This year I am participating in an executive fellowship that is designed to expose leaders in various industries to the Baldrige Framework, a model for organizational excellence. As part of the program, the fellows visit companies that received the coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Recently, we toured Cargill, a large, Minnesota-based company that has about 75 business units, and spent time with two of them: Cargill Kitchen Solutions, which largely makes egg products for McDonald’s, schools and many other customers; and Cargill Corn Milling, a maker of corn syrup, animal food and ethanol.
We not only talked to leaders and reviewed their strategic plans, but visited the plant. We spoke to employees on the floor, as food was prepared on a massive scale: eggs being cooked by the thousands, breakfast burritos being assembled and placed on conveyor belts, French toast cooked, stacked and placed into boxes.
As we talked to leaders, toured the plant and reviewed their strategic plans, I was struck by three things.
First, everything and everybody was focused on the customer. The customer was at the center of every discussion, every decision and every strategy. From the CEO to the managers to people on the shop floor, they talked about meeting customers’ needs. Usually it was the first thing out of their mouths, and they used the impact on customers as a scale for weighing every decision. Indeed, many staff, from senior leaders to line operators making an hourly wage, said, We know who pays our paycheck; it’s the customer. If we want a paycheck, we better meet their needs.Read More »Company churns out burritos, French toast — and inspiration for health care