The power of networking
None of us know what we don’t know.
No one has seen everything.
Concepts thought as ineffective in one business can be very effective in another business doing the same thing.
I know this because I continue learn new things every time I go to see other people doing different things in a different place. This can be from department to department within one organization or at different facilities or at a different business. I have learned that a tour of even the worst facility provides an opportunity to find a small but new and useful concept and sometimes even a profound innovation.
The best way to “go see” others is to join or start a network focused on continuous improvement.
What’s the big deal about networks?
Why should we join a network of companies with common interests? What’s in it for me and my company?
Let’s suppose your company is interesting in pursuing “lean” or the Toyota Production and Management System. Maybe you are working with an “external consultant” or have used your own internal resources. External consultants often bring a broad understand of concepts and practices learned through working in multiple situations and multiple companies and cultures, but alas…..I am one of “them”, so I bring little objectivity to that subject. Internal consultants can be successful as well.
Anyway……. you are on the road to creating a Lean/Continuous Improvement organization. Congratulations, that is great stuff…..but unless your company is in a position to win a Shingo Prize, perhaps you could learn something helpful for your Lean journey if you continue to listen.
In 2004 I founded the “Lean Thinking Network” in central Pennsylvania because my clients kept asking to see best practices at other companies. The network began humbly with four members and has grown to 10 current members. The Lean Thinking Network’s objective is to leverage the collective knowledge, experience and motivation of the network to significantly improve the competitiveness and profitability of all member companies.
Some of the benefits network members have mentioned over the years:
- Opportunity to see how others are implementing Lean
- Opportunity to see other industries approach to Lean (a steel fabricator can learn from a wholesale greenhouse and visa versa)
- Opportunity to see and listen to different cultures with the same objectives in mind
- Opportunity to ask questions of peers
- Opportunity to discuss problems with peers
- Opportunity share forms, cards, tickets, photos, processes and concepts with peers
- Opportunity to get support from peers when you cannot find the answer to a problem
- Opportunity to exchange culture, visit peers and invite them to visit your facility
- Opportunity to leverage special events such as presenters, tours etc.
If you are not networking and searching for best practices, might this be of value to you?
Get started, call a neighboring company with a good reputation and visit them. Offer to reciprocate, then add other like minded companies. Get out there and go see. You won’t regret it.