This is the 6th of a 10-part series on Customer Leadership.
In this LEADERSHIP MINTS series, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Steelcase Inc. (founded March 16, 1912) and salute their Customer Leaders (a.k.a employees). Those highly motivated Customer Leaders have consistently helped the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company reign as the office-furniture industry leader for most of its 100 years in business.
By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an example of a Customer Leader who breaks the rules to more creatively serve the customer.
It was 4 am. Two hours after Wayne’s shift normally ended. But this was no normal night for the supervisor in the Steelcase chair plant. Wayne was on a mission, prowling around the near deserted manufacturing plant. In the hunt. On the trail. Without fail.
Wayne needed to find ONE missing part to complete an order that was due that night. Without that missing part, an incomplete order would have to be shipped. And in Wayne’s World, there are only completed orders shipped on time. No matter what.
Wayne exhausted all the usual places for spare parts. But he was not exhausted. There was just one other place they hadn’t looked. Within minutes, Wayne was breaking into the Quality Control Office in the chair plant. A sample of parts for each chair was kept in that office. The parts served as the measurement standard to compare newly machined parts.
Wayne’s World Rocks Even at 4 AM
Oh, sure, Wayne found a set of keys to the Quality Control Office but it was still a break in. The master samples were always under lock and key and available only to quality control employees. Not to the Wayne’s of the world. Not to most in Wayne’s World. No matter.
Wayne knew the QC (Quality Control) folks would not be happy with him later that day. He was right. They were angry that someone would be so bold as to break into their hallowed grounds.
But Wayne was also right that he would find the missing part — a side frame for a T-line chair. And Wayne was also right that the customer’s need for an order shipped ON TIME outweighed QC’s need for order in limiting access to their sample parts.
The break in earned Wayne national acclaim in a Steelcase advertisement and a hearty “thank you ” from the customer.
Next: Customer Leadership Mint #7: Bridging the Gap
Be willing to break the rules occasionally to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on Strategic Thinking:
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