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Posts Tagged ‘mindset’

Fashion on-Demand – What it means for Mass Market Apparel

Creativity and innovation have always been at the nucleus of the approximately $2.4 trillion fashion industry. Much like technology, fashion that rules is both dynamic and visionary. It’s no wonder, then, that the two are inextricably linked; that is, fashion and technology. From the very first sewing machine that paved the way for the textile revolution, to the growth of online retail that has led to massive shifts in fashion marketing and distribution, technology continues to influence the rapid transformation of fashion. Today, AI is being utilised to predict style trends and design clothes, and cutting and sewing are already automated. Moreover, virtual fitting rooms, as well as virtual alter egos (avatars) created for online fittings, are predicted to become more mainstream. In a very real sense, technology is automating fashion and shows no signs of stopping. Fashion on-demand Traditionally, the seasonal fashion groupings of spring/summer and autumn/winter practised since the Second World War have prevailed. The gradual rollout of what seasonal styles are predicted to be in demand gave brands ample time to produce the optimal number of clothes for each season. However, this is set to change. In fact, the change has already begun with the rise of fashion on-demand. This major shift sees products being “pulled” rather than “pushed” into the market by designers and buyers. Instead of relying on fashion forecasts or educated guesswork, custom-made production or personalisation is now a major trend, thanks to the help of digital technology. This has caused significant changes in the procurement, production, and distribution processes which were always based on predictions of future consumer demand. The “pull” fashion dynamic, then, implies that restocking inventory can only happen when all units are consumed. Pros and cons of on-demand production Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to the on-demand production model. An upside of on-demand production is the lower capital outlay required, making it ideal for start-ups and small enterprises. It also means lower inventories, as well as greater adaptability and agility. Demand uncertainty is also reduced with shorter turnaround cycles, whilst also allowing for the adoption of a more sustainable small-batch production cycle. Conversely, however, smaller batch sizes can also mean higher production costs, as well as an increase in transport costs if it involves nearshore or offshore production. According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2019 survey report, “Sixty per cent of apparel procurement executives expect that over 20 per cent of their sourcing volume will be from nearshore by 2025.” Data analytics, automation, and the rise of microfactories Harnessing the power of automation and data analytics has allowed start-ups to easily adopt made-to-order production cycles. With major tech companies from CAD development working on digitising and partially automating production (including designing, cutting and sewing), companies can save time and manpower. As a result, producing even a batch size of one can become cost-efficient. So it certainly won’t take long for mass market players to take the cue, and follow a similar model. In fact, major players have already begun taking advantage of the power of advanced analytics to guide their planning decisions and production processes. And although apparel production automation is still at its nascent stages, the technology behind it is rapidly advancing, thereby indicating its huge potential. Examples of major companies that have begun adopting on-demand production include Adidas, Superdry, and Uniqlo. Adidas is one of a group of large brands that are showing signs of leveraging speed to shift towards on-demand. Aside from its Arkansas operation, it operates “Speedfactories” in Atlanta and Germany that together are expected to produce around a million pairs of running shoes a year by 2020, using digital design to enable mass customisation.[1] Superdry launched “Superdry Preview,” limited-edition collections that will go from design to delivery in just 6 weeks.[1] Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing has signalled its intent to produce on-demand knitwear at scale through its partnership with Shima Seiki.119 Shima Seiki produces 3-D knitting and technology it labels “Wholegarment,” which produces seamless knitwear and requires no post-production labour, and anticipates that its tools and machines will enable “mass customisation.”[1] Microfactories also embody the revolutionary impact of on-demand production as they are capable of high-speed, agile garment production. They help speed up prototyping in design studios or on shop floors, as well as enable personalisation and waste reduction. The gradual adoption of innovation Although seemingly antithetical, what this heading means is that leading brands, unlike start-ups, are likely to embrace the principle of on-demand fashion gradually. The reason being that quickly adopting radical changes comes at a high cost, and creates disruptions in the current supply chain. What this means for retailers Automation can make nearshoring more attractive for mass-market appeal retailers and brands, but will also make onshoring more economically viable eventually – for specific products. Using the U.S. as an example, assuming that all key on-demand production technologies are available to all, Mexico would be more cost-competitive compared to going offshore to India or Bangladesh, for example. For Australia, China can remain a viable nearshore alternative whilst going onshore may become even more attractive as more advanced manufacturing technologies become more widespread. Someday, automation technology can make the production of both simple and complex garments less labour-intensive so that onshoring becomes almost inevitable. How to get started Based on the pattern of changes, mass apparel brands and retailers must begin to move toward a demand-focused value chain. To remain relevant, they need to be able to adopt automation technologies and prepare to satisfy consumers who desire personalised fashion. Strategic decision-making Company decisions on nearshoring and automation must be needs-based and must make financial sense. They must always consider the feasibility of nearshoring, as well as the commercial value of lead time reduction. They cannot blindly embrace automation. They should have a well-developed fact base to guide their strategy, and which they can refer to in planning for different product and design types. Essential skills and mindsets To successfully adapt to a demand-oriented supply chain, a consumer-focused and agile mindset is required. The challenge, then, lies in sourcing the right talent in digital or advanced manufacturing technology, and in making intelligent sourcing decisions. Key partnerships The need to have ties with global mega-suppliers to deliver massive manufacturing requirements remains. However, it would be essential for retailers and fashion brands to partner with tech companies specialising in the development of innovative automation solutions. The latter are better-placed to develop disruptive technologies that influence the fashion industry. The change starts now For apparel brands and retailers wanting to forge ahead, this is the time to make strategic changes in their business model. Nearshoring should be adopted as early as possible, even at the risk of slightly lower profits. They should also start collaborating with technology firms, as well as with manufacturers. They should already be identifying key engineering talent they can employ in-house as they prepare to lead the way in terms of nearshore manufacturing and automation. [1] Business of Fashion - The Year Ahead: Mass Market Goes On Demand

