Ralph Waldo Emerson created a wonderful definition of success. "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
I think about this paragraph often toward the end of a year and the beginning of the new one. This is an appropriate description of success for one's personal life, perhaps, but can it be translated into a definition for the business world?
Navistar exemplifies this definition of success. From 1988 to 1991 Navistar (International Harvester) revenue fell. From 1990 to 1993, the company failed to show a profit. "We had forgotten how to be winners," said John Horne, president and CEO.
To achieve success, the company culture had to be turned around. Management had to win the respect of intelligent people (its workers), find the best in the company and its employees and make the company a better place.
According to an article in Industry Week, "Getting a dialogue going has been key to the company's effort to reinvent itself." To facilitate this dialogue, Mr. Horne developed "Face to Face" meetings with workers at its eight plants and the company's headquarters. Although the idea was not popular at first, it has enabled employees and management to solve problems that had been left to fester for years. This cooperative problem-solving effort showed the workers management's confidence in its abilities.
In addition to dialogue, business training for all employees has been pursued. Because of this, employees are more interested in the company and its success. Management showed interest in the success of the employees who in turn became more involved in the success of the company.
This is simply one example of success. Although there was money involved and contract negotiations with the union and other "businessy" things, the real success came from the personal success of each person at Navistar.