal risk.

Life is not necessarily easier for the discerning person, but it brings an internal peace and satisfaction that cannot be found otherwise. Are you a discerning person?  Does your character reflect how you deal with the shades of gray in your life?

5 things I have learned from doing absolutely nothing

doing nothing

Have you noticed lately all the articles and blogs that start with, “5 things I have learned from…”  Who ever knew you could learn 5 things from eating pizza, or from your bad NCAA tournament bracket choices, or from an awards show mishap?  So, today, I join the club.  Today, I am highlighting 5 things I have learned from doing absolutely nothing.  Yes, there are some things you can learn when you hit the pause button of your life.  There is a voice that speaks to you in the silence of doing nothing.  When you take the time to just think, there is an amazing number of things that run through your head.  Let’s take a look at 5 key questions, and the actions that these questions can drive, when you let yourself set aside your phone, when you get away to yourself, and just listen to what comes.

Think about your life in the context of these questions when you next find yourself doing absolutely nothing:

  1. AM I HAVING FUN? – When you stop the carousel of your life, take a moment to think about your own happiness. Are you having fun? Or, are you just trudging through life day-by-day? Having fun is not always something that comes automatically. Sometimes you have to take intentional action to have fun. Have you taken time for yourself lately to do something you enjoy? Everyone should have at least one small indulgence each day. And, longer term, you need to plan things that bring enjoyment… an emotional break in your busy life.  Certainly, responsibilities, duties, and expectations typically take precedence. However, when life gets out of balance and you never get a moment to take a breath for yourself, you are affected. Think today about when you last did something intentional to have fun for yourself. Consider when you might do it again. It is important for your own well-being.
  2. AM I DOING WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT? – There are times in life when we become side-tracked with our busy lives. This often occurs because we tend to say “yes” to everyone for every request. As a result, we can become tied to the ‘number’ of things we are doing without considering the ‘quality’ of those things. Is your focus in life on those things that matter most? Are you spending too much time on things that, in the end, will not matter at all? Will the things you worry so much about today even be important at all next year? In the quiet of doing nothing, think about your priorities. Do you need to shift what you do to align with what is important?
  3. AM I PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT I’M DOING? – Many studies have shown that people perform best at activities for which they are passionate.  When your find your passion, there are not enough hours in the day to spend on it.  When work becomes your passion, it is no longer called work. Too many individuals spend the best 40 years of their lives doing something they don’t really enjoy just to earn a paycheck. In the quiet of doing nothing, think about that thing or activity that gives you the most pleasure or fulfillment.  Is there a way to connect that to your life’s work?  One quick example… Perhaps your passion is working with others and helping others find fulfillment. Even if you don’t necessarily enjoy your own work, shift your emphasis to helping others find fulfillment.  If you can expand your work to include your passion, it becomes more enjoyable and fulfilling even to you.
  4. AM I MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO OTHERS? – It is good to often ask this question. Are you making the world a better place for those around you?  Is there a “serve” element in your life? As you listen to that voice you hear in the quiet of your do-nothing moment, consider how you can do more to matter more to those in your life. Do others miss you when you are not around?  It is never too late to begin influencing others in a positive way.
  5. WHAT’S NEXT? – Finally, it is good to contemplate next steps in your life.  What happens tomorrow, or next year, or in 5 years? Do you want to be doing what you are doing today in another 5 years? Have you reached a point that you need to do something entirely different? If so, what action do you need to take tomorrow? Things don’t necessarily happen on their own. We often have to take a step forward to get to a new place.

Sometimes it is good to just do nothing and listen to our own thoughts.  And, when you do, let these questions roll around in your mind.  Are you having fun? Are your priorities right? Are you passionate about what you are doing? Are others being impacted by your life? And, what is next?  What do you need to do differently tomorrow?

So, there you have it… something productive to do when you do nothing.  Give it a try… you might be surprised and happy with what comes of it.  Have a great day!

 

You’d better “Shore up” before it’s too late

Shore up

My wife and I have a pond on our country homesite. We excavated the pond when we had our home built about 7 years ago. We didn’t do anything special around the shore of the pond during all that time. However, there has been some erosion of the soil that would eventually be unsightly, unstable, dangerous, or, just plain undesirable. So, we took on a project to “shore up” the bank of the pond with native rocks we harvested from the rocky soil in our neighborhood. The photo illustrates our project.

