Just for fun, I spent a few minutes cruising Monster.com to see if anything had changed and, unfortunately, the vast majority of the jobs in automotive require extensive automotive industry experience. With the Big 3 and many of their suppliers in a business free fall, one would think that a little cross fertilization with people from manufacturing sectors that are doing well would make sense. Albert Einstein said, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Makes sense to me. Yet automotive, and many other industries, seem to see themselves as so terribly unique that only people steeped in how things have always been done in their business can solve their problems. More likely, people who only know that particular industry will perpetuate the problems.
I have been reading quite a bit of Hiroyuki Hirano lately, Japan’s heir apparent to Shigeo Shingo. He thinks that corporations no longer ‘belong’ to anyone. Stockholders sell out and leave corporations behind at the first sign of trouble, so their legal claim does not really equate to a sense of real ownership. Managers and employees come and go. Our fathers worked at one company for life, but we are apt to work in seven or eight places before we retire. Companies abandon product lines at will, and customers demonstrate little loyalty. Nobody is really committed to a corporation for the long haul any more.
The result, according to Hirano, is a Darwinian sort of effect. A corporation either constantly mutates on its own, or it dies with no one but a few bankers and lawyers around for the funeral. Mutation, in a corporation, stems from risk. In any industry there are smaller companies and start ups taking extraordinary risks. Most of the risks do not pan out, and the little companies die. Some of the risks do bear fruit, however, and industries are transformed – either as a result of new product or process technologies, or new ways of doing business. The key to a corporation’s survival is to stay on top of all of the innovative things that are going on around the edges of their industry. When something good pops up, they must adopt the innovation, or be left behind
As usual, Hirano makes sense. Many American manufacturers are becoming leaner and developing real breakthrough approaches to battling global competition. The automotive industry will not turn itself around so long as it naively assumes that only automotive people can contribute. Automotive is not the only area in which this thinking is routine. The lesson here for all of us is that a job opening should be viewed as an opportunity to get creative input – a look at how we run our factories from a fresh point of view – and a whole new flood of ideas.
Inbreeding is not healthy for families. It is not healthy for manufacturing either.