The Real Secret of Success

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest online column for Time magazine, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about the right and wrong way for companies to handle success.

Wartzman springs off a recent piece in McKinsey Quarterly by Deryl Sturdevant, a former Toyota executive, who describes the problems that companies tend to face when introducing “lean thinking,” which at the automaker revolves around two main pillars: kaizen (the philosophy of continuous improvement) and giving responsibility and accountability to everyone in the organization, especially line workers.

One reason that so many executives hit serious snags in implementing lean, Sturdevant says, is that they “have a propensity to talk about the good things they’re doing rather than focus on applying resources to the things that aren’t what they want them to be.”

In other words, says Wartzman, companies often allow success to “give way to complacency.”

And yet successes shouldn’t be ignored, Wartzman writes. As Peter Drucker observed in Management Challenges for the 21st Century: “The first—and usually the best—opportunity for successful change is to exploit one’s own successes and to build on them.”

When it comes to successes, Wartzman says, “the trick is to leverage them, rather than get lulled to sleep by them.”