It often seems that the full time challenge of parenting teenagers is fighting the role model wars. Having raised both, I’m not sure which is worse – dealing with sons who want to dress, walk and talk like the hip-hop guy they saw on MTV surrounded by a harem of barely dressed girls, or with daughters who want to look like members of the harem in pursuit of someone else’s son sporting the same violent, chauvenistic, material image. Getting kids to look beyond the immediate and the superficial is tough. The long term is sooo far off, and it is sooo boring compared to the flash and glamor of immediate popularity and bling.
Most parents succeed. The kids come around. Things turn out OK. But I have often wondered what becomes of the kids whose parents fail in their efforts to instill a sense of the difference between style and substance. I think finally figured it out. Those kids become manufacturing executives and clients of the Lean Bling Bling consulting community.
How else can you explain a lean expert who boasts of "a wealth of expertise" in bringing about "enterprise transformation" to "Fortune 100 and 500 companies including the Big 3 auto makers"? I don’t criticize SME for bringing this guy in. They have a long track record of providing an unbiased forum for a wide range of people who have something to say about manufacturing and I am sure this fellow deserves a shot. But isn’t boasting to have led the enterprise transformations of the Big 3 and others of their ilk a bit like boasting that you were the engineer responsible for the structural integrity of the Titanic?
So who reads the article and decides to go listen to this ‘lean expert’? People who want to take their company in the same direction as the Big 3 and the rest of the Fortune 100, of course. But who would want to do that? The only explanation I can come up with is that the audience will be people who are not so much concerned about the direction of the company as they are with emulating Rick Wagoner, Bob Lutz, Bill Ford and the turnaround hotshot at Delphi. While their companies may not have much substance, the top guys sure have style. The multi-million dollar paychecks these guys draw for grinding their plants into dust would buy enough bling to drown the average gangsta. That has to be the draw.
The lean expert claims to ave driven some serious cost reductions for his clients. For the Fortune 100 and the Big 3, cost reduction is not a particularly complicated endeavor. The basic formula of (LAYOFF)+(OUTSOURCE)=COST REDUCTION is simple enough to understand and imitate. The critical element the Fortune 100 guys bring to the table is how to execute this formula with style.
The average factory owner out in the heartland loses market share and lays off employees, then hangs his head in shame at his failure to manage and lead. The Fortune 100 guy does it, describes it all as an element of a strategic global rationalization, then collects a bonus and gets himself fitted for a new Armani suit and poses for the cover of Business Week.
Yeah, I can see all of those kids who wanted to be just like whoever was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, or at the top of the MTV charts, now all grown up flocking to Alabama to learn how they can be more like the Fortune 100. The kids who were brought up to look a little deeper at things, however, will probably pass on the opportunity and wait until they can learn from someone who can teach them lessons from Toyota, Pella or Danaher.