As I think about our project, it occurred to me that there are many aspects of our lives and careers that occasionally need a “shoring up” project or effort. The term “shore up” has been around for centuries. Reportedly, it was first used in 1340 to describe the use of a timber or beam to support the sides of a structure. Dictionaries use terms like “prop up” or “support” to define the term.

There are three aspects of “shoring up” some aspect of our life that we anticipate could be at risk:

  1. Proactive – To shore up something is proactive, not reactive. You cannot shore up something that has already failed or collapsed. Before you shore up something, you have already recognized the risks associated with its failure. Thus, you take action to remediate those risks.
  2. Preventive – To prop up or support something is always done before more severe damage occurs. You shore up a structure to prevent it from collapsing. Likewise, you shore up something to prevent damage that might be otherwise irreversible.
  3. Preparatory – You shore up something as a preparatory action for some potential impending risk or danger. Why take the time to shore up or secure a structure that you know will never face adversity. Anticipating potential risks often lead to action to prepare and neutralize the potential harm.

So, what should we consider “shoring up” in our lives? I can think of five key areas to consider. Let’s look at each and consider if some proactive/preventive/preparatory work is needed:

SKILLS – There is never a point in your life or career that sharpening or learning new skills is inappropriate. In today’s highly technical age, learning new skills is essential to simply keep up with the latest in smart phone technology. As an added benefit, when we adopt a continuous learning approach, we tend to stay mentally alert and productive. Why not consider “shoring up” your skill base by learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, starting a blog, adopting a new hobby, or embracing an educational challenge? Unless we work to prop up or support the skills we already have, we may find ourselves obsolete in our ability to properly function in the world or our society. Besides, learning something new is fun.

CAREER – Likewise, today’s workplace is significantly different than it was a few years or decades ago. I am astonished at the pace of change that has occurred during the four decades of my own work career. It is imperative that we frequently shore up our “personal portfolio” to make ourselves relevant in a changing work world. We cannot assume that companies will have your best career interests in mind, so you must manage your own career. This involves creating a broad and deep network of individuals that you know and can lean upon. You must also stay abreast of advances in your technical/work field and anticipate change that will impact your job. It involves being constantly vigilant for new opportunities and ways to expand your skills and capabilities. It involves being proactive, preventive, and preparatory as you look to the remaining years of your career. Don’t assume you will be doing the same job next year that you are doing now. Today is the time to begin your preparation.

RELATIONSHIPS – Those that believe you can successfully navigate through life, work, or play without meaningful relationships are simply deceiving themselves. The treasures of life are not in the money, cars, homes, jewelry, titles, power, or accomplishments of life. These are fleeting and empty, in the end. I count my family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and teammates as the true treasures of my own life. We must nurture these relationships constantly. Without frequent “shoring up”, it is possible that even the best of relationships can dry up or wither away. Time has a way or eroding the shore of our relationship pool. Take the time to re-establish or strengthen those treasures you already have. And, there is no better day than today to become a prospector for new treasures.

HEALTH – It is very tempting in life to become so consumed by our routine day-by-day activities that we never make time to “shore up” our own health. I have known several individuals that always planned to get a complete health physical exam, but put it off until it was too late. Shoring up your own health is nothing more that being proactive/preventive/preparatory for our own good. If you have not had a physical exam in the last two years, consider scheduling an appointment today. If you are over 50 and have never had a colonoscopy, get it done! Colon cancer is almost completely preventable if you have regular exams. Take steps now to prevent diabetes that afflicts so many. Conduct regular breast self-exams. Begin walking, biking, or some other exercise. Make some needed changes to your diet. Do something to enhance your own health before you wish you had.

ATTITUDE – Finally, take a look at your own attitude. Someone once said, “A good day is measured not by what happens to you, but by how you react to those things that happened.” Have you developed an attitude that is negative, ungrateful, defensive, withdrawn, or antagonistic? Are you an encourager or a discourager? You can tell by how others feel after an encounter with you – do you lift them up or drag them down? Are you a can-do person or do you look for an excuse why something cannot be done?  Today is the best day in all of history to shore up your attitude and make needed changes. It not only will make you and others feel better, but it may actually enhance an important aspect of your life, career, relationships, or health.

What do you need to “shore up” today? What part of your life could be harmed or damaged if you fail to take action proactively? Where is the erosion of your life that needs some preventive care? How do you need to prepare today for the risk or opportunity that may come tomorrow? Today is a day for action that could mean the difference for the rest of your life.

Thanks for what you do to make this a better world. And, remember that “this could be your best day yet – there is still a chance.”