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The 5 Essential Elements For a Successful Project

We have depth of project experience, and years of working in the retail industry, on various technology projects. Over this time, we have gleaned some insight into the ways of engaging that get the best long term results for the client organisation and the project, and we want to share some these with you. Projects have traditionally been measured on time, scope and cost, and if measured by this alone, success rates are low. The measures of time, scope and cost are important but not everything. We add to this measure of success by asking: Did the project achieve the business objectives? Did we take the team along with us? Do they own it and is it embedded in the business? There are many moving parts to a project, and the following model helps remind us of some the elements required that contribute to a successful project. I was introduced to the Knoster Model of managing complex change diagram years ago, and I still see it as relevant. You need a lot of things to align to create successful change in business.   Vision Even the most carefully conceived organisational change plans require more than a great business case to be delivered, they also need vision and communication. Consider when an organisation decides to make a technology change. The wrong way lies in informing staff of the change, scheduling training, and expecting them to use it. This will have the effect of many creating workarounds to avoid systems that they find confusing and may have never wanted to begin with (gratefully, we don't see too much of this anymore, most businesses seem to have caught on). Coming up with a vision represents a significant part of the mindset needed to align a team. To create effective change, you must also use communication to explain the vision and sales techniques to boost buy-in. To do that you need good leadership in the shape of project sponsorship. PMI state of global project management (2018) reported, for the sixth year in a row(!), that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the number one top driver of project success. Part of the project sponsors job is to keep the vision alive. If you're interested in developing a deeper understanding of the role of a sponsor and what's expected of them Colin D Ellis has some excellent practical advice to offer. Projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to successfully deliver project scope and meet quality standards than projects without effective communication (68% vs 32% and 66% vs 33%, respectively.) Source: PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2012. Matching Skills to Roles At the start of World War II, the US president selected General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to erect the country’s first foreign intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services or OSS. Donovan had a novel idea of how to get the best staff. Instead of finding people to fit a preconceived plan, he hired the best that he could find and shaped the missions around them. With talents as diverse as playwright Robert Sherwood and future celebrity chef Julia Child, Donovan created an agency that helped to score important victories for the Allied cause very soon after being formed. Consider bringing in the best and brightest for your organisation, then tailor the roles to suit their skills. This can help to build a more vibrant and effective organisation from the ground up. Managing the Learning Curve When embarking on a new project, managers must understand that the staff they will have, whether from inside or outside the organisation, will need training. We should never assume that any training format will lead to great results, but we should tailor learning sessions for optimal effectiveness. The learning focus should highlight training for the job instead of the new system. Teaching staff how to operate the entire system generally wastes time. Staff simply want to understand how the new system relates to what they need to do. The trainer should emphasise connecting functions that relate individual staff roles within the new technology. All need to be educated on the process. Without this fundamental concept, the new project will not succeed as envisioned. The learning process is just as important as the material. Effective training incorporates the needs of those being educated. Some tips on how to run an effective training program include: Training in smaller and more understandable “chunks” Keep the tone of the training light and even humorous if possible Use examples that relate to day to day work Use numerous practice sessions to nail down the details Use input and feedback to make training more effective in the future Incentives As Opposed to Rewards Any vision for a plan of change should include incentives. In this case, incentives mean something different than rewards. Staff get rewards for a job well done. Incentives should reflect built-in motivation to embrace and put effort toward making the change plan a success. In other words, explain to the staff what’s in it for them. If the new project can help to reduce workloads and makes processes easier, communicating these facts should serve as part of the vision and the plan. The team must see that the effort expended to make a change will work for their benefit, as well as for the organisation at large. Resources People, time, communication, and tools all serve as important resources in making an organisational change plan work. Organisational leaders must understand that all represent limited resources. Many organisations bring in energetic talents with a can-do attitude, then heap project after project onto them. While they cheerfully accept all challenges, they also spread their time increasingly thin. This prevents them from putting their best work into any project, much less all of them. For some organisations, time represents one of the rarest resources. A study showed that many offices waste up to 20 per cent of their time on procedures and processes. Another area of time expenditure lies in meetings. Leaders should make a point of emphasis to run efficient meetings that start on time and end early, if possible. I am sure we have all experienced being in a meeting that could have been an email; however, stakeholders having to work through emails or ask around for updates is inefficient communication. Avoid this by establishing communication channels as part of the project plan. Action Plan One of the first steps toward creating a plan of action lies in first considering constraints. Setting aside what the organisation cannot currently do creates boundaries around the plan and prevents it from veering into non-productive tangents. You should also consider coming up with at least an outline of a plan prior to any other part of the process. This can guide you into making wise decisions about communication and resource allocation. Make sure that you have what you need in place before executing the plan, or you risk a false start that wastes resources and may even kill the project altogether. Getting a project to work properly involves more than having an idea and ordering its implementation. It involves crafting and selling a vision, communicating it effectively, than using effective planning to execute it. Following these tips will make sure that your project ends up as more than just another binder on a shelf collecting dust.

