Friday, March 9, 2012

P4 Lean Strategy: The First P- Philosophy (or Purpose)

Why are we in business? What do we do better than anyone? What are we offering the world? Why do you go to work every day?  Try a quick experiment. Go ask someone you work with why we are in business. If the answer you get is "Duhhhh, to make money, stupid", then you have some work to do as a business owner, manager or LEAN Champion.  If making money is your reason for being, you'll never be happy, because there will never be enough money. My mom told me that when I was 14.

When thinking about identifying your company's "reason for being", I'm not talking about fancy mission statements. To illustrate, my company made the decision that we wanted to become a learning organization. This is a far cry from a "manufacturer of polymeric flooring materials". It also created a windstorm of new activities over the next 5 years as pursuit of this goal became a major part of our business plan. 

Here are some simple starting points that I've seen work well:

1. Why was the business started?  Often, when people start a business, they are passionate about solving a particular problem, or by making people's lives better somehow. Very seldom do people start a business "to make as much money as possible for me at the expense of all others."

2. What are you known for? Fast delivery? The best Technical help? Great innovation? The longest lasting product? Helping out in your community? Whatever it is, let people know in words and in actions! 

3. What are your management beliefs? A good friend of mine asked his employees to bring in photos of spouses, children, parents, friends and he posted them onto a prominent bulletin board in their facility. If you ask people at his company why they are in business, they point to the board! They work hard,  please their customers and go the extra mile for them!  Another friend called all of his people to a "mandatory" meeting and in a somber tone fired all of his employees and after 30 seconds of shock, immediately rehired them all as partners. His management belief was that he could not run the business alone. He immediately went to work on a profit sharing plan based on people's ownership qualities, as judged by their peers.With "ownership" as a philosophy, business results improved exponentially, as did the quality of life for all of his stakeholders.

This could be the hardest "P" of the four. Be patient but persistent, but come to agreement as an organization. Don't make it a task for the marketing department. But, when you figure it out, make sure you let people know about it-teammates, customers, suppliers, family members. Let me know too!! If you don't let people know why you are in business they will assume it is for you to make money for yourself!

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