For several years I have been concerned with the question of why the big publicly traded companies find it so difficult – often impossible – to embrace lean in a meaningful, sustainable way. The best lean success stories just about always come from privately held companies.
There are a couple of things that drive this, but I think the apostle John summed it up about as well as anyone:
John 10:11-13 "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep."
Because Wall Street encourages stock to be traded so quickly and easily, and because the modern mercenary 'professional manager' often has no long term commitment to anything but his or her own bank account, employees, factories and jobs are tossed overboard very easily. As soon as the company hits a bit of rough sailing, the people who "work for pay" head for the hills and the employees are left to the wolves.
The lean pillar of respect for people is perhaps the easiest aspect of lean to embrace, but the hardest to sustain. The owner of the private company tends to be in it for the long haul – especially when the owner is running a family business and has the livelihood of generations at stake, and his own name on the product. When tough times come (as they have now) stockholders sell out, hired managers polish up their resumes and hit the road, but real owners are more likely to have a personal concern for their employees, and a real concern for the health of the business when the tough times come to an end.
I am more convinced than ever that only a sharply graduated capital gains tax over a period of at least five years can restore manufacturing to the United States in a big way. A tax of 80%+ on profits in the first year, tapering down to 0% after five years will force stock traders and senior managers to focus on the long term, and to focus on the real long term value adding proposition of the company. The day traders who look to get rich quick will have to leave businesses and their stakeholders alone and head for Las Vegas where they belong.
You don't have to be a Christian to lead a lean effort, but you do have to care about something other than yourself, and you have to have a sense of the long term implications of your actions, and at whose expense you are trying to succeed.