It is September, and most of us get back to work. Not that work has ever been very far, what with Smart Phones and Ipads keeping us connected. Few of us these days dare not to look at their mails for a full two weeks… But that was the topic of an earlier editorial.
We have started a poster campaign in our Group. This way we try to draw the attention of our employees to topics we believe are particularly relevant. You will find the one for September below.
Why change? “If it is not broken, don’t fix it.” Or “Never change a winning team.”
As you know, life is not that simple. There are many reasons we constantly and forever need to improve our ways, procedures, services and systems.
In 1990, I went to collect my brand new BMW 318 Touring. The guy from the dealer explained the functions, one of them being not to do anything to start the car – just turn the key and nothing else. That was a novelty. If you are about my age, you may remember that the first question we used to ask if we had to drive someone else’s car was “How does it start?”. When I wanted to leave, the steering wheel seemed to be stuck, so I went back in. The dealer started the car again, and drove a few rounds on the parking. “There is nothing wrong with the steering. There is no power steering on this car, that is an option you did not take.” I of course felt like the idiot I was, first for not ordering this option and second for identifying the issue correctly.
I do not believe there are many cars on the market without power steering. In addition, cars have become cheaper and have far more standard features than 20 years ago. Car manufacturers which were not able to keep up with these constant improvements have been taken over, or are out of the market.
Our competition is constantly and fast improving. How fast? I do not know, and it is difficult to find out. For our survival, I just must assume they go very fast indeed.
More importantly, our esteemed customers are constantly demanding – and deserving – better systems for a lower price. Better in terms of safety, in terms of delivery times (usually one month earlier than we can really do), in terms of noise, functionality, reliability and user interfaces.
How do we answer these needs? There are many things we do, or try to do, many of them I do not wish to share with you here in public. What I do wish to share is the need to work internally, with our own employees. We are extremely proud of our work force, which is highly talented and highly experienced. However, our Managers tend to be very focused on cost, and have a tendency to assign their team members 100% of their available time to projects. Here we must make a change, and this will be our focus for the coming months. We need to make time available for training. Experienced people need time off to follow training, for instance by suppliers on new developments in the market. Importantly, our experienced people also need time available to train our (many) new employees. We have introduced a rule that ALL employees need to follow at least three days of formal training per year. Some need, of course, more. This is an investment we have decided to make. That is where the poster for the Month comes in.
We need to instil a culture of continuous improvement in our company. Not because there is anything particularly wrong with us today.
It is because tomorrow we need to be better.
Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director
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