Standing on stage, [new Alcoa CEO Paul] O’Neill did not speak about increasing market share or earnings forecasts. Instead, he pointed out the nearest emergency exits. “In the unlikely event of a fire or other emergency,” he said, “you should calmly walk out, go down the stairs to the lobby, and leave the building.” O’Neill’s sole focus that day was on how to make a habit of worker safety.
To understand why injuries happened, executives had to become intimately involved with work process and manufacturing techniques, which led to conversations with frontline employees about their ideas, which led to streamlining operations, which led to lower costs.
O’Neill soon emerged as one of the best CEOs in modern business history, thanks to his unusual emphasis on safety. By attuning employees to proper procedure, O’Neill streamlined production. “Costs came down, quality went up, and productivity skyrocketed.” Bloomberg Businessweek, Bound by Habit, March 19-25, 2012.
Often getting one thing right, which ultimately requires tweaking the other things that touch on it, can help get everything right.
I like this example from Alcoa because it focused on safety — not production, costs and profits — and yet made a huge difference in all those things.
Another fundamental we often forget is that if we focus on quality then not only does quality improve but so does productivity, cost, etc. (See focusing on quality gives us productivity at no extra cost.)
It is often too easy to focus on the obvious stuff and not on what it is we really need to be doing.
Are you focusing on the key processes and goals that will truly make a difference in your project?