"Cubicle Slaves ... hack off your ties ... flip off your heels ... the Work can be Cool!" Tom Peters
Most Valuable Players, 1990
Drum rolls. Flashing strobe lights. And noowww ... my Sixth Annual
Most Valuable Player Awards.
1. Corporate turnaround. Forget Chrysler. (It seems to have turned
around its turnaround. Try the Union Pacific Railroad:
Bureaucracy has been hacked away. The front line "owns" the action.
And reliability and profitability have soared. Hats off to CEO Mike
Walsh - and UPRR's union leaders too -- for a not-so-minor miracle in
Omaha. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!
2. Most Valuable Company. Turner Broadcasting System wins
the MVC. As the ads say, Gorby, Bush and the world's intelligence
agencies tune to CNN when they need to know who's on first; Ted Turner
and company have rewritten their industry's rulebook, and set the tone
for the information-driven 1990s. Federal Express joins
TBS as coMVC. The Baldrige quality award was finally given to a
service company, and Fed Ex deservedly took Prize No. 1.
3. Most Valuable Player. The MVP accolade goes to President Jon
Simpson of high-tech hose producer Titeflex. Again: bye-bye
bureaucracy, hello worker autonomy. The teamsters have bought in,
business processes have been monumentally simplified, and what were
recently six-month custom jobs for clients are now often
completed in four or five hours.
4. Sow's ear to silk purse. The product was an industrial commodity.
Discounting was fierce. And then Ingersoll-Rand introduced the
Cyclone Grinder. The new air-powered grinding tool is a premium
product, never discounted: Superb industrial design made it easier to
use, far more comfortable to work with -- and downright attractive to
look at. Sadly, even in 1990 such an abiding concern with design is
rare. (P.S. Speed is a big part of this tale, too. The industry's
normal four-year dream-to-market cycle was shrunk to one year.)
5. Top idea (redux). I gave speed a nod in my 1988 year-end
stars column; but so few got the message that I'm determined to say it
again. Our winners at UPRR, TBS, Fed Ex, Titeflex and Ingersoll-Rand
have a common denominator: stunning time-savings. "Time-based
competition," as Tom Hout and George Stalk Jr. call it in their book
Competing Against Time, is the (end idea for the '90s.
Begin now by measuring how long you take to perform critical tasks: A
recent straw poll I conducted revealed less than 1 percent
using time as a principal business performance indicator. Dismal.
6. Closet revolutionary. DuPont is among our oldest companies. Yet
revolution is in the air in Wilmington, Del. Chairman Edgar
Woolard has streamlined sluggish decision-making processes at the
corporate center; set the audacious goal of "zero pollution" for the
chemical giant; put customers squarely atop once-arrogant DuPont's
agenda; and dramatically increased, virtually overnight, the number of
women and minorities close to the apex of the outfit.
7. Clean and rich. In the face of recessionary fears, environmental
issues took a shellacking in the November 1990 elections. But make no
mistake, clean-and-green is catapulting to the top of the corporate
priority list. Most companies are playing defense. A handful see the
environmental issue as an unparalleled opportunity. 3M is a
matchless example of the latter. Its Pollution Prevention Pays program
has reduced waste by 50 percent, saving a billion bucks
along the way; now, via Pollution Prevention Plus, the company's
aiming for a 90 percent reduction in the remaining mess by 2000.
8. Taking advantage of tough times. The environmental challenge can
become a big-time opportunity. So can a recession. Nucor Corp's
management is the rare breed using recession to underscore
commitment to employee involvement and world-class quality. By doing
so, the steel maker is not only minimizing the downside of the
contraction, but also buttressing its long-term corporate strengths.
If we resort to habits of the past, panic, and promiscuously slash,
burn and run roughshod over employees in the face of a downturn, our
hard-won gains of the '80s will be wiped out in a wink. Early signs
are anything but encouraging.
9. Book of the year. Car dealer Carl Sewell gets the nod. With the
help of Inc. magazine's Paul Brown, he's given us Customers
for Life. It's a homespun tale, rich with anecdote. It's also a
buttoned-down, sophisticated saga of measurement systems, pervasive
incentive schemes, and Japanese factory techniques adapted to an
American service business. Buy a copy for every employee; it'll
be the best New Year's present you can give yourself.
10. Worst book of the year. Speaking of books, Pat Choate's Agents
of Influence wins my vote as biggest waste of trees in 1990.
The Japanese are no saints when it comes to trade. But it's equally
absurd, and far more dangerous, to paint them as sinners aiming to
subvert our electoral process and pollute the minds of American school
children. Choate's diatribe would be laughable, were it not for the
attention it's gotten from populist politicians in breathless pursuit
of a smarmy issue.
(C) 1990 TPG Communications.
All rights reserved.