EWMD's: Leadership Lessons From An American Caesar
By: Colin D. Baird
When Emperor Hiro Hito accepted
terms of surrender from General MacArthur in September of 1945, citizens of America
knew they had lost a hard fought war. Over the next 35 years however, leaders
slowly, quietly, and methodically waged a new war. This non armed, non violent conflagration would
continuously improve employee's lives, national productivity, and the quality
of goods and services sold to markets around the world. The nation’s collective
efforts would lead to dramatic changes in the balance of world power, and Japan 's
economic future. Japan
Ironically, it was an American statistician, Dr. W. Edwards Deming – a MacArthur appointee, and a man whose ideas were rebuked by American leaders, - who would help
develop Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction, (EWMD) to win the new war. The
collaboration and cooperation between Deming and Japanese industry unleashed a
torrent of simultaneous quality and productivity improvements; improvements the
has few defenses from which to counter. United States
EWMD were annihilating Japan 's
economy, the tables had been turned, and hunters became the hunted. Unable to
compete, American executives sought rules of engagement more favorable to their
cause. Rather than reflect on, and make the significant changes Deming
suggested were required to rebuild America’s own culture and methods of
industrial processes to compete in a burgeoning global marketplace, American
stakeholders demanded congress put tariffs on imported goods and services to
keep high quality, low cost items out of the United States. America
Tariffs didn’t work, nor did they improve American quality, productivity, ingenuity, or employee happiness. While consumers willingly paid more for Japanese imports, Japanese exporter's profits increased as consumers turned muscle cars into memorabilia replacing Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler with lesser known brands such as
Honda, and Nissan. It was clear: Toyota
had lost the new war; continuous business process and cultural improvements
were the new EWMD, and dominant factors in America ’s
inability to compete with our America Far East friends.
So what is there for Chief Executive Officers to gain from this historical sequence of events?
Shortly after World War II ended, Japanese citizens lay prostrate to General MacArthur, and
. Sixty five percent of the buildings in
Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Nagasaki were destroyed by either conventional or nuclear
weaponry. Citizens were “surviving” on 800 calories per day. No food, shelter
nor prospects of industrialization lay in America ’s
distant future, yet somehow a Japanese newspaper, The Nippon Times
suggested: “If we, (The Japanese) allow
the pain and humility to breed within us the dark thoughts of future revenge,
our spirit will be warped and perverted into a morbidly base design…. But if we
use this pain and this humiliation as a spur to self reflection and reform, and
if we make this self reflection and reform the motive force for a great
constructive effort, there is nothing to stop us from building, out of the
ashes of our defeat, a magnificent new Japan free from the dross of the old
which is now gone, a new Japan which will vindicate our pride by winning the
respect of the world.” Japan
The aim of the message was clear: let bygones be bygones, create homogeneity, strong self identity, and most of all an eagerness to benefit from learning from others.
We must take our own unique steps to change the direction of our own culture, and our country.
- Steps that allow us time to reflect upon our own personal and industrial leadership failures in terms of production, culture, and most importantly: the true intrinsic value of American employee’s curiosity, ingenuity, and yearning for learning.
- Steps that as the Nippon Times suggested: make our own inferior leadership methods, our “dross of old which is now gone” for which we can “vindicate our pride by winning the respect of the world.” American leaders must be willing to reflect on their own past, yet determine to not repeat it in the future. When we do fail, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable, and then help each other improve.
- Steps that will continuously teach the Deming principles of win-win, statistics, and root cause analysis to youth, undergraduate, post graduate students, and beyond. We must make these principles primary to methods of financial engineering; not vice versa as they are today.
- Steps and techniques of leadership that will use our new found knowledge to overhaul our current methods of improving people, and industrial productivity.
Today, the guns of employee disengagement are focused directly on stakeholders, and American leadership. These guns will be silenced if we wage war simultaneously on two fronts: our culture, and our business processes.
The skies no longer have to rain down the disabling effects from the loss of man's intrinsic motivation and curiosity. Instead,
seas can be calmed, and bear true commerce-where men cooperate, communicate,
and collaborate on business improvements all the while serving one another
rather than themselves. American employees can then begin to walk upright in
their new found sunlight as their self esteem, and dignity are restored, and
then nurtured on an ongoing basis. America
can quietly be at peace, and our mission as leaders completed. America
It’s time to radically transform leadership. It begins with Americans who are willing to stand up, eliminate arrogance, put aside egos, admit to failures, and once again, create their own unique EWMD’S. Our business culture contains the soldiers we can engage for our new found fight. Our children and our grandchildren will be the determiners as to whether we have succeeded, or failed.