Look Sharp

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Well, we’re into the new year, for better or worse, right? So this month, I’d like to focus on the better and thank the many TEC CEOs who, through their best-practice behaviors, have contributed to this article whether they know it or not.

For starters, walk into your office tomorrow morning and tell me what you see. How much stuff is there that doesn’t really have to be there – stuff that communicates a message about you and your office organizational skills? Things like dead files, trivia, you name it.

Then ask yourself, if you are a customer or employee walking into your office, how does it feel? Warm, inviting and open? Or cold, insensitive and bland? If you don’t like it, change it. Do it now, or you will most certainly forget about it later.

Want a real surprise? Walk out into your reception area. Sit down as if you were a customer or vendor making a call. What do you see and feel? Are you separated from the receptionist by an unfriendly sliding glass window? Does it feel cold because the area you are sitting in is not that well-heated? Are the seats comfortable? Is there a phone there to make a call while you are waiting?

If a visitor finds magazines, are they current? In general, is it a good place to be while you are waiting to meet your contact person?

Now take a walk through your firm’s office. As you look into cubicles or wall-enclosed office space, what do you see? Do you see the personality of the occupant? Are photos tastefully displayed? Do things look organized? Do things look like they might look at home? It says a lot about company culture, you know.

Keep walking. Take a detour into your company office restroom facilities. Are they clean? Plenty of paper and fresh soap? Handicap-accessible and friendly? Like home?

If you have a manufacturing facility or warehouse, as you continue your walk, this can be a field day for you.

First, the floors. Are they clean and uncluttered? Machines clean and free of excess material? Are racks structurally sound, and inventory well-marked and placed for on-time retrieval? Conveyor belts unworn? Ceiling lighting and fans all working? Inspection sheets: are they up-to-date, signed legibly by a supervisor who you recognize? How about shipping/receiving? Dock boards all working? Stalls clear of snow and ice residue? Is it warm enough?

Let’s finish on the outside. Are the walks clear of ice? Is the parking lot fully accessible? Are the parking area perimeter lights in good order?

If you haven’t guessed it already, this is a "visual audit" of your company. I know some business owners will declare that this is B.S. – that people are paid to put in a full day’s work for a full day’s job. Period.

I totally disagree, and so did a mentor of mine. And I’m sure many Small Business Times readers will recognize his name. It’s Peter Drucker, and he died on Nov. 11 at his home in California.

Peter is unquestionably the greatest source of innovative management thinking for the past 50 years. No one else comes close. What he has to say about all of the above can be summarized in his famous story about visiting and consulting with a brick manufacturing company in Austria in 1939. Here’s his story.

To quote a speech delivered to TEC members in San Diego, circa 1990: "I was so impressed by the hygiene of this little brick manufacturing company. It was like an orchestra in perfect harmony. Charming, with high attention to detail, including the clean coveralls of the furnace technicians."

Then he said, "I went up to this fellow whose job was to stack newly-formed bricks. I asked him what he did. He said, ‘Well, sir, I’m paid to put in a full eight-hour shift for a full day’s job.’ Drucker made a note."

He then went to a guy in engineering who designed bricks, and asked him the same question. The guy said, "I’m here to design bricks that are cost-effective, temperature resilient and cosmetically appealing." Drucker made another note.

Then, Drucker sat and talked with the factory superintendent, asking him the same question. And here was his response. "Mr. Drucker, if you will stand back for a moment, look at all these pallets of bricks, look at that picture on the wall, then you will know we are all here to build a cathedral!"

He added, "My guys may not know this, but I have to know this, and that’s what I’m paid for."

Drucker was very impressed. In his report to management, he said that it was clear to him that someone at the top had done more than just a "look-see." They had made it work.

Until next month, come on. Do a CEO "look-see." Drucker would be proud.

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