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Day-To-Day Details Are Crucial

Dec. 8, 2005
Tying decisions and actions to competencies will move manufacturers in the right direction.

Let's start with a definition. The words "sustain" or "sustainable" in a literal sense might mean maintain, support, assist, endure or even keep alive, according to Webster's. In a global business sense it might be a combination of Webster's definitions and more.

When we think about ensuring the future of Nucor, the first thing that comes to mind is profitability. The next is competitiveness (and by that we mean global), together with environmental and social responsibility and compatibility. The challenge is in creating an environment wherein you extract the collective wisdom of the entire organization for both existing and future operations. What follows is by no means comprehensive. Rather, this is a checklist of those things we think about daily.

What are the core competencies of the company? Is the structure of the company aligned with those competencies? Are the competencies consistent with the future uses of the products we make? Buggy-whip manufacturers come to mind as a group that needed to move into something else or die. Also coming to mind are continuous improvement, product/process innovation and risk-taking on new technologies.

Daniel DiMicco, vice chairman, president & CEO, Nucor Corp.What behavior do you need and expect from the whole team to not only maintain but advance the proper competencies? Are your business practices, from hiring to incentives, in line with goals? Are you rewarding what you want to receive?

Does management have a clear vision of each person's role in where the company is going? Conversely, has the best brain power been tapped to determine and refine the vision?

Does the vision include a thorough understanding of what is necessary to accomplish it and provide flexibility for course corrections?

Nucor Corp.
At A Glance
No plan to sustain the company going forward is going to work unless the blocking and tackling assignments are known and understood. For example, external issues will be increasingly complex -- especially in manufacturing.

In manufacturing, global conditions and the science fiction called "free trade" will influence where things are made. Capital-intensive industries can't pick up and move readily. As a result, activism for free-and-fair trade, elimination of government imposed cost burdens and the like require a high degree of political activism. Is there a commitment and will for such activities? Are customers motivated in a like way?

That said, is the company looking at global options in emerging markets? Where are the markets of the future (geographically as well as product-wise)? What resources are committed?

Today, more than ever, control over the supply of key inputs in such industries as steel is paramount. Does your vision include upstream and downstream elements for materials and products?

This is by no means a complete view -- just some highlights of how things might be defined in looking at "sustainable." One thing is sure, if you lose sight of the day-to-day in the quest for the future, the future vision will be hard to achieve. You have to do both, if not more.

Related Essays

Follow The Leader: How companies are led translates into how well they perform.
Focus On Customers And Core Values, by Keith Harrison, global product supply officer, Procter & Gamble Co.

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