In 1958 Leonard E Read wrote an essay about making pencils.
- The growing of trees
- The work of a lumberjack
- The operation of the saw mill
- The making of the saw
- The transportation of the logs
- The mining of the graphite
- The production of the rubber
- The mixing of the paint
- The sourcing of the chemicals
- The manufacture of the pencil
- The development of the machinery
And countless other tasks.
His point was simple, nobody can make a pencil from scratch. No one person has more than the faintest understanding of all the technologies, activities, supply chains and markets involved.
We live in a very complicated and connected world.
So if you manage a pencil factory
And you want to improve the cost, quality and service you give to your customers there are two ways to manage your business…
Option 1: Run it from inside your board room:
Make that complex system bow to you:
- Issue targets and policies
- Hold people accountable for performance
- Listen to presentations from people who are scared to tell the truth
- Manage by the numbers
Option 2: Run it from outside your board room:
Wander around and see what you can discover:
- Understand the system
- Visit your suppliers
- Look at what your staff are working on
- Give them time to work on the projects they think are important
Which option is the best option?
No two pencil businesses are the same, so to work out the best way to run your pencil business try answering this simple question:
What could you learn about making pencils?
- If the answer is “nothing” see option 1
- If the answer is “plenty” use option 2
This is all fascinating but most of us don’t make pencils for a living
No we don’t, so let’s have a conversation about the computer I’m typing this on, in the coffee shop I am visiting, with the power that was generated…
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Image by @doug8888