Motivating Employees With Catchy Slogans

5 – Cubicle Culture

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I always wonder if I should post links to WSJ articles, since I know not everybody has a $$ online subscription. But, I bet your boss reads it (or someone up “above” does). Sometimes they might take awful ideas they read over their morning coffee and try to implement them.

So, be warned “catchy slogans” are promoted in today's WSJ.

Actually, the column is somewhat balanced, in discussing pro's and con's of giving projects “catchy” titles or promotional slogans.

Mr. Lucas remembers one initiative, code-named “Shark,” that was supposed to kill a competitor's product. It didn't. “It was dead in the water,” he says.

Jane Genova, a former speechwriter at IBM and Chrysler, which also had its share of slogans, thinks there may be a correlation between having slogans and poor corporate performance. “I've never been at a place where it wasn't made fun of,” she says.

Of course, if your boss only reads headlines, you might get a bunch of new slogans. But, if your boss only reads headlines, I bet your lean efforts are superficial at best.

Click on “comments” to see another priceless anecdote.

W. Edwards Deming always preached against slogans. Point #10 of the Fourteen Points was:

Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force (problems with quality and productivity are caused by the system, not by individuals. Posters and slogans generate frustration and resentment)

As always, the alternative, according to Deming was “leadership.” Let's have more leaderhip, fewer slogans. Be a leader and explain why lean is important part of your company's vision. That will do more for lean than slogans will.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. From the article:

    If there is one major problem with slogans or code names, it’s that they often call things what they aren’t. One Midwestern regional bank decided to centralize its trust-account services with an 800 number and call operators, effectively removing from the equation front-line account managers who had developed personal relationships with customers. The bank called the new group the Personal Services Group.

    “There couldn’t have been anything more impersonal,” says one bank vice president. “Calling it that didn’t make it so.”

  2. i might have it wrong but as a member of a work force being led down the path of lean it seem,s to me it might cost me my job as the ultimat saving is not to employ people

  3. If the ultimate goal is not employing people, how do you get anything done without people? You might need fewer people as a result of lean improvements. But, the lean philosophy says that you want engaged employees who are giving ideas to make things more productive, improve quality, etc. That won’t happen when people fear layoffs. So, it’s management’s job to help create growth opportunities for the business so they can “avoid hiring” people as opposed to having to lay people off. Toyota has done a very good job of growing, which has helped them avoid layoffs over the past 50 years.

    That said, many managers get it wrong and think lean is all about cutting heads. I hope that isn’t the case at your company. If so, they need to find a good lean consultant to teach them and point them in the right direction.

    Good luck to you, thanks for visiting the blog. I hope you’ll come back and continue learning about lean.


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