My last few posts seemed to spark a greater than usual number of emails decrying me for being unduly ‘irreverent", so I looked it up:
ir·rev·er·ent: adj 1: Showing lack of due respect or veneration; Lacking or exhibiting a lack of reverence; disrespectful.
I stand guilty, but unapologetic, of a lack of respect or veneration for the managers I highlighted in the blog.
Senior management of these companies is not a game with money as the scorecard, and it is not a cold business school exercise. Contrary to professional management thinking, management and leadership are not about numbers, they are about people. An executive position is a trust and all of the stakeholders of the business have a right to expect management to be mindful of the degree to which their lives are in management’s hands. When management of a manufacturing company will not or cannot lead manufacturing to be the best that it can be, and employees, suppliers and customers suffer as a result, they have failed to uphold that trust. The latest blog pointed out that the management of Oneida put over 500 people out of work after a most half hearted stab at lean manufacturing. Fortunately, the men who formed Sherrill Manufacturing have been able to re-employ 135 of them. 365 families in Sherrill, New York, however, are under stress and in trouble. They lost their livelihood due to a failure of Oneida management.
There is another essential facet of Japanese management that, perhaps, is the most important one for Americans to learn – personal responsibility. Thankfully the days of hari kari are in the past. Today, the Japanese manager responsible for the company that puts 365 good, decent hard working people into a deep personal hole would only resign in disgrace.
Instead of such accountability at the big professionally managed, publicly traded American companies, we get business theory rationalizations from people who seem to have no sense of responsibility or shame. Rather, they expect and will probably receive bonuses for their efforts.
Can anyone have respect for companies like Waterpik, who devastate families and communities through an utter failure to competently manage manufacturing, then issue self serving statements about the greater benefit to the community?.
Should we venerate Mark Fields at Ford passing out "Way Forward" bracelets, like the ones used to remember heroes in the War on Terror, while 30,000 American families lose vital paychecks due to Ford’s inability to manufacture economic, quality products?
And General Motors … well, they are General Motors. ’nuff said.
Do I have a lack of "respect"? A lack of "veneration"? You bet I do. How can anyone read statements like the following plan for improvement, spewed from the Russell athletic gear company and have respect for management?
"The continued shift offshore of textile/apparel manufacturing operations, expected to result in pre-tax savings of $22 million to $25 million annually – Expansion of the Company’s newest textile facility in Honduras – Elimination of all knit textile capacity in Alexander City, Alabama – Completion of the movement of sock production offshore – Movement of additional team uniform production offshore – Closure of a higher cost sewing operation in Mexico – The completion of operational changes to Huffy Sports’ backboard business, projected to reduce costs by approximately $5 million on a pre-tax basis – Elimination of remaining Huffy Sports domestic production – Movement of production offshore to a current supplier."
followed by …
"In addition to the cost reductions associated with the restructuring, plans for 2006 incorporate an incremental increase of approximately $0.10 to $0.12 per share in the Company’s investment in information systems and Lean Six Sigma training and development."
Chairman and CEO Jack Ward makes a mockery of lean manufacturing with such tripe, harming everyone of us who is trying to rebuild American manufacturing. If I merely show irreverence, it is because I have succeeded in masking my contempt.
While the blogs that show irreverence are usually the product of a great deal of effort on my part to restrain that contempt, I hope that the enormous respect I have for the founders of Sherrill Manufacturing and the leaders of American Coil Spring and DeCardy Diecasting show through. These people prove my point – that lean manufacturing works, and that those who close factories are only taking the easy way out.
Sooner or later we all get old and gray and we have to look back over our careers and ask if it all meant anything beyond a paycheck. I hope that all of you are in manufacturing because you believe, like I do, that performed well, manufacturing can not only provide you with a paycheck and make money for the stockholders, but it can create a good living for a lot of people; it can generate useful products that make customers’ lives better; it can serve the entire community. The best reason for pushing lean manufacturing is because it is good manufacturing. It makes more money, better products and an overall better quality of life for every stakeholder. Helping companies become leaner is work that is morally worth doing, regardless of how much we might get paid for the effort.
Henry Ford said, "Education is not something to prepare you for life; it is a continuous part of life." Leaders who destroy factories and families by outsourcing manufacturing, rather than aggressively pursuing lean manufacturing, more than anything else, have failed to follow Ford’s wisdom. They have not made the effort to learn, relying instead on their mastery of yesterday’s business principles. Real, flesh and blood, good people pay the price for their ignorance and I cannot respect that. More to the point, John F. Kennedy wrote in the speech he was to deliver in Dallas on that fateful day, "…leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." People who will not learn do not deserve the respect that goes with a leadership title.
How a man can put 500 families out into the streets, send a bucket of money gained from that effort to Wall Street, and then cash a bonus check – how that man can look at himself in the mirror is beyond me. He certainly is not going to get reverence from me. That much I am sure of.