Customer Focus?

Here’s some not-so-interesting news that I believe indicates not being focused on the customer and the subsequent focus on waste elimination. Harley-Davidson is changing their ticker symbol on Wall Street from HDI to HOG. Read the press release here.

How is this an improvement, really? Were people trying to buy Harley stock, but couldn’t guess the ticker symbol? Will the listing on the stock section of the newspaper double as an ad that sells more motorcycles? Will stockholders pay more for their stock, or riders more for their bikes?

Let’s look at it from the waste standpoint. Think of all the systems, websites, individual portfolios, news feeds and so on built around the ticker symbol HDI. All of that has to change. Information will be lost. Delays and confusion will occur. People manually must change systems. Waste, waste, waste. Not a value-added task in there.

I get worried when companies seem to have more time to spend on their ticker symbol and annual reports than they do on the customer and producing great product with the least amount of waste. This isn’t the only example, by any stretch of the imagination. What’s your favorite example?

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Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. In addition to co-founding the Lean Learning Center, he has helped build nearly 20 companies as either a co-founder, board member, advisor, or angel investor. These companies range from high-performance motorcycles to SaaS tools for continuous improvement. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in lean transformation, including Intel, Harley-Davidson, Crayola, BMW, and Amazon. Jamie co-authored the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and continues to share his experiences as a Contributing Editor forIndustryWeek and as a blogger at He holds degrees from Lehigh University, University of Michigan, and MIT, and continues to teach and mentor on campus. Jamie is best known for helping to transform how we think about lean from a tools-centric model to one based on principles and behaviors. His passion for lean transformation comes from seeking to unlock the great potential that people possess to build inspiring organizations.

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5 Comments on "Customer Focus?"

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily an example of losing focus on the customer. I can agree that the ticker change, while being “cute”, will add cost and waste and doesn’t add any real value. The stock market should add any value to the company based on having a cute or memorable ticker symbol, assuming a rational market.

    I think a company CAN have irrelevant side functions (such as things that marketing or investor relations might do), while still focusing on the customer, I don’t think it’s an “either/or” type of thing. I guess maybe you’re arguing, Jamie, that the executives only have a certain amount of time and brain cycles per day, so they shouldn’t spend any of them on irrelevant crap like the ticker symbol?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well according to some research the stock will do better for at least one day!

  3. Mark Graban says:

    The article starts:

    “A stock ticker symbol or company name that is easy to pronounce may be a significant factor in short-term increases in stock price, according to a report published online yesterday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two researchers created a list of fictional stocks and then…”

  4. Jamie Flinchbaugh says:

    Yes, no one was having trouble being familiar with Harley or having trouble saying the name.

    Yes, anonymous, you can do both. But if it generates cost even in your own company but doesn’t add value to the product or service – that’s the classic definition of waste. Did they lose focus? Not necessarily. But waste it still is.

  5. Louis says:

    I agree. However the reason why the stock performs better is that the transactional cost of a pronouncable ticker symbol is lower. Now if only that was a long lasting performance…
    My point is the value that a corporation generates goes much farther than the specific products or services we think it offers.
    For example, the stock itself, is a liquidity and sharholder wealth generating “service” in the capital markets. (As well as more indirect values like communicating the health of an industry or of the economy)

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