Volume 4, Number 11 - November 7, 2006

It’s not our fault. Our customers are always changing their orders at the last minute. Our suppliers can’t get us what we need when we need it. You’ve heard them -- the reasons given time and time again for why your employees are victims of the incompetence of others.

So what’s wrong with that logic? Isn’t it true that we can’t tell our customers what to do? If our supplier gave it their best, what more could we ask? Before I started my consulting business, one of my bosses made very clear that it was my job to know more about my customers’ businesses than they did; ditto for my suppliers. At the time it sounded insane. How could he possibly hold me accountable for their incompetence?

His simple logic? He was responsible for the profitability of our business. He couldn’t tell the stock market nor the Chairman of the Board that poor results were not his fault. Low sales? His responsibility. Low profits? His responsibility. High costs? His responsibility. He had to look at the market, the business, the competition and find a way to succeed over everything thrown at him. How could he do that with a staff protected in a cocoon, taking responsibility only for their direct reports? He made clear we were not victims of the vagaries of our industry; we had simply volunteered to accept them as a natural part of business.

As we came to accept that we were not victims of anything other than our own mindset, we invested a lot more time with customers and suppliers and began to look carefully at how our processes impacted their ability to help us be successful. Hard work? Yes. A phenomenal learning process? Yes. Root cause analysis, collaboration, problem solving, and communication became extremely important to us because we no longer had the safe harbor of blaming outsiders. It’s nice not being a victim anymore.

The AME 2006 conference held in Dallas a few weeks ago welcomed almost 2000 attendees. A strong majority of the presentations, tours and workshops were very well received. The 2007 conference is scheduled for October 29 – November 2, 2007 in Chicago. Conference facilities are contracted years in advance. Unfortunately the Chicago conference attendance will be limited by the size of the contracted facilities. The 2005 conference in Boston was sold out and the Chicago conference is expected to be as well. Put the 2007 conference on your calendars, but also be prepared to reserve your spot earlier next year. You won’t want to miss it!

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