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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mr. CEO: Tear Down These Silos

I frequently meet with executives who think their organizations epitomize lean thinking. However, upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the implementation of lean thinking applies only to operational functions within the organization. Design is lean. Manufacturing is lean. But what of all the other corporate functions?

Business as usual

A company that adopts lean principles in its design and manufacturing will not be a truly lean organization until it adopts lean principles across all corporate functions, including sales and marketing. In a lean organization, every executive, manager and employee is a stakeholder. Each represents the company. All should speak as one when it comes to describing the company, its mission, and its competitive advantage.

When it's business as usual, corporate functions are silos with limited intercommunication, speaking different languages.

The time is past when companies can afford adversarial relations between marketing and engineering, or between marketing and sales. In a lean organization, we are all marketers and salespeople, and insofar as we use real data and scientific method to achieve predictable results, we are all engineers. We are all engineering the success of our organization.

It may be the role of marketing to formulate the company's message, but the content needed to find, win and keep customers must come from those who design, build, sell, implement and maintain the company's products and services. They need a common language.

Lean is the common language. Any stakeholder from any department can ask the basic lean question of any other stakeholder: how does a proposed course of action take us closer to realizing our strategic objectives? If that course of action was developed using lean thinking, the stakeholder will have an answer.

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