While most Lean efforts are often bottom-up (some middle) and few are top-down, the CEO drives the brand and the overall culture of the company.
Put another way, how the CEO is (their being, not just outward behavior – but who they are) – in large part, describes what the rest of the company is like.
How does this apply to Lean Thinking?
Well, since Lean Management is both a method and a mindset, the Lean Thinking mindset needs to be embodied in the CEO. So, if the CEO exhibits behaviors that are aligned to the philosophy and practice of Lean, then most likely the rest of the company will embody that also.
If you are a leader, know that people are watching your every move and processing every word. Set a good example, because individual employees will emulate you – indeed, the whole company will emulate who you are.
A great example of how a CEO drives both the brand and the culture is Matt Rutledge, the CEO of Woot.com, which was acquired yesterday by Amazon. In Matt Rutledge’s email to his employees, you get a sense immediately of how the Woot culture is like and how their interactions with each other is like.
Go ahead and read. You’ll laugh. But, pay attention to how this one email describes what the culture and what the brand is like. Just one email can do it.
Oh, and how much do you want to bet that the first order of business post-acquisition is fulfillment and order management integration – in other words, if you buy from Woot.com, that order will drop into the Amazon Dallas Fulfillment Center and fulfilled from there. And, the Amazon Dallas Fulfillment Center will now hold all of Woot’s inventory. My guess.
Enjoy the letter below:
Date: Weds, 30 June 2010
From: Matt Rutledge (CEO â€“ Woot.com)
To: All Woot Employees
Subject: Woot and Amazon
I know I say this every time I find a picture of an adorable kitten, but please set aside 20 minutes to carefully read this entire email. Today is a big day in Woot history. This morning, I woke up to find Jeff Bezos the Mighty had seized our magic sword. Using the Arthurian model as a corporate structure was something our CFO had warned against from the very beginning, but now thatâ€™s water under the bridge. What is important is that our company is on the verge of becoming a part of the Amazon.com dynasty. And our plans for Grail.Woot are on indefinite hold.
Over the next few days, you will probably read headlines that say â€œMatt Rutledge revealed to be monstrous pseudo-human creation of Jeff Bezos.â€ You might even see this photo making the rounds. Rest assured that these rumors have nothing to do with our final decision. We think now is the right time to join with Amazon because, quite simply, every company that becomes a subsidiary gets two free downloads until the end of July, and we very much need that new thing with Trent Reznorâ€™s wife on our iPods.
Other than that, we plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot â€“ with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture. Nevertheless, donâ€™t worry that our culture will suddenly take a leap forward and become cutting-edge. Weâ€™re still going to be the same old bottom-feeders our customers and readers have come to know and love, and each and every one of their pre-written insult macros will still be just as valid in a week, two weeks, or even next year. For Woot, our vision remains the same: somehow earning a living on snarky commentary and junk.
We are excited about doing this for all sorts of reasons. One, our business model is so vague that thereâ€™s no way Amazon can possibly change what it is weâ€™re truly doing: preparing the way for the rise of the Lava Men in 2012. Also, our deal means that Jason Toon will finally be released from that Mexican jail owned by Zappos honcho Tony Hsieh. No, donâ€™t lie, Tony, weâ€™ve seen the paperwork. And we need a powerful ally in case Steve Jobs finally breaks down and comes after us for all our Apple jokes over the years. Donâ€™t think of it as a buyout; think of it as NATO!
I will go through each of the above points in more detail later, but first, let me get to the top 5 burning questions that Iâ€™m guessing many of you will have.
TOP 5 BURNING QUESTIONS:
Q: Is Snapster leaving?
A: Are you kidding? Heâ€™s out the door about ten seconds after that check clea- that is to say, Snapster will continue as Woot.com CEO, just like before, and the rest of our staffâ€™s not going anywhere either. Woot and all our various sites will continue to be an independently operated company full of horrible, useless products and an untalented jerkface writing staff, same as it ever was.
Q: Will the Woot culture change?
A: Amazon is interested in us because they recognize the value of our people, our brand, and our unique style of deep-tissue, toxin-releasing massage. And they donâ€™t want to start changing things now. Amazonâ€™s hoping our nutty Woot steez continues to grow and develop (and perhaps even rubs off on them a little). Theyâ€™re not looking to have their folks come in and run Woot unless we ask them to, which incidentally you can do by turning off the bathroom lights and saying the word â€œKindleâ€ three times; a helpful Amazon employee will appear in the mirror. That said, Amazon clearly knows what theyâ€™re doing in a lot of areas, so weâ€™re geeked about the opportunities to tap into that knowledge and those resources, especially on the technology side. This is about making the Woot brand, culture, and business even stronger than it is today, and we expect that any changes will be for the better or we wouldnâ€™t bother with this endless paperwork.
Q: Where can I get one of those vuvuzelas?
A: Are you even paying attention?
Several months ago, when we were all sitting on Jeff Bezosâ€™s bumper drinking orange Mad Dog and trying not to be noticed, we heard a voice in the distance yelling â€œYou kids better not scratch my Mercedes or Iâ€™m calling the cops!â€ We ran. It was later that night when Amazon came by the house and said they liked our style and also wanted to get that money we owed them for messing up the chrome. We like to think that our relationship with Amazon will continue at this level for many, many, many years to come.
But we here at Woot are still a thoughtful company, so, at the end of the day, I watched the sunset, and its golden-hued glory made me think about two questions:
1) Is there really a universal deity?
2) Does such a thing preclude free will or are we humans in control of our own destiny?
After spending a lot of time falling asleep at the library while facing the philosophy books, I determined that the concept of destiny is a construct that allows man a gentle release from facing the terror of his existence, and that a Hyundai full of twenties would pretty much offer the same benefits. And so, I ultimately said YES!
This is definitely an emotional day for me. The feelings Iâ€™m experiencing are similar to what I felt in college on graduation day: excitement about getting a check from my folks combined with nausea from a hellacious bender the night before. I remember fondly that time when an RA turned on the lights and yelled â€œWHO OWNS THESE PANTS?â€ Except this time, the pants are a company, and the RA is you, and the sixty five hours of community service is a deal that will ensure the Woot.com experience can continue to grow for years and years and years, like a black mold behind the Gold Box. Join us, because together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Also, there will be six muffins waiting in the company break room, courtesy of the nice folks at Amazon.com. Welcome to the family!