Focus on HR - Achieving Performance without Compromise

By Hedley Lawson, Jr.
The optical industry likes to look within its own industry to study and understand business successes. However, it can also be shortsighted and may not help achieve ‘break away’ performance and sustainable success.

Looking at successful companies across non-optical industries and companies, and understanding how they achieved their successes can be quite valuable in terms of identifying ‘Best Practice,’ and operational and organizational excellence.

Take Emerson Electric — certainly not a company that has any visible relationship to the optical industry — but for over 40 years Emerson Electric achieved consecutive annual increases in earnings per share and dividends per share. By any measure or standard one can apply, a remarkable record in any industry, particularly given the economic cycles from the 1950s through 2000.

Today, Emerson continues to be the envy of shareholders and the investment community, and continues to be one of the world's most admired companies. So, what is the secret behind its outstanding performance?

Charles F. Knight, who served as chief executive officer of Emerson for twenty-seven of its consistently profitable years, believes that Emerson's long-term success is the result of an innovative management process executed with unrelenting discipline. In the new book, Performance without Compromise, Knight has highlighted the Emerson management process in detail for the first time.

Management processes can be complex and equally bureaucratic. Emerson's system consists of six smart and simple management precepts that can be applied to any company and in any industry. They are:

1. Keep it simple: keep a clear focus on a handful of priorities and communicate them in a way employees understand and support. Within our firm and with our clients, we call these “The Critical Few.”

2. Commitment to planning: align the organization from top to bottom to help managers identify new trends in the market and inflection points that demand company-wide response.

3. Strong system of follow-up and control: take implementation seriously, organize to follow up on plans rigorously, and have the flexibility to change direction as needed.

4. Action-oriented organization: address problems and issues swiftly. People need to communicate in terms of plans, projects and problems, and not solely along organizational lines. Companies that work diligently to communicate fully and frequently with their colleagues, keeping them informed of progress and successes or obstacles and plans, have more engaged colleagues and teams.

5. Operational excellence: develop the best products, services and solutions for the best price. If customers have a reason to look elsewhere, they will, often seeking better customer engagement in the development of new products, improved services, improved supply chain and inventory management, and related operational initiatives that create a closer partnership and bilateral loyalty.

6. Create an environment in which people can and do make a difference: develop a strong and cohesive work environment through superior and engaged leadership. If this fails, so will everything else. A frequent review of the leadership team and structure can ensure that all the key players are fully engaged and performing at their optimal level of achievement. As well, injecting fresh talent into situations in which they can work on new initiatives and become more valuable contributors to the company can buoy company performance at that time as well as in the future.

Like other highly successful and profitable companies, strong leadership is at the essence of everything Emerson achieves. It begins with top leadership of the organization, and is rewarded and expected at every organizational level. For anyone leading a company — small or large — or wanting to instill a sense of pride and excellence in their work group, Performance without Compromise will certainly offer valuable lessons about leadership, management and competitiveness to your optical manufacturing company, wholesale laboratory, or eye care practice.


Labtalk June 2020