This book should not exist. There are no new original ideas or principles contained in these pages that hasn’t been written and talked about already. Before you crack the binding I give you a free pass to put it down and save your money reading what you already know.
And yet these simple principles that we are all familiar with remain so elusive when we apply them in our business lives. They are intuitive when we think about the values people live buy, and the consequences of our own personal actions. But companies aren’t people, and businesses don’t have a collective conscience that warns our intuition that someday we might regret decisions that are justifiable, legal, and commonplace.
Andy Stanley suggests in his book Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets that choices we will later look back on as our greatest regrets are often the result of a series of unwise decisions. Not necessarily illegal, immoral, unethical, or prosecutable, yet in hindsight clearly not the most wise thing to do.
No business has ever survived forever, at least not yet. Eventually every business will become a story told in past tense. Every business serves a purpose in the marketplace but for a season. And ultimately it is HOW the business operates that determines its legacy and lasting impact on the lives it touched.
Without assigning blame, we need to look around at how business as usual is impacting the people connected to it. I have conducted countless sourcing projects for dozens of clients across a number of industries, and all too often I had this nagging sense that we were looking at the wrong criteria, emphasizing things we could quantify in a spreadsheet over the things that truly mattered.
Over the span of my career I have noticed a troubling trend, that competitive bids are all too often rewarding the very things we don’t want. And worse, they incentivize those trying to do the right things to start cutting costs, often at the expense of very things we applaud them for. Chasing cost reduction has become a race to the bottom of a bottomless pit.
Since we can see that operating normally isn’t taking us in the direction we really want to go, it’s time to start asking ourselves some hard and uncomfortable questions. We didn’t know what the unintended consequences would be, but now we do. And since we know better we need to do better. Normal simply isn’t good enough, we need to operate differently.
You already know something about how supply chains operate is off. Perhaps you don’t quite have the words, but you feel that how you operate with others is not quite how you would want them to operate with you if your roles were reversed. Over the years, your intuition and conviction that you aren’t treating others as you would want to be treated has been dismissed by the industry as standard practices. It isn’t personal, that is just how business operates. Perhaps you have simply accepted things as they are. But what if there were a better way? One that didn’t leave that nagging feeling that this isn’t right?
I think in business we accept how things are because we expect someone will intervene. Somehow relentlessly driving costs down by offshoring jobs and cutting wages, improving efficiency and doing more with less will somehow not have the consequences that seem obvious. Someone will intervene to ensure workers are paid a livable wage, to replace the jobs that are sent overseas, to repair the damage we aren’t directly responsible for but can see we are inciting in our communities. And yet we can see that isn’t happening, and we need to wrestle with the implications of our well-intended actions.
What I can’t give you are the answers to these hard questions, at least not for your business. It would be a lot easier if this were a twelve step program or a universal prescription that anyone can apply for a miracle cure. But I have learned that if you want better answers, you have to ask better questions. So rather than answers, this book is a series of questions to help you challenge your own thinking and begin to discover the answers you search for.
Along the way you just might be inspired to try something a little bit different, unconventional, even downright weird. But when you have the courage to operate differently, your business just might end up telling a better story. And hopefully this book will soon become irrelevant when operating differently becomes normal.