• Management consultant

Bonnie Nichols has worked with a variety of manufacturing and service industry organizations as a management consultant most notably in the areas of strategic planning, performance management, supplier quality and continuous improvement. Prior to this she spent over seven years at the BMW plant in Greer, South Carolina, as the quality systems manager and later as the in-house executive consultant and liaison with corporate BMW and "sister" plants in Germany. Earlier in her career she spent three years as corporate quality manager for Lockwood Greene Engineers and over nine years with Florida Power & Light Co. in Miami, Florida. Bonnie is a 1981 graduate of Virginia Tech and holds a B.S. degree in industrial engineering and operations research.

Title Description

Executive Assessment and Coaching

An organization will operate at its most effective and efficient level when the employee base, no matter how large or small, can operate confidently behind the steady and cohesive leadership of a dynamic executive team. While trust and respect are certainly required elements, frequent communication, business understanding, strategic priorities and the continuity of a common purpose and goals are also critical to the company’s long-term success. The objectives in this workshop are to give the lead executive the tools and coaching necessary to properly assess the effectiveness of the executive team, both as a group and as individual members; to work with the executive members as a group to assess their own performance as a team in providing leadership and managing critical resources; and to coach the group while developing a strategy to manage the organization’s efforts to meet its derived goals and targets while communicating to the employee base the current status and resulting priority areas needing improvement.

Strategic Planning

Is your organization healthy and how do you know? Are we operating our daily business in the most effective and efficient ways possible to achieve success? Is our organization or department in good shape for the long-term? In this workshop, executive-level or department management-level participants will learn to employ a proven, yet simple method to create or reevaluate a three to five-year vision with supporting strategic business objectives. This basic five-step process will include assessing current business directives as dictated by the organization’s (or department’s) customer base against perceived key critical processes and success factors. In addition, attendees will further define vision through the development of objective statements and a brief, but comprehensive system of indicators by which progress towards achievement of a vision can be measured. Participants will also learn how to ensure alignment of the strategic objectives at the executive level with all other layers of the organization for maximum effectiveness of communication and emphasis on priority areas indicating need for improvement.

Customer-Supplier Relationship Management

For many manufacturing companies and service organizations, the thought of forming a partnership and signing a contract with a new supplier is almost as disheartening as keeping the relationship with the old or current supplier alive! In this workshop, participants will learn the art of effective win-win customer supplier relationships, and how to establish such a partnership for the long term in both a new relationship as well as in the resurrection of an existing relationship into one that can prosper through communication and newly-found trust. A method comprised of eight simple steps will be employed in a hands-on team setting using real-life issues and decision-making situations. For this reason it is recommended that members from both parties in an existing or newly formed relationship attend the same session. The workshop is designed so that after two complete days, participants from both organizations will have a better understanding of the communication process flow between them and the minimum expectations and basic operational needs of each other. Honesty and sincere collaboration among the group are emphasized, and together, these strategies are effective in building a structured, yet livable, working plan that guarantees a profitable result for both sides involved in the partnership.

Continuous Improvement

This workshop uses a simple five-step process in proactive decision- making and problem solving that is based on the Shewhart Cycle (better known as the “Deming Wheel”). Participants are separated into teams to learn the method while being involved in a real-life application of the steps, tools and techniques. Consequently, it is recommend- ed that two or more individuals with a predetermined topic for study (and needing immediate improvement) take the workshop concurrently to derive maximum benefit for their company or organization. Participants will be exposed to the proven logic flow, basic supporting statistical tools and techniques (i.e., control charts, process capability, histograms, pareto charts, etc.) and how to properly defend one’s view with accurate supporting facts and data. In addition, attendees will also experience the preparation and execution of management presentations in an informative but timely manner.

Relationship Management

In order for any organization to be successful for the long-term, all contributing departments, work groups and individuals must somehow effectively work together. When due dates slip, product quality wanes and poor communication results in a game of finger pointing. In this workshop, participants will learn the art of effective win-win relationships and their benefits, particularly in intra- or interdepartmental situations. Effective communication and trust will be emphasized, and illustrations of proven examples will be demonstrated using a system of role-play. A method comprised of eight simple steps will be employed in a hands-on team setting using real-life issues and decision-making situations. The two-day version of the workshop agenda also includes key process mapping, indicator development/tracking and some team-building activity intertwined with some of the more potentially conflict-provoking steps. Honesty and sincere collaboration among the group are emphasized, and together, these strategies are effective in building a structured, yet livable, working plan that results in a more cohesive and productive work atmosphere.

Performance Management

It has long been known that in order for organizations to be successful for the long-term, management must find a way to more proactively manage its resources. In this workshop, attendees learn how to eliminate the potential for the surprise appraisal by employing a simple system that converts the normally subjective process to one that relies on facts and data. A simple employee job function and assessment matrix will be presented that when coupled with appropriate supporting measurements, alignment of individual job position responsibilities with the organization’s annual business plan, objectives and goals can be achieved. In addition, attendees will not only study the alignment of their subordinates’ responsibilities with their own, but also the alignment of their own to those of their direct management. For optimal workshop results, attendees will also be asked to complete a minor pre-work assignment prior to class, and to bring copies of their most recent annual performance reviews for each of their direct reports.

Process Management

Any organization—manufacturing, service or even nonprofit—has key critical processes that must be managed effectively to ensure the efficient flow of daily operations. When these processes run smoothly, customer satisfaction is assured. However, when these critical processes falter, costly mistakes and customer dissatisfaction can result. In this hands-on workshop, participants will identify and map key critical processes within their own personal job function and responsi- bilities. From this exercise, analysis can then be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the current process flow and the possible obstacles that may be impeding its optimal success. In addition, the workshop will include instruction on basic flowcharting and simple statistical measurement methods with practical application for monitoring process performance against strategic business goals and targets.

Virginia Tech

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