Several months ago, the CEO of the company I work for sent out an email chastising many of the individuals in the company. Our current product had several design flaws that were creating problems for our customers and sales efforts. One of the issues was the mainboard in our device. An unknown engineering flaw relegated approximately $880,000 worth of inventory to shelves marked unusable. Desiring to move forward and forget the existing problems, many individuals internally were lobbying to design a completely new product. Our CEO’s rebuke effectively stated, “We need to stop looking for the next new and sexy thing and focus on fixing the existing problems.”
An Unlikely Champion
The overall tone of the email was frustration and I recall writing it off. In fact, most of us did write it off. However, the most unlikely of employees took that one line as a call to action – a mantra really. Luis immigrated from Peru several years ago. Having earned a degree in engineering in Lima, Luis left behind him a successful company. Working as an hourly employee back in our repair shop, Luis approached his manager and asked what our CEO meant in his email. Our manager outlined several of the problems that our product was facing. A few days later, Luis asked his manager if he could please start a project aimed to recover the $880,000 worth of defective inventory. He was given permission.
While Luis worked, several of the high paid, American educated engineers poked fun at Luis’ efforts and repeatedly commented that there wasn’t a possible fix. Lucky for Luis, his English is pretty broken and I don’t think he understood the criticism.
Luis implemented a well designed, step-by-step approach to isolating the problem areas on the mainboard. He then analyzed later versions of the board that did not exhibit the same problems. Within just a few weeks, shy and quiet Luis produced the necessary fixes salvaging every single board! With an upgrade costing the company only a few dollars per board, hourly Luis saved the company almost $1 million. The salvaged inventory is now invaluable since it has already been paid for and can be sold in future devices that would have required purchasing new boards.
His Humble Report
In our mid-year review, Luis’ manager gave him ten minutes to explain to all of the department heads (including the doubting engineers) what he had done. Luis’ professionalism was simply astounding and earned him at least my greatest respects. Luis had spent time after hours preparing not only two slideshows outlining the problem, his process, and the solution, but Luis wrote a witty and well structured dialogue (even though he kept his head and voice low while presenting) and called our products a family. He described the need to help an ill member of the family and his determination to follow the counsel of our CEO. Previous to this presentation, none of us knew what had motivated Luis’ efforts.
The Fred…er, Luis Factor
Our mid-year review lasted two days and one evacuation due to a natural gas leak (the gas company 100 feet from our building told us it would be an hour before they could get to us?!). Out of countless presentations, numbers, analysis, strategic plans, and opinions, nothing struck me as hard as Luis’ simple act of championing a cause. I was immediately reminded of “The Fred Factor” authored by Mark Sanborn. Mark stated that our mission should be to:
“…continually create new value for those you live and work with through dedication, passion and creativity.”
The Fred in Mark’s book was a postal carrier dedicated to a sincere relationship with the individuals on his route. Luis is an hourly repair technician dedicated to finding solutions through creativity. Also, when we all shrugged off our CEO’s email as an emotional rant, Luis saw an opportunity to move the company forward. Imagine a world full of people like Fred and Luis. People who care about building relationships and working hard to achieve common goals. Imagine an entire company, charity, church group, or family full of people like that. And dare I say it…imagine a government full of people who aren’t politicians but relationship oriented champions of change dedicated to the common good and not personal agendas (and I’m talking to both parties). I’d like to live in that world.
Know any Luises yourself?