Is Zappos the Next Toyota?


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Toyota has led us through the turn of the century and beyond establishing “Respect for People” as one of the most important ingredients of the Toyota Production System and Lean Thinking. This has led to establishing a culture of Servant Leadership versus the more traditional command and control type organization. This type of thinking in conjunction with Kaizen (continuous improvement) is the bases of Lean Culture.

However, the age of process and improvement methodologies is starting to fade as the customer experience comes to the forefront. The methodologies of Service Design and Design Thinking are moving at a rapid pace. Lean due to its core concepts of going to Gemba or viewing things from the customer perspective is the one process methodology that is in position to readily adapt to these new forces. The Lean Startup and Agile Movements are excellent examples.

Customer Experience is at the forefront of not only marketing but organizational structure as evidence by the corporate shifts such as IBM to a more Customer-Centric structure. Zappos may be the shining example and the organization to emulate in this new culture.

What about this? Is Zappos to Customer-Centricity what Toyota and Lean was to the process movement?

I have just competed reading The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW. Joseph Michelli takes you through the Zappos company culture revealing what occurs behind the scenes and showing how employees at all levels operate on a day-today basis while providing the leadership methods that have earned the company $1 billion in annual gross sales during the last ten years. Michelli breaks the approach down into five key elements:

  1. Serve a Perfect Fit—create bedrock company values
  2. Make it Effortlessly Swift—deliver a customer experience with ease
  3. Step into the Personal—connect with customers authentically
  4. S T R E T C H—grow people and products
  5. Play to Win—play hard, work harder

Not exactly PDCA, but it may be the future of organizational culture.

This could serve as another example for the new Customer-Centric organization approach. It was highlighted in another book on a similar theme by Joseph Michelli, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary. The principles are:

  1. Make it Your Own – objective is to get a lower level associate functioning in an entrepreneurial fashion
  2. Everything Matters – you have to get those DETAILS right.
  3. Surprise and Delight – create dedicated professionals .
  4. Embrace Resistance – look upon criticism as an opportunity to learn from the person doing the criticizing
  5. Leave Your Mark – contribute positively to our communities, and our environment.

Again not exactly PDCA, but it may be the future of organizational culture. What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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