In the beginning

One of the good things about the beginning of the year is that you get a couple of cracks at becoming a perfect human being. If your New Year’s resolutions didn’t make it much past a last cigarette and ‘hair of the dog drink’ on New Year’s Day afternoon then you can still gather your will power for a second attempt at Lent. I like the idea of new beginnings, the idea that all previous failings can be wiped out, and the idea that I’ll get to try for that supermodel body just one more time.

Beginnings are also quite easy; it’s maintaining the effort that takes real guts, managing to overcome problems and not allowing a small backwards step to distract you from your goal. To some of us that means going back to the gym after a week of slobbing in front of the television, or not turning that after-work pint into a session that leads inevitably to the curry house. But to a company trying to develop efficient, economic working practice it means a whole lot more.

Like many of us, a lot of manufacturing companies are a little bit flabby and, just like people, that bit of excess weight has a habit of creeping up on you. And before you know it, the receiver has moved in to staple your stomach.

Lots of companies know they have to change but they don’t know how. Some will start by following this Japanese philosophy or that US guru only to find that after the initial enthusiasm has worn off the scales read the same or, worse still, a bit more.

But it can be done. Unfortunately, like those adverts that show before and after pictures of men and women who have entered into the latest muscle building, fat losing program, the hours in the gym are hidden; all you see are the bronze beauties, not the sweating and straining that went on behind the scenes.

I’m lucky. I often get to see companies who have really made new working practices work, companies where every employee feels really involved and where customer service and product quality are a genuine source of pride. These companies will be the first to admit it takes real commitment every day to get them and keep them in these envied positions.

So I’ve come up with a good idea; why don’t we resolve to give up giving up.