Monday, June 21, 2010

When Good Minds Go Bad--Chapter 2

The conclusion of the strategic planning session launched a program that sucked millions out of the company, and dragged down the banks who went along for the ride. They were, maybe still are, smart people. They merely overlooked one thing.


Sunny, warm and with a slight breeze, the day promised to rid the boulevards of the ugly, brown snow piles along the road. Dave, the plant manager, was cruising along, listening to National Public Radio. He was going to Brinfield, a suburb near the headquarters, for a three day planning session. Traffic was light.

Half-listening to the story about latest national economic trends, he thought about the others who would be in the planning session. Just part of the company for the past year, Dave didn't know them real well. However, his interactions with them in the past told him he needed to watch a few closely, and listening intently. The true meaning of a few people's direction would be more truthful with their voices and their body language. They could feign approval of another's opinion.

Arriving at the headquarters, a glass-facaded behemoth, he pulled into the parking lot and found a spot in the penultimate row. Because of the long drive, he appreciated the longer walk through the parking lot. Stopping at the reception desk, he was directed to the conference room where the meeting would be held. Three others were already there: two other plant managers and the VP of Marketing.

Jane, one of the other plant managers, greeted him warmly as they converged on the coffee pot and the pastries. "I expect the usual productivity blitz today, Dave," she predicted. "We'll probably end up with a project for every department."

"You could be right. For once, it'd be nice to put our focus around one strategy, allocate the appropriate resources, subordinate the others and really get something accomplished. Maybe we need one over-arching goal. I took a seminar about hoshin kanri, quality policy deployment. It's a methodology that helps determine the one objective for a whole organization that would require everyone to focus on it, because it's a stretch goal. One machine shop set a goal to be able to eat off the shop floor. It required changes in maintenance, operations, scheduling, and so on," Dave said. He then felt bad for delivering a mini-sermon to a conversational tidbit. "Sorry, to go and on about it. I should not predict that we're going to end up with too many goals out of this meeting."

"That's okay. Later, tell me more about this hoshin thing," Jane replied as the VP of Marketing joined them.

"How's the ride up?" he asked. After the merest replies, Chuck suggested that what they really needed this year was great breakout product that took them into new market segments.

"Have something in mind?" Dave asked.

"Yeah, a product that utilizes our expertise in electronics but gets us into the higher volume consumer market," Chuck suggested.

"Hmmm, interesting," Dave replied non-commitally, thinking that the company really didn't have much expertise in consumer products. Hopefully, he'd hear more from Chuck about some new people they've hired to bring this market knowledge. Or if they went this way, it could be a big disaster.

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