Toyota’s purpose: “Survive long term as a company by improving and evolving how we make good products for the customer”. In that statement alone is the element of lean thinking.
So, the question must be asked: “What is your organisation’s purpose”? This a difficult question to answer. Martin (2018: 33) says that “purpose isn’t what you do, instead purpose is why you do what you do”. Why are you in business? Why do you make those products or serve those customers? Simon Sinek (link to YouTube) encapsulates this well in asking the question “What is your Why?”.
The packaging industry is a quintessential example of “What’s the Why”?
Flexible packaging, carton boxes, labels, shrink sleeves, pouches, et al, serve an incredibly important ‘why’. The most important component is to keep food safe and fresh for longer and to also decorate it, through print in such a way that the consumer knows what is being purchased.
Is the ‘why’ to “manufacture packaging to help food companies pack and sell food in a hygienic and fresh way to feed the nation”?
Lean is people centric. It is about solving problems together, towards the achievement of a common purpose. As Rother (2019) puts it: “The systematic pursuit of desired conditions by utilising human capabilities in a concerted way”. Without the “why we do what we do”, the purpose, employee business engagement will suffer.
Purpose – Clarity. We all need it, deserve it and if we know what it is, we want it. The simplest definition of clarity is: “the quality of being easily and accurately understood” (Martin 2018). It brings about the effect of “knowing today what we did not know yesterday”.
Clarity helps to negate the conundrum from “we do not know what we do not know” to “we now know what we need to know”
Within the business context, clarity occurs when there is a directed purpose. Purpose is the alignment of the elements (people) within a system to guide behaviour and actions towards goal achievement that are in harmony with a company’s purpose. As Ross puts it: “Unless everyone in an organisation has a clear understanding of why the organisation exists, there is no way to make sure that people are onboard and working together so that the company gets to where it wants to be” (2019:11)
In assessing your own organisation’s clarity, the following questions are posed by Martin (2018: 36):
1- What do you do? (What product or service do you provide to your customers)? It is important to succinctly describe this as by doing so you deeply get to understand your product.
2- What do you really do? (What problem does your product or service solve?).
3- Why do you do it? (What is your purpose).
A Harvard Business Review (2015) article found that those companies with a strong sense of purpose outperformed both those with no stated purpose and those in the early stages of purpose formulation. The article continues to purport that when an organisation’s behaviour aligns with a compelling purpose and a brand promise, customers give that company twice as much share of their wallet over companies that don’t operate from an anchor of purpose.
The next blog post will see the introduction and high-level explanation of the improvement kata as a philosophy to change the behaviour of a system to achieve its purpose through iterative target conditions. My tool of choice.
Stay tuned for more next time………..