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HELP! I read the whole SMA study guide – but I can’t remember anything!

Sometimes when you read the study guide from end to end, you treat each topic as a separate item to be learned or memorised. But, if you don’t have a picture in your mind about how everything clicks together, and why the information is relevant or useful, it can ‘leak out’ of your mind.

Don’t panic – you probably remember a whole lot more than you realise, but you need to find ways to recall and apply information calmly and easily.
A great way to do this is to make sure you understand what the whole subject is about, and how it pieces together. Then, you treat each separate topic as a piece in a puzzle, or like an ingredient in a recipe.

So – try the following:

1. Think about an actual organisation – one where you work, or like to buy things from. Get a picture of them in your mind, and even do some brief research on them. Visualise the key activities and functions – inbound logistics and warehousing, manufacturing processes, sales and delivery to customers, for example. This may seem like a waste of time – but it gives your brain an ‘anchor’ point. Then, all the knowledge you gain as you read gets hooked up to this, so it stops being ‘theory’ and starts being useful. This is much easier to remember.

2. Carefully think about Figure 1.1 in the study guide (page 16), which is shown throughout. People often ignore this or think it is a waste of time – but all the information in the study guide links to each area of this figure. So, just like a puzzle – it is about filling in the gaps and knowing why each goes there.

3. So – what is the actual organisation you are thinking about trying to do? What does it buy or sell? Do you think the products or services it provides are great or rubbish?

4. Why do you think the organisation is in its current situation – does it know what it wants to do or is it bumbling along?

5. As you think about this – you will start to see the value in Module 1 and 2. Module 1 looks at how the world has changed, and this can help explain how your organisation is performing and what factors are making life hard. For example, globalisation means foreign competitors can come along easily and out-compete you. Changing internal structures make hiring the right people, and keeping them, tough. You can then try and think about what type of strategy it follows, which is covered in Module 2. You will often see companies are not very ‘diligent’ about thinking these issues through. They make stuff and sell it. They often don’t ask why or whether there is a better way – so they can get ‘stuck in the middle’. They talk about ‘great quality’, then cut back on raw materials and employees. They talk about ‘great customer experience’ and then make it difficult for customers to contact them when they are having trouble. There is a lot of conflict.

6. Ask yourself – If I was the boss – what would I fix, change or update? What information would I want before I made a particular decision? What is the biggest competitive threat?

7. If you were the boss – imagine trying to run a business without information about how you are going. You will want to know everything – sales, customers, people, resources, problems. So – instead of scrambling about, you need a system that gives you information quickly, is easy to read, and hasn’t been fudged or manipulated by your employees. Module 3 tells you how to design a system that gives you that information. Beware – if you design a poor system, your employees may take advantage of it – and reward themselves even while your business goes downhill.

Module 4 is all about getting a handle on your costs and fixing up parts of the business so they can be more valuable, and so we don’t waste money.

1. Think about your organisation again – has it ever done something for no good reason? How much money does it waste in a year on pointless efforts, or mistakes? What areas has it avoided that it needs to spend money on to get things working?

2. As you read Module 4 – don’t see it as a list of tables and calculations. See it is as a way of thinking carefully about everything your organisation does – so you can pull it apart and put it back together in a more effective way.

3. Finally – in Module 5 you get to consider the ‘big ticket’ items that will add large chunks of value. A new IT system, a new product, redesigning your offices. If you don’t monitor and manage the cash in these projects they will blow out and may fail to achieve any benefit.

So – every time you read a part of the study guide – ask yourself: How would this help me run a business better? You should find yourself remembering things better and faster than ever before – and getting some real value from studies at the same time.

Only 4 weeks to go – good luck (and sign up below to watch our videos which explain the tricky stuff quickly and easily).

September 15, 2015

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