Leadership: Ordinary to Extraordinary
“People who are content with what they don’t know; happy to remain ignorant about what they don’t understand; complacent about what they haven’t analyzed; and comfortable living with problems they haven’t solved...such people cannot lead!”—John MacArthur, from his book, Twelve Ordinary Men.
Wow! When I read the quote above, a myriad of conversations I’ve had with business owners over the years came flooding back to my mind, and I thought—now, that’s my blog for this week!
Time and time again our system trainers and I have actually been dumbfounded, frustrated and at times disappointed with business owners’ excuses and lack of leadership when it comes to improving their businesses, by removing the chaos, step-by-step.
Let’s break down MacArthur’s quote into four parts:
1. “People who are content with what they don’t know; happy to remain ignorant about what they don’t understand...”
I’ve seen business owners almost in tears concerning the chaos overwhelming them in their day-to-day operations. We’ve often counseled them for hours on how to fix various issues. We have suggested books and white papers to read on the subject, and in the end some will say, “It’s too hard, and besides, I don’t have time and I don’t like to read books.”
What they’re actually saying is, “What I don’t know doesn’t hurt me” (emphasis on the “me”), not thinking about the others around them, like their employees and family. They seem oblivious to others’ pain in having to deal with the chaos in the company, and they often bring home their frustrations, negatively affecting their family, as well. However, I can only assume the pain is not bad enough for them to take the necessary steps in order to get relief and be cured.
2. “Complacent about what they haven’t analyzed...”
In conversations with owners and managers, concerning REWORK in their businesses, they often tell me they “don’t have that much rework.” When I ask them if they track and document their rework, in order to KNOW how much they’ve had for a given period, the answer is usually, “No!” The ones that DO track rework are generally tracking only jobs that they have totally redone. They are NOT tracking ALL the waste occurring in their businesses.
Experienced owners of companies that have been in business for years can easily describe in great detail all of the dysfunctions going on in their businesses on a daily basis, yet they may have never considered this dysfunction as WASTE and therefore never analyzed it. They consider this dysfunction as “normal” or business as usual.
A short list of waste:
- Jobs reworked and misused raw materials (obvious!);
- Downtimes, due to miscommunication from one department to another;
- Slow-downs, due to not collecting all specs from a customer at the beginning of a job in order to complete their order correctly without multiple calls or e-mails;
- Stoppages, due to vendor errors;
- Bottlenecks, due to poor equipment maintenance;
- Schedule backups, due to missed deadlines;
- Log jams, due to shortages of materials or the final product;
- Traffic jams causing overtime pay, due to not reconciling Actual vs. Estimated times; and
- Too many un-chargeable hours, i.e. employee breaks, waiting on one thing or another, and plain ol' “lollygagging,” etc. etc. etc.
There’s a lot more, as you well know.
3. “Comfortable living with problems they haven’t solved...”
This part really puzzles me, and many times I get pretty angry if I see this happening in our organization. My sons, who work in our business, would tell you I have been known to describe this syndrome in the following way:
Imagine stepping in a pile of horse manure, tracking it all over the office, then stopping your fellow cohorts and saying, “This stuff really stinks!”—as if others can’t smell it. (Believe me, they know it stinks!)
Then, imagine going right back to the SAME pile of dung, stepping in it again and again tracking it all over the office or plant and commenting again to the ones around you, “These horse droppings REALLY, REALLY stink!”
Now EVERYONE is stepping in the horse manure—and somehow the one(s) supposed to be in leadership are not inclined to stop and clean it up!
4. “Such people cannot lead!”
I believe the fourth part of John MacArthur’s quote sums it up!
Now for the GOOD NEWS...
Leadership is a decision! Commitment to excellence, even in the small details, takes a business from ordinary to extraordinary!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.