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A Lean Guy Reads the WSJ


A few short thoughts from today's WSJ:

‘Headwind' Blows As Top Executives Navigate Trouble –

As I was reading the first article, above, about executives blaming “headwinds” and macroeconomic problems for business woes, I thought, “Sure, there are economic problems, but isn't that always a convenient excuse even when a business is being run badly?” Executives never give credit to macroeconomic conditions when times are good, do they?

The article then made the exact point:

“Weather terms appeal to economists and corporate executives because the market sometimes seems to behave like a force of nature. These days, Mr. Lakoff says, citing headwinds seems to be a way to duck blame for all kinds of business problems related to the subprime mortgage crisis, the credit crunch, even simple bad business decisions.

Some economists say the metaphorical wind only blows in one direction. Although executives are quick to blame headwinds for their woes, they are less likely to cite tailwinds for their good fortunes.”

Interesting, eh?

Can Circuit City Survive Boss's Cure? –

This article caught my eye, since I remembered blogging about Circuit City last year when the company, which claimed “associates are our greatest asset,” proved quite the opposite by wholesale firing those associates who earned too much.

This new WSJ article is laughable, as the CEO is still spooning out the same apparently meaningless tripe about valuing their employees. The CEO says tip #1 for managing a turnaround is “listening to your employees,” that the best ideas come from “the bottom up.” Well, after firing the “top” associates, all you were left with was the “bottom” and the cheaper replacements they hired.

I'm still not planning on rushing into a Circuit City store anytime soon, given their track record.

WSJ: How do store employees, who have been through multiple layoffs, fare in these changes?

Mr. Schoonover: We want engaged associates who have fun at work, bring a passion about the products, and enjoy serving customers. We've made a lot of changes in how we interact with our associates so that Circuit City could become the employer of choice.

Now that's just funny. Not “ha ha funny” like the WSJ's skeptical headline about whether the company can survive Schoonover or not. What do you think?

How do you fire the highest-paid associates and then expect a “fun” environment?

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus. He is currently writing his next book, tentatively titled Measures of Success.

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