Volume 12 Number 4 - April 8, 2014


The Finish Strong® monthly e-newsletter is for business leaders who recognize Operations as a strategic function that creates competitive advantage, profitability and brand loyalty to the marketplace.

These brief articles, list of events, and amended quote will make you think.
Go ahead: test us


Those who know me know that I am a sports fanatic, especially college basketball and March Madness. Like most, my bracket was busted on the first Thursday of the tournament, and blown apart by the end of that first weekend. So what have we learned?

1) Great teams can beat great players

They don't always, but they frequently do. And a great team with a few great players who understand their roles? Unstoppable.

2) Great teams have very good coaches

Not many of us would be willing to have our professional futures depend on the performance of a bunch of 17-21 year-old kids who've been told how great they are since birth. Getting the attention of those young men and convincing them to trust their teammates and focus on team success over individual performance can't be easy. But the best teams have coaches with that ability to give and demand respect, listen and convince, and most of all, select players with needed skill sets and develop those required for team success.

3) Experience counts, but only for so much

The Final 4 involved two teams with coaches new to this pressure cooker, and two who have felt it before. Monday's final game showcased one of each. Great coaches can lead through unfamiliar circumstances by putting players in a position to succeed, and by focusing on what is familiar over what is different. It's still basketball.

Customer decisions to do business with you, or not, are an agglomeration of "one and done" business decisions. You won't win every one, but you must win enough of them to be in the tournament every year.

Build a team focused on overall success more than individual records, led by coaches who know how to lead in both familiar and unfamiliar circumstances, and don't think for a minute that your incumbent role can't be overcome by the new kid on the block.


By now every company knows that today's level of performance is insufficient for tomorrow's success. Regardless of the details, we are all working to be better every single day through some kind of continuous improvement process.

Some of those aren't very continuous, and that's a serious problem. But even those that are still face the challenge of basic math. If your competitor started ahead of you and is improving at the same or greater speed, you'll always be behind.

So should you increase the number of week-long kaizen events that seek step-function improvement? Most of those end with more items on the to-do list that don't ever get done than real lasting improvements.

If what you're doing isn't getting you there, something very different may well be required. Doing what you do just a bit better may never be good enough. The need to do things entirely differently is unlikely to be seen in an unwavering focus on continuous improvement.

Maybe a sharp right turn is in order. Step back and take a long hard look. As you work to get better, don't ignore the potential that a major change in your operations may be the only long term answer.


The Starting Pistol:
Colin Powell:
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

The Tape
Rebecca Morgan:
"Those who continue to search for silver bullets may not know how to fire the bullets they already have."

If you know a company — customer, supplier, friend, or your own — that could benefit
from improved operations, let us know.

Your best interest is our best interest.


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