A few years ago one of my clients, the VP of Global Operations for a $1B manufacturer, asked me how he would know if they were ‘more lean’ than their competition. I asked why that would matter. His answer: “We want to be truly excellent and believe lean is an integral part of that.”
How lean you are is an irrelevant rhetorical question. Here are 5 joint measures of truly excellent organizations.
- Are your employees evangelists for your company? If they are treated with respect and valued, they will be. If they are unappreciated and underutilized, they won’t be.
- Are your customers evangelists for your company? If your performance continually meets their needs and they believe you have a mutually beneficial trusting relationship, they will be. If they experience behaviors from your organization that say you’re not all that committed to aiding their success, they won’t be.
- Are your suppliers evangelists for you company? Stretching out payments to them to finance your cash flow struggles is not the mark of a partnership. Treating them as an underling will not earn evangelistic support. Working with them to develop mutual benefit from the initial stages of product development through the full life cycle will ensure they are evangelists for you.
- Is your community an evangelist for your company? Unkempt grounds, fighting against needed taxes continually, failing to support local charitable activities or provide needed expertise are just a few signs of a company that doesn’t value its community. And the community will hardly be an evangelist praising the organization as a result.
- Are your investors evangelists for your company? If they trust you to invest money wisely, pay dividends when appropriate and build a company founded on ethical behavior, they will be. Don’t confuse traders with investors; they are simply trying to maximize their personal wealth and couldn’t care less about the long term viability of your company. They aren’t evangelists for any organization.
Being more or less lean doesn’t really matter.
If you can answer all 5 of the questions above with a YES, you have built a truly excellent company. To which ever item(s) you had to honestly admit NO, you know what’s missing. A demonstration of continuous lean thinking can create all five of those conditions, if management focus includes all five. But not immediately. It’s hard work.
No company has to be truly excellent, but the best ones are constantly trying to get or stay there.
As published in AME’s Target Online