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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Five Secret Weapons of the Corporate Office

We are moving all Nashville office staff and leadership into the Corporate Office building. There we have five secret weapons that, if unleashed, can shorten iteration loops for almost every process. We can react quicker, bring products to market faster and smarter, and cut the man hours it takes to do almost everything.

I learned how to wield these powerful weapons from a Japanese executive for whom I worked in the 90's. I offer those to you, gentle reader, that your career and our company might flourish.

The guru of wielding these secret weapons was "Mr. Oba". I don't know that I ever knew his first name, because the emphasis was on the "Mr." He was the second most powerful man on the org chart when I was a pup. He was the top ranking member of management from one of our joint venture partners and we heard that he was the highest ranking manager from that company ever posted in the U.S. Our President didn't cross him.

He stood about 4' 11" in safety shoes, and looked like a Japanese Yoda wearing a blue company uniform. We hardly ever saw him that he wasn't on his way to or getting back from the airport. He flew overnight to Mexico, toured troubled manufacturing facilities by day, and flew back overnight. He was the most effective Japanese executive I ever met (which is a high compliment in itself) and he had one simple philosophy that we could all quote:

"Go to the actual place,
See the actual situation
Make a good countermeasure"

He was never happy if any of us brought him information that we were given by phone, fax, or email. If we didn't go get it, on sight where the problem was occuring, it held no value for him. We learned the power of going to our co-workers no matter the country in which they worked, talking to them personally, working alongside them to understand their needs and situation, and coming back to Corporate with solid information and recommendations.

Using these methods we can unleash the five secret weapons of the Corporate Office. Those are, in no particular order:

The north stairway
The south stairway
The lobby stairway
The lobby elevator
The north elevator

It takes four minutes to walk from the top floor of the south end of the Corporate office building to the north end of the ground floor. I've timed it. Think about the power in that. Every single non-warehouse employee of the company within four minutes walk from every member of the Executive Leadership Team and the Leadership Team. Every Nashville employee less than 10 minutes walk from the CEO.

Our reliance on email, voice mail, and the rumor mill can be supplanted by the power of face-to-face communication. Cross-functional teams will be just steps away from each other. Got a question? Ask it! If you don't want to ask your supervisor, ask someone else's! After all, everyone in leadership is less than four minutes from wherever you are.

Got a problem with a co-worker or supervisor? HR is in the middle of the building no more than two minutes away. Got a contract issue with an author or agent? Legal is right beside us. Can't get a call returned from a co-worker? Go stand in their cube!

Once we're all in the same building it should be unacceptable to leave voice mail and email for days, or even hours, awaiting a response. Our new corporate tag line should be, “Hit the stairs!”

1 comment:

Matt said...

You are in such a great situation. Every company should be so lucky.