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Giving and Receiving Feedback

Feedback: Tips to help calm the nerves I was recently asked to contribute a ‘customer’s perspective’ to a room full of people who are delivering to customers (like the one I shared with this software vendor). It took a lot of time and thinking to come up with a way to frame up a few insights in a way that I hoped would be heard by the audience I was speaking to. I kept coming back to Brené Brown's (BB) advice and guidelines in ‘Dare to Lead’. I’m paraphrasing her advice on feedback, but the things that stood out for me were: Make sure you’re bringing the right intention Preparation is key; prepare yourself and the other party. Self-preparation is thinking about what it is you’re trying to get across, what the desired outcome looks like. If you need to write it down to help sort through your thoughts, then do that.  Try to consider the situation from as many points of view as possible. If you’re delivering a message that might be hard to hear, let the other person know that something is coming they might find hard to grapple with. BB’s advice; don’t give feedback until you’re ready to sit next to the person you’re talking to. If you can’t sit next to them and put the problem in front of you both to work on together, then you’re not ready. It’s a simple yardstick and I am a fan of things that are simple and easy to remember. It’s a great ‘guide’ for my own state of mind and whether I am coming from the place of problem-solving or coming from hurt or annoyance. Examine even poorly delivered feedback for truths There are those truths that you have a visceral reaction to, which to me is the ultimate tell on whether feedback contains truth and over years of living and learning I have gotten better at noticing this when it happens. I had a recent experience on a project where I had sat with a team several times to talk through the approach and assured them they were part of the decision-making process and would be consulted, but I kept getting feedback from the project sponsor that they didn’t feel heard. It was difficult to hear and to figure out what to do with this information because I felt like I had given it time and attention. I had restated in as many ways as I could that we were not moving on without including them in the decision process. We did finally have a breakthrough when the project sponsor explained that the horizon for this piece of work was shorter term than they were expecting. A lesson in continuing to look for the source of the problem! Build on what’s already working Sometimes it’s hard to name exactly what is working, especially if you feel like nothing is. This article in HBR challenged some assumptions around feedback and why we think it’s a good thing. My lived experience is that there are some things that it’s hard for me to see about myself, and when others have shared their observations, I’ve found that helps to better understand how I might be perceived and to potentially adjust my behaviour. And this one didn’t come directly from BB but from me; it’s about making things more palatable and acknowledging that we’re all bound to fall flat on our faces from time to time Bring a bit of humour and humanity with you If we’re not talking about life-threatening situations where security of state or person is at risk, injecting these conversations with a bit of light laughter at the situation, at ourselves and at the flawed condition of being human can make difficult conversations easier to navigate. The more we normalise being clear about ‘what’s working/ what’s not’ and having conversations directly with people, rather than putting energy into getting agreement from others on what annoys us, the easier it becomes to listen for ‘what’s useful’ and improve our working relationships. To discover more - contact me or comment below to share an experience you've had.

