shimek-photoChris Shimek, is a Senior Business, Manufacturing, Operations & Lean Process COO, SVP of Operations and General Manager known for developing the right culture, securing the right talent and exceeding results. 25 years of experience in business strategy and execution leading growing, startup/early stage, cutting edge and entrepreneurial organizations in growth, sustained, turnaround and restructuring phases.

Chris is a Lean expert (led/managed two facilities which received Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing). He has installed ISO 9000 quality management systems and one SQF Level 2 Quality Management system for consumer durable goods and food manufacturing companies. He possesses a vast knowledge of Lean, DMAIC, Shingo, ISO, Kaizen, Kanban, 5S and PDCA Methodologies and standards.

The following is an out take from a chapter of a book to be released later this year compiled by the Manufacturers Alliance.


 It is of vital importance to know what To Do when building and sustaining a lean culture.  It is equally important, and in some cases, even more important to know What Not to Do when building a lean culture.  Much can be learned from history.  History should be studied, observed and acted on.

he lessons learned over time and observation can and will save you time, money, and agony.  In this chapter we will share some firsthand experiences, results and learnings on what To Do and What Not to Do when building and sustaining a lean culture.  I will share some personal experiences and results that give you guidance on your journey to successfully lead, build and sustain a lean culture!

To Do and What Not to Do – 8 Key Life Learnings

  1. Tone at the top – Lead by example and demonstrate commitment
    • Be the steady and stabile rudder
    • Phil Mercer story
  2. Focus on the positives – opportunities, not problems
    • Reward and recognize identified opportunities
  3. Leverage your learnings
    • Lyonsory
  4. Have a bias for action and a sense of urgency
    • Make decisions and learn from them – 10 decisions a day
  5. Reinforce the fact that the only constant is change
    • Lake City – a new culture.
  6. Jump in with both feet, commit to it, and stay the course
    • SDG group / Cortez
  7. Just do it, process gets results, speak with data
  8. Measurement – Be careful what you wish for
    • What gets measured gets done
    • BSC – Balanced Score Card

It is almost as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do.  In the case of building a strong and sustainable lean culture, one must lead with commitment and conviction. One must stay focused, and be consistent and predictable. Always remember, people cannot follow if you are not leading.  To lead you have to have a clear vision that is understood and that can be supported and achievable.

  1. Tone at the top – lead by example and demonstrate commitment
  • Be the steady and stabile rudder – the Phil Mercer story

I learned a valuable lesson in leadership while enduring the most devastating blow during our growth years in a family business at Heat-N-Glo Fireplaces, later known as Hearth and Home Technologies, after being purchased by HON Industries.  The United States new home starts fell from 2.1 million per year to 430,000 and we were forced to make corrections.  During this time things were very cut throat, and downsizing was not only an everyday word – it was an everyday action to be taken.  We were no different. The tough decisions were being made and chaos was everywhere.  During this time our $200 million dollar distribution business that was comprised of 33 locations in 13 states and was led by a man named Phil Mercer.  Phil was an ass-kicking, hardnosed, driving leader that always drove the hardest bargain and worked his people to the nth degree.  He was respected as a leader and known to be the hardest guy to ever work for – but always was a winner.  A guy you admired – despite the fact that he drove you into the ground in his pursuit of excellence.

During the residential construction crash he was as calm as a cucumber.  Cuts were taking place all around him and he himself was taking action, but it was not knee jerk.  Phil was slowly, methodically and calmly analyzing things, visiting with his people and walking in the GEMBA, new home construction sites, where fireplaces were being installed – or at this time were sitting idle.  I watched and observed this as we were frantically shutting down remote distribution centers and factories in an effort to remain competitive and solvent.  It was chaos in our world. Yet this guy, Phil Mercer, was walking his business and visiting with his people – doing nothing but being a positive cheerleader.  I didn’t understand it, and finally got a chance to visit with Phil.  My first questions were of course “What is it that you know that the rest of us don’t and why is it that you can remain so calm, so even keel and so relaxed during this shit storm.”

His reply was simple, but profound:  “In the eye of the storm the captain has to be cool, calm and collected.  His crew needs a stable and steady rudder.  Now is not the time to beat on the troops and drive action. Now is the time to support and coach them through.  We will worry about performance after we survive, and we will need our crew to re-build.  We need them well rested and ready to dig out of the mess that we will have.

Be a leader not a driver right now. Show empathy and show leadership, share with them a vision of a brighter future beyond the mess we are in and they will follow and more importantly they will pull us through this.

Once the ship has been righted and our sails again have wind, then we will be able to drive performance and drive results. But, right now we need to lead them through this.”

This was a lesson of Tone at the Top for me and I have carried it with me since the day I conversed with Phil.  It is one of the most important foundations of the right culture.




2 thoughts

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