The Porch discusses… the best of life

bacon

The Porch has been sharing compilations of prior posts covering specific topics.  Today, we include a listing (with links) for 75 posts talking about all aspects of life and making the best of the circumstances that we face.  Some of these deal with work, some with home, and others simply talk about the things we encounter in our every day life.  I hope you enjoy what you might find here.

Have a great day and enjoy the best of what comes your way today!

Five questions that can save your company $10 Million in a day

value

No, this is not another “too good to be true” advertisement for a new investment opportunity or a solicitation for the newest in consulting approaches.  It is an approach for assessing your operation to reduce internal costs.   This approach simply identifies and recognizes what adds value.  Conversely, things or activities that don’t add value become opportunities.

In today’s world, everyone is looking to reduce costs.  Internals costs are a highly controllable, yet hugely valuable source of revenue that are often overlooked.  Internal costs can often be tapped more quickly than new products, acquisitions, or other organic means of revenue enhancement.  Though not without organizational impact, reducing non-value producing internal costs can also result in operational improvements and enhanced employee involvement or engagement.

Approaches to reducing internal costs are diverse.  Some are simply a decree to reduce costs across the board.  Others involve re-organization or re-deployment of resources. The approach outlined below is a means of assessing the value produced by each organizational function or activity and measuring its against 5 key questions.

The “value assessment” approach I am outlining first involves some preliminary work.  You will need to identify every organizational function (e.g., via organizational charts) and business process (e.g., what activities are performed by each function).  With this in hand and representatives from each function/business process in the room, you simply ask these five questions:

  1. Is this function (process) legally mandated or required by some regulatory body?  In other words, will we run into legal problems if you stop performing these activities?
  2. What value does this function (process) provide to the company? For example, does the function generate sales, product, information, advice, etc.?  What is the work product generated by this function or process?  Ideally, you are looking for work product that has value to the company in some way.
  3. How would our company or our customers be different if we eliminated this function (process)?  In other works, what happens if we stop doing this or eliminate everything about this?  What is the impact in sales, quality, efficiency, etc.?
  4. Would our customers pay extra for this function (process)?  In short, does this function or process enhance the ultimate product that pays our bills?  Is this function or process something that truly makes a difference for our ultimate customers in a way that they would pay extra to get?
  5. If we keep this function (process), what should be changed to make it even more valuable to the company?  Assuming this adds value, what could we do to make it add even more value?

The obvious conclusion for this exercise is that any function (or business process) that is not legally mandated, adds no value, has not positive or negative impact on our company, or is not wanted by our customers should be eliminated.  Yes, it may seem harsh, but the reality is that businesses today have taken on so many non-value activities or functions that we become immune to it.  We begin thinking that because we have always done it or had it or tolerated it, we must continue… no matter the cost.  Even our employees know that activities are not adding value.

By taking this approach and looking at EVERY function (or business process), we can quickly identify opportunities for improvement OR opportunities for internal cost savings.

Let me add a couple words of caution about this process:

  • Try to keep the names of individuals out of the discussion as much as possible.  Sure, some individuals contribute more than others.  However, the goal is to look at functions or processes or activities that add no value.  People performance issues must be dealt with through other channels.
  • This should NOT be viewed as a head-cutting exercise.  It should be intended to identify activities and functions that are not contributing as much as needed to the overall objectives of the company or to the positive experience of our customers. Yes, when you eliminate functions, you impact people.  However, by asking the 5 key questions, you are generating a clear, objective rationale for any such eliminations.
  • Communicate to the workforce what you are doing and why.  Employees need to understand the process and that the goal is to identify and enhance value, not perpetuate non-value added activities that do not benefit the company.  When employees understand the approach, they begin thinking in terms of value generation.  This alone can yield significant enhancements in productivity and elimination of waste.
  • If desired, start the process small.  Look at one or two areas and assess them via the 5 key questions.  If you see benefits in the process, expand it to the entire organization.

Depending upon your company size, identifying and eliminating $10 Million in non-value added waste might be possible in an hour.  For others, any cost reductions are beneficial. As a reminder, assuming your products average a 25% net profit, you would need to generate over $4 Million in new sales to equal the overall impact of $1 Million in existing, internal cost reductions.  When you expand that to scale for your company, you can readily see the potential value.

Give it a try.  And, to all of us, we must be thinking every day, “What value am I adding? How is the company better as a result of my best efforts?  Is my work impacting the customer in a positive way?  How can I add even more value?”  When we shift our approach to consider value in everything we do, we unleash the potential that resides within each of us.

Have a great and productive day!