“Beat Down On Them”


As I thought about this post earlier, with the employee quote about being beaten down, I had a flashback to my time at GM, circa 1996.

While we were in the midst of trying to implement Toyota methods, with the leadership of a new plant manager who was trained at NUMMI, we had a superintendent (the #2 in charge of the plant) who didn't have the same mindset.

I'll never forget him saying this when complaining about a manager (and by extension, the employees):

“You have to beat down on them, beat down on them, BEAT DOWN ON THEM, until they do… exactly… what… they're… told.”

What a disgusting philosophy of management. And he meant it to (try to picture the fist-pounding gesture he made as saying that). Attitudes like that, as opposed to a lack of technical Lean competency, is what slowed GM's plant progress, to be sure.

Lean leaders don't want employees who do exactly what they're told. The contrast to Toyota is so clear and obvious.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. pete abilla says

    This is very sad, Mark. I feel badly for the employees.

  2. Rick Foreman says

    Hard to believe such a thing existed. Yet, this man had twin counterparts at the aerospace company I worked at for 22 1/2 years. When thinking of the shortage of skilled workers within the manufacturing environment, maybe we should view the impact of not showing dignity and respect for multiple years upon industries. I’ve seen way to many companies only use the “tools” side of TPS, while leaving off the respect for employees.

  3. Anonymous says

    We are starting to understand some of the old emotional scars you have now, Mark! What a sad example.

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