On Being Overly Efficient

In Salon today, Andrew Leonard suggests that companies can become too lean and mean — businesses can optimize processes and practices so they are too effective. What do you think: Possible? Impossible?

Take the Fast Company poll.

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  • mike

    Lean? Mean? I am still waiting to come into contact with a company that can execute on what it promises!

    Wachovia Bank - needed to be asked 4 times to change an address, and had to do so in 3 different locations in their database. Pathetic. Took 5 weeks to get my address changed.

    Merrill Lynch - still trying to change my address since March 2005. I havent found ONE PERSON who can do this online, telephone or in person without errors. Address changes for one quarter then magically goes back to an address from the past. Horrifying!

    Best Buy / Circuit City / etc - retailers need to hire people who KNOW the products that they are selling. Otherwise, please dont stalk me and bombard me with "Can I Help You" 's and not be able to deliver on a simple question of whether or not "this" product can do "that".

    Amazon.com - this "wonderful" online retailer doenst have the slightest concern of the customer after an order is placed. With all this technology, you'd think that something ordered on day-0, which is stated to "ship within 24 hours" and does, with tracking information and STATUS available to the customer would be able to NOTIFY the retailer after 2 weeks when the product isnt delivered! If something is supposed to take 3 days to arrive, the system should tell them and not the customer having to bug some person in India to CUT AND PASTE A SECTION OF THE HELP PAGE into an email as a response to asking where the product might be!

    DICKS SPORTING GOODS - little 5 year old kid goes into the fridge in front of the cash registers and takes a lemon-drink bottle and proceeds to make his way to a corner of the store where he THINKS no one is around. Well, he's partially correct because the 1/2 dozen "workers" were all goofing around by the basketball nets while I was resting on a clothing rack waiting for my girlfriend to finish trying on something while this kid didnt see me and proceeded to shove that 12oz plastic bottle of lemonaid into his cargo shorts. Pretty pathetic to waste the money paying 5-6 guys to chat around while 5 year olds are ripping them off. Funny thing is, when the employees ARE working and looking for theft - they look at adults only.

    So, lean and mean? Why dont we all concentrate on getting these companies to become good at what they claim to do FIRST. Please. Consumers are sick and tired of horrible workers AND the companies which claim they're so efficient and "productive".

  • Joel

    I wish I could even comment. I work in a Japanese university, the only type of bureacracy worse than the government...The amount of do-nothing, hot-air redundant, arbitrary work makes me wonder if I shouldn't be in the private sector where I can make a difference...

  • Michael P. Levy

    Andrew Leonard is correct in that it is possible to become too lean in your supply chain. His example of Nokia and Ericsson is a case in point - but, as he also points out, it is about assessing and mitigating risk. No one can predict the future, but the better companies assess their risk and develop contigiency scenarios for those risks with an unacceptable probability of occurrence i.e., for critical materials in their supply chains.