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Focus for Success
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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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The eagle that we are using in our word picture is seated high above the terrain on a perch or soaring over the land. This is analogous to the leaders of our companies. The perch is the fancy comer office or the mahogany-paneled boardroom. What is the primary focus that ema­nates from this perspective?

What occupies our leaders' thoughts? What is their vision for the immediate and long range?

This vision should focus on generating profits from the manufac­turing process as outlined above. The generation of profits from get-rich-quick schemes needs to be replaced by manufacturing excellence and meeting customers' needs.

There are several methods to ascertain their real focus. One way is to analyze the company's mission statement. How much of the mis­sion statement is focused on profits and the guiding principles that have previously been articulated? All too often the mission statement deals with a number of secondary issues, thereby compromising the process from the outset. Do the leaders actually know the mission state­ment and use it to direct the affairs of the corporation?

Another test of focus is to study the actions of the leadership. What does their walk indicate? If their words pay homage to the pursuit of profits and the guiding principles, does their walk validate this pro­nouncement?

An example illustrates this. A recent call to a technical support line for a major corporation provided a personal message from the vice president of customer support. He extolled the company's commitment to supply timely and competent support to all their valued customers. After this speech, the customer is on cloud nine. What a great decision to have bought the product from such a company committed to my success.

This euphoria is short-lived, however. After a brief pause, another recording tells you how to get an answer via the Internet or a fax, be­cause they are not able to answer the phone due to too many valued customers. Before you have a chance to digest the inconsistency of the moment, you hear the infamous dial tone as they have disconnected you. Who is fooling whom?

Forward or backward integration, mergers, or spin-offs also reveal leadership's true focus. How many of these corporate gyrations have profit and the guiding principles at the core? How much of their actions go against profits and violate one or more of the guiding principles?

Another indication of proper focus is whose needs are paramount to the leader. Is the leader's focus on meeting the needs of Wall Street, his or her own street, or Main Street? All too often the focus is misdi­rected or blurred at best. Main Street represents earning a profit by meeting customer needs. The rest will take care of itself.

The message to the corporate executive suite is loud, clear, and simple. First things need to be put first. The only valid focus needs to be reinstated, intensified, or maintained as the situation dictates. With­out a clear and valid vision, the company is unrestrained and doomed to eventual extinction. The same is true for corporate leaders.


We, as APICS practitioners, have a responsibility to focus on profit. In fact, it is time, or past time, that we view ourselves in a new dimen­sion. Instead of thinking of ourselves as practitioners, we need to be­come leaders committed to the success of our leaders and our com­pany. This paradigm shift moves us out of the CPIM world and thrusts us into the CIRM environment.

As we have endeavored to lead out and promote, implement, and enhance the APICS body of knowledge, unfortunately we have some­times encountered some pitfalls. These pitfalls continue to plague some efforts to kaizen utilizing benchmarking, cycle time reduction, employee involvement, ISO 9000, manufacturing cells, master scheduling, SMED, supply chain management, and TQM, to name a few.

There are five major pitfalls: broken promises, excuses, unsound theories, reluctance to change, and having our own agenda.

Our corporate leaders have a right to expect us to demonstrate the character quality of responsibility. Responsibility can be defined as knowing and doing that which is expected of me. There are five expec­tations that they want us to fulfill. When we consistently accomplish these, our walk will finally match our talk.

These expectations are:

• results versus promises
• timeliness versus excuses
• reality versus theory
• future versus past
• loyalty versus own agenda.

To Be Continued


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