Things don’t always work out.
Having problems is inevitable.
Taking a wrong turn, making a wrong move, happens even to the brightest of people.
Then what do you do?
It depends on what your goal is.
As a company or as an artist, is your goal to please and delight customers?
Or are you just out to make things so you can extract money from buyers?
Those are opposite attitudes.
Here are lessons on how to be great from three companies and — as proxy for all of them — one writer.
Such striving for efficiency and excellence wasn’t always a priority. In 1995, Chairman Lee was dismayed to learn that cell phones he gave as New Year’s gifts were found to be inoperable. He directed underlings to assemble a pile of 150,000 devices in a field outside the Gumi factory. More than 2,000 staff members gathered around the pile. Then it was set on fire. When the flames died down, bulldozers razed whatever was remaining. “If you continue to make poor-quality products like these,” Lee Keon Hyok recalls the chairman saying, “I’ll come back and do the same thing.”
The lesson stuck. In May 2012, three weeks before the new Galaxy S III was to be shipped, a Samsung customer told the company that the back covers for the smartphone looked cheaper than the demo models shown to clients earlier. “He was right,” says DJ Lee, the marketing chief of Samsung Mobile. “The grain wasn’t as fine on the later models.” There were 100,000 covers in the warehouse with the inferior design, as well as shipments of the assembled devices waiting at airports. This time, there would be no bonfire—all 100,000 covers, as well as those on the units at the airports, were scrapped and replaced.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Haier: Appliances For Everyone
Reaching the top has been Zhang’s goal since the famous day in 1984, when having just taken over the state-owned Qingdao Refrigerator Co., he cursed the terrible workmanship, lined up 76 faulty refrigerators and gave each of his 800 workers a sledgehammer to demolish the fridges on the spot.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
In October 2000, near what he thought was the end of the process, Johnson woke up in the middle of a night before one of the Tuesday meetings with a painful thought: They had gotten something fundamentally wrong. They were organizing the store around each of Apple’s main product lines, with areas for the PowerMac, iMac, iBook, and PowerBook. But Jobs had begun developing a new concept: the computer as a hub for all your digital activity. In other words, your computer might handle video and pictures from your cameras, and perhaps someday your music player and songs, or your books and magazines. Johnson’s predawn brainstorm was that the stores should organize displays not just around the company’s four lines of computers, but also around things people might want to do. “For example, I thought there should be a movie bay where we’d have various Macs and PowerBooks running iMovie and showing how you can import from your video camera and edit.”
Johnson arrived at Jobs’s office early that Tuesday and told him about his sudden insight that they needed to reconfigure the stores. He had heard tales of his boss’s intemperate tongue, but he had not yet felt its lash—until now. Jobs erupted. “Do you know what a big change this is?” he yelled. “I’ve worked my ass off on this store for six months, and now you want to change everything!” Jobs suddenly got quiet. “I’m tired. I don’t know if I can design another store from scratch.”
Johnson was speechless, and Jobs made sure he remained so. On the ride to the prototype store, where people had gathered for the Tuesday meeting, he told Johnson not to say a word, either to him or to the other members of the team. So the seven-minute drive proceeded in silence. When they arrived, Jobs had finished processing the information. “I knew Ron was right,” he recalled. So to Johnson’s surprise, Jobs opened the meeting by saying, “Ron thinks we’ve got it all wrong. He thinks it should be organized not around products but instead around what people do.” There was a pause, then Jobs continued. “And you know, he’s right.” He said they would redo the layout, even though it would likely delay the planned January rollout by three or four months. “We’ve only got one chance to get it right.”
Jobs liked to tell the story — and he did so to his team that day — about how everything that he had done correctly had required a moment when he hit the rewind button. In each case he had to rework something that he discovered was not perfect. He talked about doing it on Toy Story, when the character of Woody had evolved into being a jerk, and on a couple of occasions with the original Macintosh. “If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later,” he said. “That’s what other companies do.”
Writer: Harry Crews
If you have to start over, do it!
Because most companies and most people won’t.
It’s always worthwhile to be great.