Manufacturing Excellence: Letter to the President

November 24, 2008
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Organizations experience cycles of ups and downs, profit and loss, surplus and debt, and success and failure. Civilizations go through cycles of opulence and obliteration. Good follows the bad and recovery follows the collapse. America’s industrial systems have not collapsed yet, but the market is certainly pointing in that direction. As a large economy, decisions, actions and leadership in the U.S. affect the rest of the world. We have elected a new president after passing a $700 billion “bail-out” bill. We are counting on our new leader to influence the rest of the world positively, bring prosperity here and abroad, and promote peace and partnerships. If I were to write the new president of the United States a letter, it would go something like this:

Welcome, Mr. President to the White House! We are excited that you have won the election after a long, arduous campaign. I am sure you know that you have your work cut out for you. We need leadership that can inspire people in America to strive for excellence and innovation. For the past 25 years we have taken a lot of flak about the perception of quality of work in America that used to be the best in its class! We need a president who can instill pride in American workmanship-who can dream higher, expect the best, offer resources for education and envision new job opportunities.

We take pride in our culture of freedom and fun, care and compassion, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Still, something is missing. I believe we are creative, restless, speedy and result-driven. An executive once told me that American culture is all about “shoot and aim.” I believe that is the “old-school” way of conducting business. I am sure you would agree that we need to adapt our shoot-and-aim culture to preserve our economic, social and entrepreneurial lifestyle, maintain a leadership position, create wealth rather than borrow money, and help those in need rather than pay interest on large debt. We no longer can afford to be a creative society and work hard to produce acceptable goods. We need to emphasize doing well instead of just doing it.

Mr. President, I believe that the government must drive toward excellence and innovation in everything we do. Here are my recommendations for driving excellence based on what I hear from my peers and from businesses:

1. Set a national priority to strive for excellence and innovation.

2. Appoint a Secretary for Excellence and Innovation whom will create a vision for the next 20 years and measurable goals each year for the next four years.

3. Set a priority and secure funding for excellence in education at all levels. Make a separate entity just for this purpose.

4. Create a national excellence and innovation index to monitor progress.

5. Periodically review the status of your agenda to ensure continuity and progress.

6. Continue to campaign across the country promoting excellence and innovation. Personally recognize successes, understand failures and disappointments and inspire people everywhere to accept the challenge.

7. Create four million new jobs within the next four years.

We all know talk is cheap. Promoting excellence and innovation will require commitment, dedication and money-maybe $1 or $2 billion, but certainly not $700 billion. Creating jobs will require corporate executives and board members to look for sustained profitable growth rather than profit now and closure next. Businesses and communities need to work together and for each other. Right now businesses and communities are apart. Executives are on Wall Street and employees are on the next street. Executives and employees need to walk on the same street again.

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