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Energy Audit: How Do You Manage Under Pressure?

In this article Tony Schwartz shares some alarming numbers he sees when conducting his 'energy audit' with groups of senior managers and leaders: 77% said they had trouble focusing on one thing at a time. 80% said they take too little time to think strategically and creatively, and spend too much of their time reacting to immediate demands rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage. 54% said they often feel impatient, frustrated or irritable at work, especially when demand gets high, How effective can people possibly be when our energy is so compromised? Which is to say nothing of the distraction, impatience and irritability that we can end up taking home with us to the ones we love the most! Maintaining energy is not something that only senior mangers need to focus on, it's relevant for all of us. This article reminded me of an energy exercise I did too. "Energy is like a bank account" said Nikki Fogden-Moore, "think of the things that you do and the people that you’re with as either making deposits or withdrawals in that account." I am writing down, in two columns as instructed, the things that renew my energy in column one and the things that deplete it in the other column. As I’m finishing this exercise I can almost feel the light bulb go off over my head. I can choose to manage some of the additional pressures when I’m under work pressure to keep the pressure cooker from exploding and leaving a mess on the walls by just making some small adjustments that will keep my energy levels in a better place. It was a great exercise and I highly recommend that you give it a go, it's really a head space that you need to get into to really think about what renews and what depletes.  Here are some simple guides that I’ve developed over years of project delivery to keep myself nice(ish) when the delivery tunnel hits. Reduce the stress by reducing contact (where possible) with people and situations that are a stretch. This doesn’t mean I get to opt-out of project delivery or stop working with people who I find difficult, dysfunctional or not as diligent and competent as hoped. That must continue to get the project finalised and over the line with everyone in the best possible state. It means that channelling what I have into the project delivery and family is all there is. Almost everything else must pause; therefore reducing pressure in areas of my life I can control. Opting out of some of the more discretionary social engagements, and opting in to things that create good sleep and help me to maintain my health (both mental and physical). I will catch up with those people after the project pressure has passed. Getting each day off to a good start has been a continuous improvement project for years! I’ve varied my morning routines over the years and often get fed up with it and change it about. The fact that the guy who owns the café where I’m sitting just greeted me with ‘it’s like groundhog day’ means that others note there’s a routine. Habits and routines reduce decision making, which means some tasks like exercise and what to eat for breakfast go onto auto-pilot. If I don’t have to decide it makes it easier. We’ve been talking about good habits this quarter (internally) and the 6R team are all committed to morning exercise and getting moving. Some of us are more committed to caffeination than others though, but we all try to... Find ways to create little mental breaks in the day. Building in small sanity breaks also makes the day easier and keeps us as a team, in better mental health (even just a walk to move the car). It gets the body moving and gets us out from behind the screens to just take a little break. I’ve also, this year, adopted a small break approach to holidays. This was not the exact plan, but when I  found that a ten-day break was just not workable, we made the best of five days and found that it was more than enough! Doing something different from the regular routine meant I returned feeling refreshed with new energy. Not to say that there isn't more to go on the development side - no one is ever done on the improvements but these small and practical things have helped me get through energy slumps.

