When Chung Mong-koo took over as CEO of Hyundai around 2000, their cars had a reputation for very poor quality and the company ranked 12th globally in sales. Very quickly he announced that the goal was to be #1 in quality as judged by the J.D. Power survey and 5th in sales globally. Sales-experienced executives were replaced with engineering-experienced hard-chargers. Engineers and designers went to work on each of the Hyundai models knowing exactly what the goal was: get the highest J.D. Power quality rating. Today, Hyundai is fifth in sales globally and over the past few years, its models have consistently been near or at the top quality of the J.D. Power surveys.
There is a similar story about Fujio Mitarai, the CEO of Canon. Back in the mid-1990’s, he saw the potential of digital photography and jumped in early. Since then, Mitarai’s goal has been that Cannon models should have no weaknesses versus comparable Sony and Nikon models and should be superior in at least one or two important features: Very clear marching orders for his product developers. Today, Cannon is number one in the world in camera sales.
What’s the learning?
1.) Be as specific as you can in spelling out what success looks like to your organization.
2.) Nail down specific measures, so that everyone will know when they have achieved success.
3.) Insert fresh talent with a good track record for driving change and innovation.
Too often we back off from giving the organization specific direction. That’s a recipe for maintaining the status quo, not generating significant results.