Lean and clichés

RunnersHere we go again! An article about Lean in machine shops today leads off with “In an increasingly competitive marketplace…,” I just could not read further. Has anyone ever met a market that was not “increasingly competitive”? I don’t believe that one ever existed 100 years ago, today, or will 100 years from now. Given that all markets always are “increasingly competitive,” stating it  just wastes readers’ time, for which there is ever increasing competition…

2 comments on “Lean and clichés

  1. Michel,
    I agree the statement “we all face an increasingly competitive marketplace” is not very insightful. However it is worth pondering the word ‘increasing.’ As that does have some significance.

    In the 1950 to 1969 era companies in North America had a significant advantage. The infrastructure in Europe, Russia and Asia was either non-existent or significantly destroyed. So they were at a clear competitive disadvantage. From a competition standpoint, you did not need a lot of employee involvement or insight to know what was going-on in the market place. Your most significant competitors were often housed in the same city. Think Detroit and automotive – GM, Ford, Chrysler and American Motors were all there. And each leadership team pretty much knew what the others were doing. Same type thing was true in Steel and many other capital intensive industries.

    In the 1970’s and 80’s this changed. Companies from Japan redefined quality for anything with a switch (autos, electronics, etc.). Your competition was not quite as easy to see. And from a manufacturing perspective companies in Europe and in Japan had new infrastructure, so they were much more competitive. Indeed the marketplace had become more competitive. As you are well aware this kicked off the Quality Movement – Value Engineering was an important improvement methodology along with TQM and a few other acronyms.

    In the 1990’s and Twenty First Century this changed once again. China became a major player, Russia changed its economic model (at least for the moment), South American companies started to be major players and Europe (prior to the last 3 years) had dominant world class organizations. All of the sudden it became much more difficult to know who the competition is. New players seemingly emerged from no-where. North American and European company leaders were seemingly clueless about “Total Costs” and went on an outsourcing binge (giving away their long term value creation capabilities in many instances). New technologies finally began to drive rapid change and redefine some playing fields.

    ll of the sudden it is much more difficult for a small group of executive leaders to truly know what is happening in the marketplace. Thus increasing the critical thinking skills and capabilities of employees, as well as engaging their passions in improvement endeavors becomes much more important.

    So it would seem to me if someone clarified what ‘increasingly competitive’ means. The changes could be linked to why it is so much more important to rapidly and effectively improve in today’s environment.

    Hey by the way….did you ever read “Escape the Improvement Trap?” If yes…you owe me a note on what you thought about it. ;o) We are working on a new one this year….that I’m quite excited about.

    • Whether you ignore it or face it, the “increasing competition” is always there. You are correct that it takes different forms over time. To say something relevant, why not just start with the specific kind of competition an organization faces today, and what it might face in the future.

      I still have to read your book and review it. Conversely, I was looking through the reviews of my books on Amazon and couldn’t find your entries…

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