Years ago, aluminum executive and thought leader, Bill Schlegel, introduced me to Steven Spear’s book, “Chasing the Rabbit”. Not only is the book a great read but also Professor Spear, through his deep research into organizations who manage complex systems, uncovers a framework for process excellence that sets the rabbits apart from the pack.
The main premise is that whether you are maverick naval officer, Hyman Rickover, building a nuclear program or Alcoa’s Paul O’Neill, striving to build the safest industrial firm in the world, or a manager at the mighty Toyota Motor Corporation, no founder or engineer can foresee all potential outcomes, good or bad, of a complex process. Therefore, starting with the unwieldy birth and throughout its entire life-cycle, that process needs actively managed for purpose and intent.
As business leaders, we encounter multiple, unexpected events everyday within our process that prevent our organizations from meeting Customer commitments. These could be safety events, like a forklift operator losing his load while navigating a corner, quality events, like a product batch that is out-of-spec or maintenance events like the unforeseen shutdown of the plant chiller. What sets the rabbits apart from the rest of us is their absolute refusal to let these events come to pass without taking the opportunity to learn something more about their process that they did not know before.
So the next time you’re sitting through the morning production meeting, listening to the tale of woes from the last 24 hours, don’t get mad – get the four capabilities of process excellence! Because, in the words of my old boss, John Wardzel, “every event is a gift, a chance to learn and to get better”.