By Kevin Meyer
If that title doesn’t make sense, Google “daruma.” Or pick up a copy of Matthew May’s The Shibumi Strategy – a short business novel that changed my life a few years ago. Perhaps some good holiday reading?
Regular readers know that my real gig is running a medical device contract manufacturing company. Or was, until yesterday.
Last December, a year ago, while doing some hansei on a beach in Hawaii, I realized that yet another year had flown by. The nth in a row. I decided something had to change if I was to have a more balanced life, one where I could pursue other professional and personal goals, and basically live a little more. So I notified the executive team in January of my desire to step down, which kicked off a year-long transition process, and here we are.
The position has been a great experience from many angles, and quite honestly I couldn’t have asked for more. I had owners and a Board who were very open to even the wildest ideas – we even got rid of budgets in literally three days after our CFO and I attended the 2007 Lean Accounting Summit. We tried and learned a lesson from going down the toolhead path to lean, then backtracked and learned the value of asking “why” and then “how.” Along the way we implemented great programs in 5S, TWI, autonomous teams, value stream management, and the like. Lean helped us be successful enough in the middle of a recession to build a new 120,000 sq ft building. Since we understood that the brains of people added value and made us competitive, and weren’t only a cost, we built that building in one of the most expensive states in an expensive country, and we still out-compete “low cost” suppliers from overseas. Sure there were some hard times and really tough decisions, decisions that impacted people and their families, but we did the best we could.
I learned a lot, and that’s fundamentally what motivates me. I learned about running a complex technology business in a regulated industry and about implementing lean in such an environment – the real world vs. what most consultants would have you imagine. And I learned a lot about myself. Although I’d like to think I’ve become pretty good at general management, I learned that I really enjoy coming up with the big disruptive ideas, building something out of scratch from those ideas, and helping others learn. I also learned that I really enjoy being in control of my own time, being able to go for a run on the beach when I want, and being able to travel and see the world. For fifteen years my wife and I have had – and easily exceeded – an annual goal to visit two new countries a year. We’d like to double that while we still can.
So after eight years I decided it was time to move on, even from a great company with great owners that supported doing great things. The transition process has worked out very well, with a great lean leader identified from within the company who basically started taking over for me last July. I’m excited with what he will bring to the table and how he’ll continue to evolve the company.
As you read this we’re on our way to Uruguay for a couple weeks to decompress over the holidays. I guess if the apocalypse happens we’ll get to see it from the air. After returning I’ll start to work on all the projects that have taken a back seat for several years. Gemba Academy continues to grow rapidly, with thousands of customers including none other than Toyota. We’re actually helping teach lean at Toyota! I’ll do more writing, consulting, spend more time advising a couple companies I’ve been working with for the last few years, and I’ll continue to play a role at my previous company.
And I’ll run on the beach and travel. On my own schedule. My wife already has a list of new countries she’d like to visit. As my favorite shirt says, Escape-Travel-Live.
To which I would add, “learn.”
What have you learned about yourself this year? What will you learn in 2013? What action will you take with that knowledge – before it’s too late?
Congratulations Kevin! We are always better when we feel great about what we are doing. Enjoy Uruguay.
Brian Werneke says
Great post Kevin. Shibumi Strategy has been on my list for a while… it just moved up a few notches. I have read all of his other works. I look forward to talking in the New Year, and possibly having you add Vermont to your “new countries visited” in 2013 :-) I expect it to be a great learning year for me.
Congratulations on the next phase. As REM so elegantly put it… “It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.”
Mark Graban says
Congratulations and best wishes on the new adventures!!!
Will you fly into Buenos Aires and take the ferry to Montevideo? I’m guessing you’re going to Punto del Este.
Espero que desfrutan su jubilacion, felicidades!
David Hallsted says
Congrats on avoiding the work world you dirty dog.
I will get May’s book and read it.
Your last suggest, The Five Dysfunction of a Team, has helped me build teams of problem solvers at work who what to improve, versus the typical company program that ends up ignore in a year. So …thanks.
We’ve been to BA several times and love the city, although the country’s leaders are doing everything possible to self-destruct right now. Typically the ferry would be the easiest, but Argentina now charges a “reciprocity tax” if you enter the country, which is set at the same as the cost of a visa for an Argentine to enter the U.S.. It’s not worth paying several hundred just for the hour ride from the airport to the ferry terminal, so instead we’re routing via Sao Paolo, Brazil.
We’ll be doing Montevideo, Colonia/Carmelo, and Paloma/Punta del Este.
Peter Klym says
Congratulations, and thanks, both for your past contributions to stimulating our thinking, and for the fact that it looks like we’ll be getting even more in the future.
I made a similar choice around three years ago, and I can confirm that being in control of your work/”get-a-life” balance, and being able to go for a run whenever you want to, are more important than any considerations of salary or positions of power – if you can get there. And doing so is worth a number of sacrifices….
So maybe see you 3 November for the New York Marathon?
Karen Martin says
Kevin – Congratulations on a well-paved journey – thank you for continuing to share your wisdom & learnings. All the best as you close this chapter and open a new one. May the Lean community to continue to reap the benefits of your zest for sharing your wonderful insights. Happy Holidays!
Joe Dager says
I have come to respect and admire your thoughts through the years and you have helped me in my own Lean Journey. I wish you the best of luck in your new ventures.
Mark Welch says
Congratulations on executing the plan that has led to this flexibility in your lifestyle, Kevin. I look forward to more of your thoughts on Evolving Excellence as well as Gemba Academy.