Newsletter – January, 2012

On My Mind

Many leaders of organizations are launching new initiatives this time of year in order to improve their organizations. Hopefully these initiatives move each organization towards the vision and help accomplish strategic objectives. The new initiatives should also reflect the priorities of the organization. A question I’m often asked is, “How many new organization-wide improvement initiatives should we launch next year?” A safe, but unhelpful, answer is “Between 1 and 100.” What must be remembered is that people are busy with the day-to-day operations of the organization and that each new initiative will require time, money, and organizational attention. Generally “2 to 4” new initiatives is appropriate assuming they are organization-wide initiatives led by senior executives. There are five questions I like to ask when evaluating a potential initiative. Is the initiative necessary for the organization’s survival? Will the initiative move the organization to a new level of performance on some performance dimension like quality, safety, or profitability? Will the initiative preserve or gain a competitive advantage? Will the initiative produce a desired return on investment? Will the initiative make one or more stakeholder groups extremely happy. The set of initiatives should be periodically reviewed to evaluate progress and to respond to unforeseen emergent events.

Interesting Stories

What happened to the camera? Three British expeditions were undertaken in the 1920s to reach the summit of Mount Everest for the first time. All three expeditions were unsuccessful if they were judged solely by whether the summit was reached. However, the knowledge gained from these expeditions and the way they inspired others are enough to deem them a success in my mind. The expeditions are described in detail in the new book by Wade Davis titled, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. George Mallory, one of Britain’s best climbers, and Sandy Irvine, a young Oxford scholar with little mountaineering experience, disappeared during their summit attempt on June 6, 1924–during the third expedition. The debate continues as to whether Mallory and Irvine reached the summit. George Mallory’s remains were found on Mount Everest in 1999, but neither Sandy Irvine’s remains nor their camera have been found. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa companion, reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953 and are credited with being the first to reach the summit. Perhaps one day the camera will be found and reveal the truth as to who reached the summit first: Mallory and Irvine or Hillary and Norgay. According to Wade Davis, the exploits of Mallory and Irvine shouldn’t be discounted even though they weren’t recognized for the ultimate achievement: “Mallory and Irvine may not have reached the summit of Mount Everest, but they did, on that fateful day, climb higher than any human being before them, reaching heights that would not be attained again for nearly thirty years.”

Company News

I would like to thank all those who helped make 2011 a successful year for Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC. Best wishes to all in 2012.

Intriguing Reads

The new book titled, The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, by Jeffrey K. Liker and Gary L. Convis has some excellent content on Leadership Development, Daily Kaizen, and Hoshin Kanri. Liker in this book–like his others–provides insight into the inner-workings of Toyota.