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Decision Making is Easy (when you ask the right questions)

"In good decision making, frugality matters," says Malcolm Gladwell;taking complex problems, and reducing them to the key levers that help us choose is a critical skill. Getting to the heart of the decision, however, isn’t always so easy! I was recently reminded of this; a project team spent weeks designing, dreaming and negotiating what could be achieved with their new website design. There was a list of requirements that was like an out of control Christmas list, and everyone was very excited at the idea of something new that would improve the customer experience. But one thing had been forgotten. Just a small matter of how much they had to spend. We’ve all been there, beer budget but champagne taste (I do it all the time). So, in the end, the decision was easy and the constraint of having to work within the budget helped them decide. Constraints help the decision making process I  noticed a similar pattern years ago whilst waitressing. When customers came into the restaurant, if there were no bookings, it didn’t matter where they sat. Gesture to the restaurant's ‘sit anywhere you like’ would result in much debate back and forth.  They would often choose one table only to move to another and then another. Whereas, if I gestured to a specific table and said, "would you like to sit here?" customers would either accept the offer or ask to be seated at another table. It’s that old chestnut about cognitive load. If the decision is made for you, it is either accepted or not, but being forced to make an active choice and decide for yourself from the whole restaurant is much harder. The project team were constrained by the limitations of what they had to spend. How much time and effort could they have saved by getting this basic building block in place before the requirements even got underway? The decision could have been made a lot earlier in the project. Finalising the budget and the business case before the project starts helps make the decision process smoother because it’s obvious to everyone the boundaries we’re working within. As soon as we were able to articulate the right question(s) the decision was easily made. Projects are all about working with constraints. Usually, there’s limited budget, time and people.  Clearly articulating the constraints that are going to drive a decision early in the process, can save a lot of time and energy and reduce frustration and disappointment all around. Why does restricting options help us to get on with good decision making? There has been a lot written on the topic of 'choice' and I particularly like the advice of Sheena Iyengar, who highlights 4 ways to help with decision making: (Read more)

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Persistence and Practice; Project training essentials

Years ago, I worked on a project where we took a legacy horse race rating system used by a bookmaker and upgraded it to a modern technology platform. I spent a lot of time with guys who were professional gamblers, they were incredibly knowledgeable about horses and horse racing. They had a methodical practice that took hours each day, doing what they called, ‘rating the race.’ This was a practice that to an external observer (me) involved watching the same horse race over and over again until you had gleaned every last piece of information possible from it and had ‘rated’ (or scored) each horse in that race. After that, the race itself would be rated, and so would many other details that they had been trained to look for. This bespoke system they had developed of rating horses, races, conditions and riders all contributed to their knowledge about how the horse would perform over time. What they had observed over years, was that a horse would improve incrementally for a period but was also capable of ‘jumping’ very quickly up a few levels in performance and it was this jump that they carefully watched for in their rating statistics. It was their ability to be ready for improvement that gave them a competitive edge. Like horses, us humans, can sometimes give the impression of making an improvement very quickly the quintessential “overnight success.” Improvement requires practice and it’s never quite clear when we’re learning something new, when we’re going to improve or whether that breakthrough will happen at all. The constant practice and search for improvement can be a bit daunting and demoralising at times. This week, I was lucky enough to be present for one such improvement breakthrough moment. One of the users we’ve been working with on a project appeared in the doorway of the cupboard/ workroom that we’ve tucked ourselves away in. “I’m so happy, I have to share!” He was beaming from ear to ear. He went on to explain his breakthrough. He has been on the project team since the beginning and has been an active participant the whole way, but it has been difficult terrain. His commitment has never wavered, but we can tell that he’s struggled with the way the new system works, there have been a lot of confused looks and ‘why are we doing this?’ moments over the last few months.  His breakthrough was the result of persistence and practice. He reminded me of the importance of practice, and the absolute necessity of training for the job that people will do with their team. It’s a much more exploratory to learn but it pays off in these moments when someone gets the reward of their own efforts. We’ve spoken before about what it takes to deliver training in a project.  Over the many projects that we've worked on, and people that we've worked with, we learn more about how to better deliver training.  This breakthrough highlighted to me, the importance of persistence and practice. In this situation, we had also used the technique of having a ‘training buddy’ someone to work things out with, a fellow explorer in the new system. This mirrors a development practice in agile process, where two developers work together at the one screen. So the week's learning has been: Practice, practice and more practice! Celebrate the breakthrough moments (we did!) and acknowledge people for their persistence; Buddy up – two heads have more observation power than one! If you are struggling with the best way to train on a new system, get in touch.  We buddy up with retailers to equip internal teams for the project efforts ahead. Our project management tools are light and flexible for retailers. The 6R team work behind the scenes, leading through project management, testing, training and team building to deliver project success.

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