Delusional Excellence™

Friday, May 18, 2018

President of Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc and AME author

Most manufacturers are working diligently on “getting better.” The question is: for what purpose? I’m frequently told that cost reduction and implementing employee ideas are the goals, and they’re not bad reasons to take action. They are not, however, the reason your business exists. Focusing on them is nice but does not assure the future of your business or engagement of your employees.

Vision and mission are terms that many of us scorn as entirely too esoteric for manufacturing operations. That is a mistake. Meaningful improvement, by definition, moves an organization closer to its vision. Improvement that does not accomplish that is simply change.

While your nearby MBA professor may disagree, your company’s vision is a description of what you are trying to create through your organization’s existence. Your mission is the “why” you are creating that. If those concepts boil down to “keep making money for the owners” you cannot expect engaged employees or long-term viability regardless of how many ideas you see implemented or how much you lower costs.

Customers buy value they care about in ways that meet their needs and interests and employees work diligently for organizations they believe in and that believe in them. When your organization emphasizes those principles in priorities and decisions you’re on your way.

Uber certainly has its problems, but its vision is powerful: bring transportation for everyone everywhere. Imperfect, they are working to improve. Toyota is focused on safe mobility. Imperfect, they work to improve. Ventana Medical has a mission to improve the lives of all patients afflicted with cancer. Imperfect, they constantly strive to better deliver their vision.

Apple’s official mission statement is hardly that at all; it’s more a description of products. The culture of Apple, however, represents its true mission: a collaborative innovative commitment to carefully selected great products to improve lives. People go to work there not to make phones and computers, but to make a difference. They too are imperfect, but not deterred.

Uber, Netflix and Sirius are well-known examples of ‘user-controlled pull’ and “location independence” capabilities. Those businesses make their products available when the customer wants them and wherever she is. Adidas is partnering with Carbon 3D to not only 3D print hundreds of thousands of athletic shoes in 2018, but also to provide individualized value.

Fed-Ex, UPS and DHL are perfectly positioned to offer 3D printing of product and parts. They have the strategic locations, relationships with manufacturers and distributors, and the transportation systems to make it all work. Could those capabilities support your vision and mission by providing user-controlled pull, location independence and individualized value for your customers?

Sometimes improvement is about making your internal operations more responsive or less expensive. Sometimes it is about thinking very differently about how to move towards your vision and mission in ways that meet the changing expectations of your market. Sometimes it is both.

Delusional Excellence™ spotlights progress on internal operational goals. True excellence is improving delivery of your vision and mission in ways that excite all five of your constituencies: employees, suppliers, customers, investors and the community at large.

Don’t confuse the two.