Avoid living off of past glory days

lean sensei, Batesville Casket Company; Mike Wroblewski, Batesville Casket Company
Tags: lean manufacturing

“Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
and I’m going to drink till I get my fill.
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit
around thinking about it, but I probably will.
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing, miste,r but
boring stories of … glory days.

Glory days, well they’ll pass you by.
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye.
Glory days, glory days.”

- A popular song lyric from the 1980s written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.

How many of us fall into the trap of living on past glory as described by Bruce Springsteen? Can we see this same mistake in our company? How long can you or your company sustain growth by feeding off the past?

At Batesville Casket Company, we have been extremely successful on our lean journey and have received a few national awards along the way. A few weeks ago, if you drove by the entrance of our plant in Batesville, Ind., you would have seen a huge banner above the main entrance of the plant proclaiming “IndustryWeek 2006 Best Plants Winner”. A great accomplishment indeed, and it is something to certainly be proud of and celebrated.

However, if you drive by our plant today, you may notice that our banner has been removed. It is so easy to live off our glory days and, before you realize it, we find ourselves getting comfortable with the status quo again. That is the main reason we have taken our banner down.
Imagine feasting on Thanksgiving dinner and living off the leftovers. In most cases, we would say it was a wonderful meal with good cheer; even the leftovers taste good. Despite the fantastic feast we once enjoyed, how long can we survive off that one wonderful meal? It was meal to be remembered, but it cannot sustain our strength or provide endless nourishment and growth for the future. We must rely on other meals or we will grow weak and die.

The same is true on the lean journey. We must rely on future improvements for our survival or we will grow weak and die. Celebrate our past success, but do feed off past feasts. The lean journey is about moving forward and not living in the glow of past success. We cannot grow our companies on yesterday’s achievements.

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/.