While poking around for an online source for the Global Intelligence Briefing for CEOs post last week, I came across another article by Herbert Meyer (no relation) that discussed some of the failures at the CIA. For obvious reasons I’m not going to dive into the politics of the article itself, especially since it is almost three years old, but the opening paragraph could be applied to many business situations today:
The current flap over the CIA’s intelligence failures is a perfect illustration of how things work in Washington: If you have a problem and there is a folder on the desk clearly labeled "Solution to the Problem," people will look for that solution under the desk, behind the desk, down the hall, up the street, and over the hill. Only when they have exhausted all possibilities will they even consider opening the folder in front of them. Mind you, they won’t actually do it. They will form a commission to study whether opening the folder might be helpful — and even this only after fighting for a while over the commission’s scope and, more importantly, who gets to serve on it.
Well, it keeps people busy and holds down the unemployment rate. And it makes for some terrific lunches and dinner parties. But of course it postpones actually solving the problem until long after everyone has forgotten about it — which, in Washington, usually is the point.
That almost sums up why many of us in the lean world are bang our heads against the wall when we hear of companies laying off, moving to China or Mexico, begging for relief from "competitive burdens" or even simply closing.
The problem is not high labor costs. If a company making basic t-shirts can prosper in the U.S. while paying above-average wages, any company can. Similarly it is not currency disadvantages, trade barriers, low margin products, or any other excuse. Toyota makes a lot of money building cars… in the U.S.. Danaher makes a lot of money exporting low margin products… from the U.S.. It can be done.
The problem is waste creating cost that creates a competitive disadvantage. The solution is reducing that internal waste. That’s what lean manufacturing and lean thinking is all about.
It’s right in front of you. Learn about lean on Superfactory, read some books, subscribe to this blog and some of the others you see on the left column, and attend some of the conferences you see on the right column. Unless you really want to accumulate all those frequent flyer miles by going to China every month or so to figure out why you have a couple shiploads of bad product floating over here.