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August 11, 2008


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I think you're probably closest to the target when you say, 'Simple, but not easy.' Returning to fundamentals after you're in the swing of things never is. And that applies to anything - sports, business, life in general.

It's purely speculation, but I imagine American automakers have felt the need to make some compromises along the way. How do you handle these tough decisions? Do you pay the price up front to make the needed changes, even if it requires complete restructuring, reorganizing, infrastructure, excessive training, etc.? Or rather, implement steady, progressive improvements to gradually phase out the old and in the new?


I don’t think there’s one answer. Every company and every situation are different. But I do think constancy and commitment play a big part. First, commit to the values. It’s surprising to me how many companies flit from thing to thing. If over the long haul you’re going to win on quality, make it part of every initiative, every message, for years—even decades. If you implement a quality program, stick with it. Most business initiatives fail due to lack of interest. We check and follow-up like crazy for 30 days, less so for the next 90, and in six months we’ve moved onto something else. The employees read these signals. The initiatives die quietly. (I think that some initiatives should die, but should be given a proper burial, complete with an insightful eulogy of lessons learned.)

Will there be a need for compromise sometimes? Sure. But often we deceive ourselves about the “need.” For instance, might American automakers have cut spending on quality initiatives years ago to deliver better numbers to Wall Street. Probably. But look ahead, to today, and see GM with past 12 month losses of -$63B and Ford with -$12B and it at least makes you question if some of these compromises are the best thing for the shareholders (vs. the best for executive near-term bonuses and stock options). Now this is all a bit hypothetical, because I don’t know that industry very well, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t more than a little truth to it.

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  • Bill Aho is a partner with SagePoint Consulting, which uses proprietary innovation processes to create products, services and concepts for businesses. SagePoint serves as an ongoing revenue-producing engine for companies, generating a steady stream of market-driven innovations that are financially attractive, operationally sound and built on strategic growth platforms.

Well Said

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