I got one of those mass emails the other day that all of you get, the ones with inspirational stories promising good luck and eternal salvation provided you forward it to ten people immediately. I chose to delete it and take my chances with the Almighty, betting that He was not really a party to an agreement linking my email outbox to a ticket to heaven. It included a line, however, that stuck with me … "Love people and use money, rather than love money and use people". It stuck with me largely because it reflects rather succinctly the philosophy of Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller who says the great obligation and the great opportunity of senior management is their unique position in which they can affect hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of lives. The measure of management success is not financial, but in what they do with that chance to make so many lives better.
My brother in law demonstrated a similar spirit this year in a small way. He gave up his Michigan State University football season tickets – a tough thing to do for someone who bleeds green and white like he does. He has had them for years and this was a great year to be a Spartan fan – something that does not happen too often. He owns a business in Detroit that sells HVAC equipment to commercial builders – being tied to construction anywhere, let alone in Michigan, is not much of a business model these days, and he had little choice but to let some people go. He is the kind of guy who measures himself by what he sees when he looks in the mirror, however, rather than by his bank account and there is no way he could live with himself if he were to enjoy company-paid luxuries while laying people off. So the tickets and all of his perks went by the wayside in order to save as many jobs as he possible could.
I have written a couple of times about the idea that leading an excellent company requires such a belief in something bigger than one's self. It is the essence of servant leadership. The heart of the lean principles of respect for people and committing to all of the stakeholders is that a power loop is fueled when people are empowered, enriched and enabled. They drive greater profits, which enables leadership to empower, enable and enrich more people, which drives even greater profits.
An Evolving Excellence reader and a very accomplished lean leader in his own right by the name of Mark Welch has created a blog that fills an important gap – linking lean with basic Christian principles. Along the way he is showing us that the management principles taught from thousands of pulpits every Sunday dwarf anything being taught in MBA programs. Of course Christianity doesn't have the exclusive franchise on servant leadership, and I hope a few of our Jewish, HIndu, Muslim and Bhuddist readers follow Mark's lead and teach us the similar paths that exist from temples and mosques to factories.
This is the polar opposite of the Godfather principle – that 'business' and 'personal' are not to be mixed – that allowing personal beliefs to interfere with business is somehow a sign of weakness. The best managers are those who use the inspiration of the weekend to drive better decisions during the week.
The lean factory cannot succeed in isolation. Ideas like lean accounting, value stream structures, and the right set of performance metrics are all aimed at linking the lean factory with the financial strategy of the business. Now Mark is stepping in to link the lean factory with the power of the manager's deepest and most powerful personal convictions – showing that the lean path contains a body of tools and principles that bring out the best in us.