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 Lean Manufacturing 

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Bill Gaw's Top 12
Lean Manufacturing
Articles

The integrated enterprise is not a science fiction phantom; it is not an abstract ideal that you encounter only in text books. The integrated enterprise is alive and well and right in front of your eyes. The integrated enterprise is an organization that is surviving the global economic forces at work at the end of the twentieth century. The manufactur­ing companies that you work in are integrated enterprises. What will determine their fate in the twenty-first century is the quality of leadership within the organization.

Webster defines integrated as formed or blended into a whole; united. How well this integration is accomplished is dependent upon the leadership of the business. The integration will never be complete. It is a never ending journey. We can merely measure where we are on the continuum. The bottom line is the ultimate test. But profitability can be misleading.

Prosperity is and has been the greatest impediment to growth and survival of American manufacturing busi­nesses in this century. Locked into the familiar, trapped by what works, leadership fails to recognize opportunities in a timely fashion. Catastrophe becomes the catalyst for change rather than intelligence and vision. Disaster is the driving force, leadership takes a back seat, and the vehicle for economic growth and future prosperity, the business enterprise, self-propelled through the passage of time, caroms off of the corridors of corporate competition. Crisis management struggles hard, expends much energy in maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, the existing state of affairs is continually being ravaged by the hands of time. As technology and human intellect have evolved, the rate of change has accelerated so that what was not noticeable or comprehensible twenty years ago is today taught in grade school or seen on television. Change is happening faster. And unless your business can react and respond in commensurately shorter and shorter time frames, the fate of the dinosaurs await it.

The role of leadership is to anticipate changes in the business environment and to proactively create an environ­ment within the organization that has the ability to react and respond to changes from both within and outside the company. The integrated enterprise creates market condi­tions, influences public opinion, preserves a healthy ecol­ogy. The integrated enterprise is a major player in its business environment. It unites the elements of the system in which it operates. Therefore the leadership of the integrated enterprise must look not only within its bound­aries but also must be aware of conditions outside the organization.

Leadership must combat the effects of managerial inbreed­ing. Promotion from within rewards performance and loyalty but also preserves the status quo producing blind-
ers to innovation and change. Even when brought in from the outside, executives can fail to see the disparity between the way things have always been done and creative, new ways of running the business. Or the new executive may choose to not take on the institutionalized values, the unwritten policies and accepted practices which define the culture and are defended by the success rubric—it worked, we were profitable. These executives, entrenched in their beliefs about how this business needs to be run, are not leaders. The leader challenges the policies, procedures and practices along with the values and beliefs that drive them. The leader not only questions the way things are done but also challenges everyone to find a better way no matter how successful they've been. Often this means creating a crisis internally, when market conditions and the competition aren't filling the bill.

Without a crisis, no matter what the source, alternatives are evaluated but always come up short compared to the status quo. Without disaster looming, it is too easy to fall back into the old ways, dismissing innovation because it simply wont work here in this unique business. The leader takes on the way things are and is not co-opted by the culture and does not buy into the status quo. As an outsider it is easy to "catch the client's disease," if not inevitable. The top executive must change more than management styles.

In order to be a force to be reckoned with in its economic environment, the integrated enterprise must be itself united and it must be a healthy organization. This is the primary responsibility of the business leadership. The enterprise has three major components. Each is as important as the others. They govern as a triumvirate, a troika.Leadership must deal with each and balance the three throughout the organization, else integration will not be achieved. These three elements of the enterprise are structure, function and culture.

To be Continued


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