One of the first things I learned as a 2nd Lieutenant Infantry Officer how important it was to ensure that soldiers were well taken care of. This is something that is paramount to the success of any professional military.
At the same time, the Army exists to accomplish the missions given to it by our government and people. A fighting unit had to accomplish its mission above all else. To blend these two concepts together, we would say, “Mission First, People Always”.
As a manufacturer, how does this apply in today’s environment? As governments wrestle with how and when to reopen the economy, manufacturers are key to moving the economy forward.
All manufacturers understand clearly that safety cannot be compromised. Those companies who are considered world-class in safety have a “zero-incident” mentality. That is, the only acceptable business result is one where there are no safety incidents. This approach must also be applied to the current coronavirus crisis as well.
Employee health must be protected in the workplace. There can be no compromise.
Social distancing, protective masks, frequent cleaning, and disinfecting of workplaces must all become the norm until testing becomes more readily available and vaccines are developed. This “zero-incident” approach, for both safety and health, illustrates the importance of these words as they apply to manufacturers, “People Always”.
A manufacturer only succeeds if its product is needed in the marketplace. A manufacturer’s mission is clear: produce its product to satisfy a customer need.
Without the customer, the manufacturer has no business. As the economy restarts, many manufacturers will find their customer’s needs have changed. This means they must understand the evolving needs of the marketplace and adapt quickly to meet these needs. Those that are first to do this will have a strategic advantage.
Manufacturers may also need to find ways to incentivize customers to begin to purchase their products once again. This can be done in many ways one of which might be to make features that were once considered upgrades standard.
A strong marketing plan must go along with these changes. The bottom line: manufacturers must understand their customers’ needs and be ready to meet them head on with their products. Without a “Mission First” approach, businesses will fail.
Returning to look at the phrase “Mission First, People Always”, why is it written this way? Like the military, businesses cannot compromise either of these elements. Neither mission nor people can be placed above the other. There is no prioritization that can be made.
Both providing a product that the customer wants or needs and ensuring the safety and health of one’s employees are of equal importance.
Business owners must develop strategies that accomplish both objectives: protecting the health and safety of employees and customers while returning to economic growth for their business. As governments consider easing coronavirus restrictions, business owners and leaders must prepare to be able to operate their businesses in a manner that meets their employees’ health and safety needs and their stakeholders’ needs for profitability.
While manufacturers are not preparing to fight a war like the Army does, they are in the business of winning the battle for profits by ensuring they produce a product that meets the needs of the marketplace and that the health and safety of their employees are not compromised. Manufacturers can learn a lot by studying how the military conducts itself and applying the relevant principles to their business. “Mission First, People Always”
About the Author: Mike Ungar is a Certified FocalPoint Business Coach and Trainer. He has 35 years of experience with Michelin in manufacturing and human resources. Mike is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Clemson MBA program.