Volume 18 Number 3 - March 3, 2020


We’re in the furniture business.  We sell insurance. We are a supplier to the automotive industry.

While those statements may be factually correct, leaders who make them miss the point of business. Seeing the company as its products portends failure.

My first smartphone was a Palm Treo.  While Palm understood portable phones could offer more than mobility, the company failed to see the potential value lurking. It was too wrapped up in the product.

I could easily give you numerous additional examples, but you don’t need to read them. If you stop for just a moment, you can name them yourself.

Now as you take that brief moment to look outside your business, take another moment to truly examine the value you provide. And more importantly, the value you are not providing.

Operations strategy is often seen as an oxymoron.  Operations is tactical execution focused on improving the product and the way it is sourced, produced and distributed.

That is not the case in the best manufacturing companies.

Those are important activities, and in most situations should be pursued.  But to believe that the value operations can bring is limited to those is amazingly shortsighted.

It is easy to focus on the product; most daily conversations are about it. It’s easy to say we are making what marketing and sales tell us to make.

But that doesn’t relieve the operations leader of responsibility for focusing on what the market values. On what problems shouldn’t exist. Or what problems are inadequately addressed currently.

We all know faster, better, cheaper. 

Do you really believe that’s going to position your business to last another 30 years, much less 100? Do you think offering new colors or bundled packages or faster product performance guarantees the future? Do you believe your customers will want five years from now the same problem solution you told them your product provides?

If your customers’ value-adding thinking isn’t evolving quickly, you’re in a dangerous market. If yours isn’t either, you’re in a dangerous business.

The Palm Treo was a fine product for its time. Perhaps yours is as well. Maybe their operations were as efficient as they could make them. That didn’t really help, did it?

Innovation often solves problems that only the innovator can voice.  The market is the last to say much beyond faster, better, cheaper. Until it says good-bye. Don’t count on it to tell you where your focus should be.

As an executive in a manufacturing company, it’s crucial to detach your thinking from your products.

I don’t want mice in my home or garage. I don’t want to bait a trap and then dispose of a dead mouse either.

While we await the better mousetrap, think not about your products but about problems that shouldn’t exist. Solutions come later.

Who helps you think beyond better, faster, cheaper?

The Starting Pistol

Paul Gibbons:
"Business people need to understand the psychology of risk more than the mathematics of risk."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"Fear of risk usually excludes the highest risk of all: doing nothing."

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