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Q&A with Peter Christian

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Peter Christian, Speaker, Adjunct Professor and Business Consultant.



How could you describe your career path in few words? 


I started my career as a practicing Industrial Engineer. I chose that profession because it allowed me to deal both on the technical and human side of business. I then progressed from doing Engineering work to managing engineers and engineering related projects. From there I moved into Operations management as a Director for 3 business units. In that role I was directing work in Manufacturing, Quality, Purchasing and Logistics. I then moved from that to directing Quality assurance and then into Research and Development. All the time I was looking to make improvements to my specific areas of control as well as to Operations in general. I then left the corporate world and got into Business Consultation, first working for Lehigh University and then co-founding an extremely successful consulting company (ESPI in Northeastern Pennsylvania). I was president of the company, both running day to day operations as well as directing and working on client projects. 


Everything was aimed towards business improvement. I dealt with over 300 companies throughout the U.S. and into Europe. I then retired from full time work and now focus on writing (I have authored and published 2 business books “What About the Vermin Problem?” and “Influences and Influencers”). I continue to write and publish articles weekly and monthly. I speak on various podcasts about business in influencing others. I teach Project Management and am various educational boards advising and mentoring students. And on occasion I still consultant to various businesses. 

 


How have agile practices transformed companies over the past two years ? 


The business world is changing rapidly. Clients are demanding new and improved services from companies. Those that realize this and deal with it appropriately by changing their offerings and expanding them do very well. Those that do not, suffer and in a number of instances may go out of business even after years of previous success. This includes companies such as Blockbuster Video, Sears, Kodak, Bethlehem Steel and K mart to name a few. They did not anticipate, stay up with or deal with the changes in their industries and paid the worst price, oblivion. They were replaced by Netflix, Amazon, apple and other hand held phones manufacturers, Japanese and Korean steel companies and other online retailers. 

 

Those that have dealt with the changes to business requirements have zoomed in business. Apple now has 70% + of its business in aps and other services than in selling iPhones, iPads and computers. Those are just an end to their big sale and profit items. The world and businesses will continue to change. Those companies that deal with the changes while maintaining their core will do well. 

 


What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out? 


The one that stands out most was my old company, Crayola Corporation. We were the dominant company in the children’s art and craft market. But we faced a new competition that was vying for children’s time, video games and computer time. Children’s leisure time is a big business. Children have many options these days, such as sports, music, computers and the biggest video games. This was an untraditional competitor to Crayola and one that could not be met head on like other art and craft manufacturers. We decided first who our real target audience was. Till then we went from young  child to adult. We decided to target 4 to 12 year olds, where they are at a learning and imagination peak. 


We then focused on materials they would use, crayons, markers, paints and into colored pencils. We then appealed to their imaginations and creative sides. Hand a child some paper, art materials and tell them to express themselves and their thoughts. That is something you just can’t do in any other medium. We didn’t tell them not to do the other things, like game playing, but to set aside time to express themselves, even for just 30 minutes a day. Not only would allow  for creativity but it also helped to enhance their other leisure time experiences. WhaI worked. Not only could we compete for their time, but it actually grew. Our sales zoomed and we were whole in a very different competitive world. 


That is what Agility is all about. Creatively dealing with competition and new entries into your industry.  

 


Will Agile practices continue to generate interest ? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices ? 


I personally worked with 2 of the 3 identifiers of Agility, Dr. Roger Nagel and Dr. Kenneth Preiss. What they did was to not invent Agility, but to identify what successful companies were doing and to define it. And so, Agility was discovered and defined. There was no play book on Agility. Companies did their thing in different ways, but all managed to be very successful. And while not collaborating with each other, they managed to do pretty much the same things, well. These were and still are:


  • Leverage your people’s abilities 

  • Adapt to deal with change 

  • Utilize a virtual organization 

  • Enrich you stakeholders 


These all seem so simple and straightforward. It makes you wonder why more organizations haven’t adapted them. Especially when the success of those that have is so apparent. But they haven’t, even though the information about them is there. Having personally dealt with successful and unsuccessful companies I  can say that some folks just don’t get it. Or, they want to do it there way until it is too late to fix what is wrong. 

 

Companies will adopt Agile practices and will do well, now and in the future. Others will not and will struggle or cease to exist. Why you may ask? Because: 


  • Lack of commitment to change 

  • Fear of change 

  • Know it all attitude 

  • Too cheap to invest in the business and changes 

  • Non understanding of what Agility is all about 

 

None of these make sense, but that is why so many businesses fail. And why there will always be a place for consultants like myself to try to help them. That is all that we can do. The rest is up to them. 

 

 


Publications on Agility :

  • Age of Agile Manufacturing Puts Quality to the Test – Quality Progress May 1999 

 

  • Gaining a Competitive Advantage Through Agile Manufacturing – IIE Solutions, November 1999 

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