When Richard Feynman read a white paper, he would read it until he fully understood the stated problem. Then he would stop, walk away from the document and try to solve the problem himself. Now, why would one, no matter how bright and accomplished, take the time to solve a problem that had already been solved? Simple, it is not about the individual issue, it is about improving oneself and, when applied to a company, improving its culture of always thinking of creating a better way.
Years ago, I was just starting my position managing showrooms and just returned from the DPHA conference learning one of our insightful members had found a way to earn another five points on a certain segment of our business. I was so excited. Five points heading straight to the bottom line, what could be better? I listened carefully to their plan deliberately noting every step. When I arrived home, I immediately called a team meeting to get this implemented and earn our extra five points.
After presenting the goal, noting the successful and well-known showroom who had achieved this, I then unveiled the strategy and tactics. I stepped back to listen to the team’s enthusiastic responses. Everybody in the room looked at me as if I was nuts. Negative comments rang out: “We cannot do that to our customers,” “We know what profits we can make” and “We have been selling here for decades, this will never work.”
Frustrated, I went back to my office and stared at the walls for a while. Then I realized, I read the complete white paper but never created a way to earn the extra points in our showroom with our talented people and our culture. I forgot about Richard Feynman challenging himself; I needed to challenge the team. I needed to layout the opportunity, note another comparable showroom had reached this profit label and then build the strategy and tactics with my team. So I met with the managers and we got to work. Over the next few months, we set the goal, the team crafted a plan and we reached the goal. It was beautiful to participate and watch it slowly slip into the culture then deliver the extra profits. I was fortunate to work with such open-minded, talented people.
Even if my team had accepted my presented goal and strategy, that process was the lazy path to take. My team needed to do it themselves. Once they learned another showroom had reached that goal, they knew it was attainable, but they needed to find their own way. We would have to work together, dig into our company and create our own unique strategy and tactics. This process earns a strong buy-in and all employees have a direct stake in its success. The pride they will gain as the new process takes off and the eye-catching results start to show up is priceless on many levels, inside and outside the company. Confidence can be shaken daily, and wins like this go a long way in helping all involved dive head first into other opportunities with gusto and grit.
Additionally, during the process of digging into the company, who knows what else they will discover. They will find and define weaknesses and strengths. The weaknesses can be shored up and the strengths leveraged. With their newly bolstered confidence, your team will have the mindset to tackle most any group or individual improvement project. With that extra gained insight, you will be able to decide where the best opportunities for improvement are and set up a focused goal list for your proud team to research, strategize and conquer.
Best practice discussions are wonderful forums to gain a broader understanding of how like businesses are improving their processes and cultures to yield results in a constantly changing market. But, simply trying to implement processes from outside your culture might deliver a win here and there but at what long term cost?
As you arrive back from a conference with the knowledge of a process that will improve your business, you will gain more if you channel Richard Feynman and enlighten your team to the problem or goal and work together to make it happen.
Great companies have an internal drive to always get better and are always searching for weakness to repair and strengths to leverage.