One more lesson from my trip to John Deere: their headquarters has a display case that runs the length of the visitor’s center.  It is a chronology of the company and contains hundreds of artifacts to help guests place Deere achievements in historical context.

While I was looking at it, an employee came up to me and said: “This has been just like this since the building opened 50 years ago.  The lights don’t work and you’ll see that some of the items are falling down.  I wish they would do something about it.”

I’m not sure that I would have noticed it before his comments, but he was right.  It was darker than ideal in the case and several items were lopsided.  I had been so impressed with my Deere experience, but this tarnished the illusion that Deere pride tended to every detail.

But why did he mention this to me? Certainly there is nothing I can do to fix the display.  I wonder if he has shared his comments with someone who can.  The company prides itself in listening to its customers, but has it made it easy to hear from the front line employees?

Think about the vast knowledge that your employees have about how things really work at your place.  Have you mined their data and sought their input on what needs attention?  Have you cultivated them to become a brand ambassador, not just an employee?

Work hard to create an environment where your people take the initiative to fix things themselves or at least tell you and not the customers what is on the to-do list.

— beth triplett


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