Monday, September 01, 2003

Labor Day Thoughts

A cool, rainy, fall-like Labor day. Some thoughts on the workforce, from a Lean perspective.
  • Why does a company exist? Each has it's own reasons, but I believe there is a common reason.
    To make money now and into the future.
    If a company does not make money, it cannot pay its staff. It cannot innovate. It cannot devote any resources to improvement. To lose sight of the centrality of current and future profits is naive and shortsighted.
  • So how does a company make money? By delivering value. That is, a product or service that is worth more to the end user than the price paid.
  • So how does a company deliver value? Through its people. And this is where Labor Day comes in. Only when a company sees its people as the vehicle for delivering value does it start to understand how it can excel. Machines don't deliver value...only people. Companies miss this.
  • So how does a workforce or union thrive? Same delivering value. When a worker or a union sees its longevity linked to how well it delivers value to the end user, the battlelines disappear and the end user wins. Many unions and workers miss this.
  • Eliminating non-value adding activities unleashes real value. And it takes a gutsy management and workforce to look at this with a dry eye.
I ran into an acquaintance this weekend whose core political and economic assumptions are considerably left of mine. After the predictable trashing of several of my values, he asked "So, Joe, how many people has your company laid off in the past few months?"

I quietly looked him in the eye and said "None. And we're hiring...just concluded the latest hire two days ago."


A Lean workplace should steadily be adding value. It esteems deeply the contribution of each associate. And, as in most ways, it turns conventional wisdom on its ear.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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