Master the fundamentals

The crash last year of so many dot-coms presents an important reminder for all of us: Success often depends on our ability to master the most fundamental aspects or our businesses or jobs.


The crash last year of so many dot-coms presents an important reminder for all of us: Success often depends on our ability to master the most fundamental aspects or our businesses or jobs.

In the dot-com world, for example, many of the failures were blamed on flawed or nonexistent business plans, the critical foundations on which so much more is built. Other problems often cited were basics like customer service, capitalization, control of cash flow, and more. Investors frequently turned a blind eye to such fundamentals, thinking that the promise of extraordinary returns were worth the risk. In hindsight, it's easy to say that many of these businesses were doomed from the start.

Like businesses, the most successful sports teams and athletes always remember that the fundamentals are key to sustained success. Sure, in any given contest there's always the chance of winning against the odds, but every superior athlete never stops working on the fundamentals. Ask Tiger Woods.

Likewise, good coaches never stop preaching and practicing the basics of their sports. And how often do we hear the sportscasters and analysts comment on how well - or not so well - a player or team is executing the fundamentals?

One of the fundamentals of manufacturing is a strong plant engineering and maintenance function. Quality products are not made in substandard plants on out-of-spec equipment. Productivity isn't maximized on poorly maintained machinery. Plants cannot be flexible and responsive when their equipment and systems need repair. Capacity is not assured when basic systems are inadequate or poorly designed.

And within plant engineering and maintenance the fundamentals are equally important. Some of these fundamentals are: customer focus, understanding of the business mission, planning and scheduling, organization, definition of critical equipment and activities, recordkeeping, and schedule compliance. Mastery of these elements lays the foundation for advancement, improvement, and growth.

The fundamentals don't, by themselves, ensure success any more than the foundation of a building guarantees the strength of the rest of the structure. But the latter is nearly impossible without the former. Problems are inevitable when the builder tries to skimp on the foundation and just concentrates on the upper floors.

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