Volume 3, Number 11 - November 1, 2005

Many of you have heard me say this is my favorite book title, even though I’ve never read the book. Whatever is written inside is unlikely to make a more important point than does the title. The book is about closing complex sales, but the title applies so much more broadly. Regardless of your industry, your role, your goal, or your timeframe for getting there, hope is not a strategy.

We’ve all sat through meetings where the conversation was an exchange of sentences beginning with the words
“I hope.” A quick example:

Boss: “Sales seem to be running a little slow this month. Are we going to hit our target?”
Sales Manager: “We certainly hope to. The guys know how important it is.”
Production Manager: “We hope to get any orders received by the 25th out in time to be
included in this month’s sales.”
Boss: “Okay, I hope you’re right. I’m counting on you.”

The word “hope” can imply that both managers have a lack of confidence in making a commitment and an aversion to accountability. The boss “hopes” his managers come through, but reserves the right to hold them accountable later if they don’t. There’s no apparent accountability for him either. The purpose of this conversation is unclear, other than to exchange hopes.

If you’re counting on “hope” to run your business well, by all means you are free to also cross your fingers, avoid black cats, or jump over cracks in the sidewalk. It might not be a bad idea, however, to back those up with a solid strategy.

Try replacing the word “hope” with the word “plan” or the phrase “have a plan.” While that may at first seem inconsequential, the responsibility and accountability that it conveys is not. If key players in your organization do not know how to find root causes or how to develop strategies, tactics or plans, help them learn. But don’t let them believe that hope is a strategy.

As the northeast Ohio business community continues to change from one dominated by large corporations to one led by entrepreneurs, the nature of the private enterprise / community partnership supporting health and human services also changes. Hats off to both Chuck Mintz of Superior Tool and Carmella Calta of Staffing Solutions for sponsoring a recent United Way event designed to help willing small businesses discover ways they can step forward to meet the challenge.

You may notice that two of the three AME events listed above sold out in advance, with the 3rd event only recently advertised. It’s rare for a conference of any kind to turn away registrants and their valuable fees, but it’s happening with greater frequency at AME workshops. What’s so special about AME events? A few thoughts….

First, the workshops are limited in size so all attendees can participate fully. Next, they tend to be show and tell, warts and all. Companies that are well down the Lean path didn’t go there bump free, and most are willing to tell you about the curves, hills, dead-ends, and other diversions they experienced. That’s valuable advance scouting. Thirdly, many manufacturers are gone. Those that remain know that hands-on learning from others is a great way to support efforts to significantly improve operations every day.

Manufacturing is not dead in America. Slow, sloppy expensive manufacturing is dead. World class manufacturing has a chance to survive and thrive. You can learn from people visiting your plant, and you can learn by visiting other operations. AME is one mechanism to facilitate that cross learning. Whether you avail yourself of AME opportunities or others, find a way to get better every single day.

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