It’s easy to determine whether the leadership of a company truly embraces lean thinking. One of the more frustrating “tells” is the insistence of leadership to precisely follow the path others have taken.
The underlying notion of achieving the same or similar results may be appealing but it does not address why the specific path or methodology was chosen by a given company to begin with. Many automotive companies have learned that lean is not a simple matter of copying and duplicating the practices of a company like Toyota.
If lean is indeed a journey, it is only fair to say that any competitor or other company you have chosen as a model to follow is still in the pursuit of perfection to achieve the ever elusive ideal state. Since we don’t or can’t possibly know what their ideal state could possibly look like, implementing the best practices of other companies is merely nothing more than a starting point.
To be a “copy-cat” or “me too” company does little to differentiate you from the competition. What advantage or benefit will the customer realize if you are just like all the others?
The tools of lean and six sigma are not the concern here. Rather, the concern extends to the very systems and processes of the organization and business itself. It is the underlying thinking that forms the foundation on which the organif the underlying thinking and assumptions
Innovation is Lean Thinking by Design
Differentiation is a trait best demonstrated by a company like Logitech. While some companies simply attempt to make products faster and cheaper, Logitech’s appeal is to offer something more in the product itself.
Consider Logitech’s recently introduced flow technology where a single keyboard and mouse combination can seamlessly switch between two computers as though they were one. Spending a little more money on a premium or advanced product offering is still cheaper than having to buy three of each and also offers the benefit of having more available desk space.
As another example, Logitech recently released the MX Vertical Mouse, an ergonomically designed mouse that improves performance, productivity and reduces the risk of injury that may occur due to prolonged use of the device. Although the design changes are only slightly radical, they demonstrate the never-ending cycle of continuous improvement.
Systems, methods, processes, and procedures are present in every facet of an organization or business. Consider how lean thinking can be applied to increase their effectiveness, improve performance, and ultimately eliminate waste.
As I’ve said before, “What you see is how we think.” I contend that Lean thinking is best demonstrated by what differentiates your company from the competition. The greatest value may be found in those elements that defy logic and the small things that set you apart to position your company ahead of the curve.
Leadership can make or break any organization whether it is business, government, or even a sports franchise. I felt compelled to cite this quote from a column titled “Iconic teams tumble from penthouse to outhouse” as published in the Toronto Star (20-Jan-2012):
And while all have found different routes to the bottom, they do have one thing in common: ineptitude at the top. Find a meddling owner or inept general manager and you’ll find a franchise in trouble.
“Pro sports franchises are first and foremost businesses,” says Richard Powers, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “The same problems that get businesses in trouble are what get sports teams in trouble.”
Clearly, to be successful, organizations require effective leadership. For this same reason, a successful lean initiative must be driven from the top leadership of the organization. I discussed this on our Lean Road Map page suggesting that without executive leadership, the program is certain to fail. This sentiment is also confirmed in “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership” by Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis:
That’s because these problems were in fact leadership problems, not lean process problems. They were a stern reminder that all the investment in lean process in the world will not yield the expected outcomes if it is not accompanied by lean leadership throughout the enterprise, including corporate support departments.”
We also discussed the necessity for lean leadership in our previous post “Lean Leadership – The Missing Link?” As we learn of Kodak filing for bankruptcy and disturbing results for RIM, we are anxious to continue our review of “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership” over the coming weeks. Kodak invented the digital camera and failed to pursue their own innovation. Again, another indication that leadership with a clear vision for the future is pertinent to the success of your organization.
RIM and the BlackBerry
Rumors of a buyout or take over of RIM have been circulating in the media. As an owner of the BlackBerry Bold smart phone and Playbook, I’m hopeful that RIM (or some version of them) will be with us for quite some time. More so, their survival is just as important to our local Ontario (Canadian) economy. Although there are many players in the smart phone and tablet market, Apple appears to be the prevailing competitor to RIM with its iPhone and iPad offerings. All, however, pose a major threat to RIM’s declining presence in the market.
Market Share, Price Points, and Customer Satisfaction
RIM effectively lowered prices for their Playbook product line and that’s great news for customers looking to get a great tablet. While this may help to increase market share and make the PlayBook a real bargain, this does little to appease the many people who purchased the product at full price (myself included). The 64GB PlayBook is now selling for prices ranging from $217 (16GB) up to $325 (64GB) versus the original release prices of $499 and $699 respectively. Whether these price points are closer to reality, a means to increase market share, or a means to simply reduce on hand inventory remains to be seen.
The Product Experience
My overall experience with the BlackBerry has been relatively positive: it works as advertised although I did keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol close by to keep the roller ball working on my old phone. The number of applications available seems to be somewhat limited compared to the iPhone and iPad, however, what I have is more than sufficient for my purpose.
I’m very pleased with the new changes introduced in my new BlackBerry Bold 9900. I finally get to enjoy the benefits of Touch Screen technology while the full keyboard remains in tact and an optical sensor replaces the ever failing “roller ball”. Unfortunately, this upgrade also required parting with cash that I wasn’t planning to spend:
The new style connector required new chargers for car and home.
New USB cable to connect my lap top, again because the connector style changed
I also purchased a Voyager Pro Blue Tooth in keeping with our “driver distraction / hands free” driving laws here in Ontario.
Voyageur Pro – Blue Tooth
I also have a 64GB PlayBook and connecting with my BlackBerry Bold smart phone was relatively simple and seamless. I actually like the ability to tether my PlayBook through my smart phone and the BlackBerry Bridge software works like a charm. The 64GB PlayBook presents better value for the money than the 16GB or 32GB PlayBooks.
Smart phone software upgrades and backups are performed using the BlackBerry Desktop manager through your lap top or desk top. I found some of the applications like Twitter and WordPress did not work correctly when I first upgraded to the latest operating system, however, they seem to have resolved themselves.
I find that accessories for the BlackBerry products are over priced and even Walmart stores carrying these products don’t provide much relief. Here are some of the basic essentials:
You can still use your PlayBook while it’s charging and it’s much faster, more convenient, and stable than the conventional charger.
Connecting BlueTooth devices (also known as pairing) is a simple task and one you’ll quickly grow comfortable with after you’ve done it a few times.
So what’s with the blog post?
The leadership of the company must embrace and deliver the vision of the company to the consumer in the form of product and service expectations. As much as I appreciate my BlackBerry products, I have also admired Apple from afar. Steve Jobs had a great vision for the Apple product line that sees individual products now connecting in ways that were never thought possible. While Apple retained its roots in computers (iMac) it also extended that vision to include the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Quite simply, the Apple product line presents a complete and seamless “digital” solution through improved connectivity, portability, and technologies in general.
Steve Jobs’ vision enabled Apple to drive beyond the limits of our imagination. Few companies have excelled as Apple has to define products that we never knew we needed until they invented them. They simply didn’t refine existing products, they expanded their niche products into a wholly unique offering as only Apple could do. Coupled with connectivity options that exceeded anyone’s expectations, Apple products will continue to define and dominate the market for years to come.
As for RIM, the leadership has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons: shareholder leadership / infrastructure concerns, product valuation, and the procurement of an NHL hockey franchise. As I finished writing this post, a link to this article appeared in my twitter timeline > Bowing to Critics and Market Forces, RIM’s Co-Chiefs Step Aside.
A decision such as this can’t be easy and demonstrates how outside influences can affect the leadership of any organization – good or bad.