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Nick Brownsword on the benefit of Lean Practices
June 11, 2020
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Celebrate the spirit of #8 wire, but let the practice die

#8 wire

Number #8 wire, it’s the quintessential Kiwi attitude. Success on an oily rag. Us out here in the colonies, against the world. We may not have the size or the resources, but we punch above our weight. We knock the bastard off.

While we emerge from lockdown some commentators have lauded businesses that have successfully pivoted, and praised their #8 wire practices. Innovation using #8 wire they shout. Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. As an imported Kiwi of 27 years, I have come across few concepts that have such a divided interpretation as #8 wire. I love it and loathe it.

Despite Covid-19, we still operate in a global business environment. Kiwi companies are constantly up against international competitors who get it 100% right, on time, every time. They innovate their way to success; they don’t get there by improvising. We have that in New Zealand too, case in point Rocket Lab and many other smaller companies. The spirit of #8 wire is alive and well in these organisations, but do you seriously think they’ll put a rocket on the pad that is not systemically and rigorously produced, tested and cleared for guaranteed success? No “yeah/nah, she’ll be right mate” phrasing here!

Successful Covid pivots are inspired by #8 mentality, but are sustained by rigorous execution, often supported by well designed practices and business management systems, owned by the people of the enterprise. Industry-leading performance is never held together by the practice of #8 wire.

So YES to the practical, can-do attitude. I love that bit, it’s essential to our success. But please NO to the practice of “she’ll be right mate” and “near enough is good enough”. When you come across that, make your loathing clear: “not on my watch”.

Is your business set up for success? Or do you improvise your way to the top? Achieving industry-leading performance is not rocket science, but you do need an open mind and a practical, can-do attitude. Celebrate the spirit of #8 wire, but let the practice die.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People and Co-founder of the Global Lean Alliance