Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leadership Lessons from Lean Manufacturing

I have been learning more about Lean Manufacturing at work and was introduced to the booklet The Toyota Way as part of the training. The booklet describes the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System also known as Just In Time Production. This corporate philosophy may be a key reason for the success of Toyota.

In looking at the 14 principles, I was struck by how many of them were focused around good leadership. The very first principle, "Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals," emphasizes the importance of having and following a strong vision. Building a strong vision is the first principle of a good leadership approach.

I am always amazed at what I find when I look for lessons outside my normal scope. Take some time to learn some leadership lessons in the 14 Principles of the Toyota Production System.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Positive Experience with BoltBus

Yesterday I dropped someone off to take the BoltBus from Boston to New York City. The experience was outstanding, and far beyond my expectation for the price. The ticket taker at the gate was extremely friendly and helpful. He chatted with folks in line, efficiently processing new people as they arrived. All the while he answered questions he must hear a dozen times each day, just as pleasant as can be. He mentioned that he was happy he had such a great job, and it was clear that he was sincere.

I think you can tell how good a company is by how much their people like working for them. Despite having a job most people would hate, the BoltBus ticket taker loves his job. You should be able to say the same for all the people on your teams, no matter how unglamorous their job is.

BoltBus is also a marvel of disruptive business models. When I think of modes of travel, taking the bus falls right at the bottom. The ride is uncomfortable; the trip is long; and the companionship is questionable. BoltBus has overcome all three of these issues, while delivering service at half the price of other modes of travel.

BoltBus has found a niche of providing frequent service between just a few hub cities. For $20 they take you from the center of Boston to the center of New York. They fill the bus by creating a sense of scarcity, offering cheaper prices for earlier booking. The first ticket on every bus is only $1.  And they attract the younger crowd with great prices and free Internet access.

Compare the BoltBus to its parents Greyhound and PeterPan. Greyhound offers the same trip at $37. PeterPan charges $35, but they do have special on-line pricing similar to BoltBus.  The same trip on Amtrak starts at $89.  And the cheapest airfare is $152 round-trip on American Airlines.  It's unclear why anyone would take a plane from Boston to New York.  Getting to and from the airports into the cities, plus pre-boarding time for security makes the trip longer.  It's certainly more expensive, and on such a short flight there are no amenities to make it worth it.

BoltBus is worth watching for its business model, but equally worth watching for the culture that makes its staff so happy to work there.