By Kevin Meyer
The New York Times of all places has a good interview with Shivan Subramaniam, CEO of FM Global, a commercial property insurance company. He discusses a couple of interesting concepts that have some ties to lean manufacturing:
But the bigger picture is to make very sure that everybody in the company has the same goal in mind. That was always the more important thing I learned over time. It matters less what people do or how they do it, but do we all agree on the same goals?
Over the years, that has led to us having very simple goals at our company. We call them “key result areas” or K.R.A.’s. We’re multinational — we’ve got 5,100 people, 1,800 of whom are engineers. We’re very analytical. But we have three K.R.A.’s, nothing terribly fancy. And everybody focuses on them.
Clear, simple goals, focus and alignment. Not ten pages of MBOs.
[In a prior position] I was an analyst assigned to the C.E.O. He would say, “Go look at this” or “Find out that.” I would crunch the numbers, come back, and work with him.
I learned many things from him. He took a long-term view of virtually everything, and he would be very measured, whether it was good news or bad news. Sometimes you could tell that he was angry, because we were going through a crisis at that time, but he would just make very sure that he didn’t react. Privately he might spout off. But in any meeting where there were more than two or three people, he would be very measured and sensitive about how he reacted.
Perhaps some going to the gemba, although I'd have to see more evidence of that. But his CEO mentor taught him to look at data and to respect people.
He’s the one who really started to teach me about the importance of simplicity. Things like, “If you can’t explain it to me in a couple of sentences — what the idea or what the concept behind it is — it’s obviously something you don’t know how to do. If you’ve got to write a whole page to describe something, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Although I'm also guilty of the overly-long explanation, I've been working on this simplicity of communication concept. 140 characters in Twitter is an extreme, but nearly everything should be able to be described in a few sentences. In the past we've mentioned the "five sentences" concept.
Shivan goes on to describe how his upbringing influenced his leadership style, including how his executive father purposely shunned the perks of his office. A nice short motivational read for a Sunday morning.