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Beware the FAD — Favorite Advice of the Day

Get on the band wagon.  Give in to peer pressure.  Be like a lemming and go over the cliff.  Follow the crowd.  Go along, don’t rock the boat.  Doesn’t sound like good advice does it.  So often we can convince ourselves that we need to be doing what everyone else is doing.  If someone is doing 5S (Sort, Systemize, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) and making sure “a place for everything and everything in its place” as my mother and father tried to teach me, then it must be good for everyone.  I can recall in the corporate world when they took the very good ideas from the plant floor and tried to put them in place in the office.  It’s a bit like the translation of 5S from the original Japanese to English–it does not translate all that well.  What can work well in the Japanese culture does not always work well in the American culture.  Have you had the situation where someone at a high level went to some seminar and came back convinced that it was the “next best thing to sliced bread” and made sure that everyone did that task?  I’m sure some good came of it.  But, I am equally sure that there were some that said “here we go again” with the latest fad for improvement.

What really works is giving people a purpose, making them accountable for key performance metrics, and then getting a little bit out of the way to see people take hold and make things happen.  I hear start-ups talk about culture and its importance as they hire new people.  I see Fortune 100 companies struggling with creating a culture of achievement or innovation or performance.  Warren Buffet was in the news today for his annual shareholder meeting; he wants his son to take over as non-executive Chairman of Board at some point and be responsible for protecting the culture and values of the company he built.

As CEO or the head of engineering or any other department, you’ll likely get lots of advice from others.  It’ll come from your board members, from other heads of companies and departments, from shareholders, from consultants.  You’ll hear things from your suppliers and the government.  Just remember two of the most important groups–your customers and your employees.  In the 80’s I subscribed to MBWA (Management By Walking Around) made popular by Hewlett Packard.  For the last decade it has been Genchi Genbutsu from the Japanese that is loosely translated as “go and see.”  I’ve always liked talking with factory floor personnel and meeting with customers.  I like to understand their challenges and how engineering can make their lives better or easier.

Listen to advice.  Filter it to determine what is best for you, your company and the current situation.  The discussion around creating a statement of vision/mission/values/goals is where the value is.  It gets people talking and working together as a team.  It helps them understand the greater vision and how you are going to measure your success.  For a CEO I spoke with this week, it was saving the lives of newborn infants.  For a colleague last week, it was saving lives by making trucks safer.  For another it was eliminating harmful emissions from engines that cause cancer.  For the non-profit my daughter works for, it is ” to help people prosper through a community of support.”  For Tech-I-M it’s the belief that “Savvy Technology creates Powerful Results” that drives me to help companies succeed by leveraging technology in their products and processes.

So, go out their and get advice.  Talk with people, especially customers and employees.  Make sure it is sound advice and not a FAD — Favorite Advice of the Day.

Just ASK — Always Seek Knowledge™

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