In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two outstanding conferences celebrating and supporting operational excellence. This week I attended the annual Shingo Conference and had an opportunity to teach the Shingo Institute’s Discover Excellence workshop at host site Whirlpool, in Findlay Ohio. The self-effacing humility of everyone we met at the site belied the outstanding quality and productivity improvements we witnessed on our visits to both the production floor and office. Thanks Findlay, for keeping my expectations for American manufacturing high! The air of mutual respect between management and employees breathed life into one of the most important principles from our Discover class: “Respect for people.” (Whirlpool, for example, donates kitchen appliances to every Habitat for Humanity home that is built.) I’m looking forward to seeing more from the Findlay team as they present at our October 1-2 Northeast Lean Conference.
One week earlier I encountered another inspired group of over 400 top manufacturing executives, state legislators and state support services at the Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Summit in Worcester Massachusetts. While the summit focus was on technological innovation, a memorable quote from panelist Dan Ryan, VP of Corporate Operations for Raytheon, set the tone for a panel discussion on innovation. According to Mr. Ryan, “Innovation equals continuous improvement. Our people are the source of our innovation.” His point was not that technology is unimportant, but rather that it is engaged employees who are the creative force behind these advancements. This was a powerful message coming from a top executive of one of the world’s most highly innovative technology companies and 2008 recipient of the Shingo Silver Medallion. Dan’s comments were quickly echoed by other manufacturing executives on the panel. One conference participant from Draper Labs commented (I’m paraphrasing) “It seems like what began as a panel discussion about nanotech and biotech innovation soon transitioned to a theme of continuous improvement.” Hurrah for Dan Ryan and the other panel executives for acknowledging the source of innovation.
One antithetical incident at the Advanced Manufacturing Summit also caught my attention, however: Just before lunchtime, I was standing at GBMP’s exhibitor booth, in the lobby near the elevator, when a person with a news camera appeared.
“Oh!” I thought to myself, “this is terrific! The news media will be reporting an event that’s important to our economy. They’re waiting for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, to interview him about the conference.”
Then another camera person arrived, and another – and another. At this point my enthusiasm shifted gears. When a well-known television reporter arrived on the scene, I suspected this news coverage was too good to be true. By the time the governor stepped off the elevator and into the lobby, there were a dozen cameras and news people, all postured to pounce. I soon learned the reason for this conclave: The director of the Department of Child and Family Services had resigned earlier in the day amid pressure from the Massachusetts House and Senate. The Governor stopped for about five minutes to answer reporters’ questions and then proceeded into the conference hall. There were no questions about the Advanced Manufacturing Summit or about manufacturing. Who would care about a movement to keep good jobs in our part of the world or about the collaboration between Massachusetts businesses, education sector and government? The was no scandal or greed, nothing potentially sensational or “viral” – just a group of committed Massachusetts businesses trying to partner with state government to create good jobs and keep Massachusetts manufacturing strong.
As the Governor broke off from reporters to give an excellent speech in support of manufacturing, the conclave evaporated. I cornered one well-known local reporter as he walked away with this question:
“Are you going to stay for a couple of minutes to hear the Governor support manufacturing in Massachusetts?”
“I’d love to but . . .”, he laughed.
“Do you know what this event is about?” I persisted.
“No I don’t,” he replied with disinterest, as he hastened to the exit.
“No respect, “ I chuckled to myself. Too bad that manufacturing gets no respect from the news media.
BTW: My next FREE webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, entitled “Going to See” will offer some do’s and don’t’s for managers who are wondering what to do when they “go to the Gemba.” Hope you can make it on Tuesday, May 20th from 3:00 -3:45 p.m EST. (Read more and pre-register here.)