What can we learn from Goldman Sachs?
Here was the most successful financial organisation since the financial crisis of 2008. Leading the way without favour or subsidy. Everyone wanted to be just like them. How were they doing it - and can we do the same?
Toyota - another paragon in a different field, manufacturing. Worshipped as a God, with even a bible used by believers - "the Toyota Way". The concept, embedded with everyone, that quality and cheapness go hand in hand together down the road to profitability.
Feet of Clay
What lies! Though not in the same league as Enron, or Worldcom, or Park Hampers (for those from UK who are feeling a little left out in the bad guy stakes), it turns out that these gods, these models of virtue achieved their success through lies and obfuscation.
Goldman Sachs didn't in fact make big profits, they lied. Where does this leave those who try to emulate them? Toyota had stopped its focus on quality when it came into conflict with its focus on world domination - admittedly it has only just started to compromise and the faults that resulted were fairly minor, but the spirit of quality which we were told permeated throughout the company turns out to be compromised.
What does this mean to you?
If you, like me, want to be the best, we'll typically find the best performers and imitate them. If we haven't got time to study the best performer itself, we'll take someone else's study and learn that, then implement. Programmes like Kaizen, Lean, Agile, Virginia Mason are being implemented, dare I say thoughtlessly, in organisations both big and small throughout the globe. I believe, to the point where they have lost their point; in many cases they have become self-serving programmes to boost the self-importance of practitioners.
Why, Time Magazine even blamed the credit crunch and world crisis on the MBA programmes - because they taught people to believe in themselves in spite of the facts presented in front of them, and to propagate a system of management which should have gone out in 1930s (task and micro management, at best management by objectives, never people management).
So: use your common sense.
Minney.org Ltd works with organisations to engage staff. To recognise that working together and systems of working will only work (pun intended) if everyone is engaged and can see their contribution to the whole.
Of course you don't want to reinvent the wheel. But choose a system that works for you. Then implement it in a way that works for you. I'll give a unique example:
GP practices (medical practices which have a registered list of patients and see these patients for any major or minor complaint except emergencies, referring them on to hospital or other specialist care when necessary) have no control over demand, nor over income. Demand can vary according to the whim of the patient, the newspaper headlines, or the prevailing wind. Income is set by government and remains static for 3 year periods.
A GP practice has just about complete control over what goes on, and this can affect patient demand.
So a GP practice might decide to implement Virginia Mason lean thinking, reviewing how each process works and refining it.
But Virginia Mason is for repeatable processes, like the situation in a single department in a hospital. At the start of the day, you put out your tray with everything you are going to need for that day, then during the day you work like an automaton. Refills are kept in a particular place, and replenished at set intervals.
The problem is that a GP practice takes all comers, for all sorts of conditions. One person needs a vaccination, another is worried about her son's anger problem. You often don't know in advance.
In this case, finding a repeatable process can be challenging (otherwise we'd do it all by computer), and once you've found one you have to ask "how often, how much time is worth investing in redesigning it?"
Whereas in the hospital next door, or even in the midwife's mother and baby clinic down the corridor, there are clear repeatable processes that would benefit immensely.
What do you think? Can you think of places where you would implement processes, and places you wouldn't?