January 28, 2023

Linchpins versus Crash Test Dummies

But I wanted to be a linchpin when I grew up

Most of us want to be linchpins, if we actually knew what it meant. Being a linchpin, as explained by Seth Godin, means possessing an indispensable value, the ability to make things happen. That’s something everyone should aspire to. But along the way we ┬ábecame lost and got in line for the crash test dummies. We passed the obedience test and the reward was in the other room, with all the other Dilberts and the crash test dummies on the GM testing ground. The whiz kids and bean counters calculated to the tenth decimal point the cost of everything involved in running a business, labeled much of the company and the customer base as crash test dummy, and wrecked the business. The spreadsheet has become the company product, boasting in full color of supreme command and control of the company until the day the wall collapses as if built by a low rent fly by night contractor.

Dilberts of the world unite

Bob Lutz, one of the auto industry’s great linchpins, criticizes the bean counters for draining the life out of products in his new book. He speaks for everyone, not just those in the auto business. It’s the price paid in the race to the bottom. Quality is hardly ever mentioned these days, except ironically, Detroit and the automotive industry. Quality experts used to be all the rage but in the wrong way. Lutz tells of the need to toughen up, but in the right way. The best leaders operate like the Hall of Fame football or baseball coach and the worst use their spreadsheets to explain the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Bean counters across all industries are draining customer value out faster than what is being saved in cost cutting. I played golf with a friend who is a vice president of an automotive business. He was admiring his Nike ripoff golf clubs he had bought in China for almost nothing. I thought the clubs were okay for the cheap price. But the Nike ripoffs were cheap. No one who is any good would want to play with them. If he wanted to be good at golf, he would have to pay for the good equipment.

Don’t you want to be good? I asked him.

It’s a question everyone should ask.


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