The solution to the enterprise quality problem is easy: foster a culture that doesn't allow the company to make, produce, sell, or accept shit. Done. Well, it's not quite that easy. But Steve Jobs is notorious for saying "this is shit" to shitty things, and that bluntness,
I think, is essential to a culture that creates amazing products and experiences. Here is one response to my rant about American Airlines that is not unlike at least fifty others:
• through all that and have been for decades and it just doesn't work. There are too many people and departments involved to get anything done efficiently. It's just the way it is."
Having worked in small, agile companies with extreme focus, this kind of email really angers me. This seems to be the attitude of many employees at large companies that produce products I use every day. But for some reason, nobody with power in these organizations seems to care enough to cause forward change. Fostering a culture that strives for perfection cannot possibly be a bad thing, and I deeply respect people who work hard from the lower ranks to cut through the crap and try to inflict change in the right direction. But it's clear that doesn't work. Change has to come from the top.
No matter what, whoever you are, you can't give up. Fight. Fight like you're a trojan horse version of Carl Icahn or something. If you work in a big company, it's your company. If you're right about what you're fighting for, it's probably worth the effort. Why else are you there?
I resent the attitude that leads to the statement "it's just the way it is." I have seen groups of three people make in six months what a group of 200 people at American Airlines have not been able to do properly in five years. But I believe it is possible for big companies to make great things. There just needs to be someone at the top who cares enough to make it happen. I honestly have no idea how to get those people to care. That's the real problem. But once they do care, I think there is...
The only thing that matters to a company of any size is its product and customer experience. That's it. That's what creates value. The number and type of people who work at a company do not matter. The bureaucracy that develops to manage those people does not matter. The only thing that matters is what gets ultimately produced by the entire system of an organization. If you think of it this way, then you can't be influenced by the ridiculous inertia of political crap that has developed internally. If there are deficiencies in the product or experience that leads to decreased value for the customer, it’s because some part of the system is broken. So you fix the system in such a way that you cannot produce bad products or experiences. Those fixes might include things like a reduction in workforce, hiring more talented employees, or changing bureaucratic rules. It doesn't really matter as long as the product improves. But how to know when the product is improving? For that, you need a filter.
Ketchup has really received the short end of the stick as far as product dispensing innovation goes. I recently bought a new kind of ketchup bottle with a flimsy (but definitely forward-thinking) liquid-resistent top that keeps jamming up and reducing flow (hilariously, the same problem the glass bottles have). And as much as I love Heinz, I think that's a failure of the entire company. There needs to be a human filter that prevents mistakes like these from becoming part of the company's experience. The CEO, or the design director, or someone with a huge amount of power at Heinz should personally use every one of its products for some arbitrary amount of time before it is approved to be sold. If it’s crappy, or if it has any deficiency, then don’t fucking sell it. There, easy. Now, as long as that person at the top with power has some amount of understanding of what it means for a product to be awesome, your company cannot sell crap.
Really, how hard is it to require yourself to use your own product and to personally veto things that are crappy? That seems so obvious to me. When do you think the last time the the CEO of American Airlines booked a flight on his site and then sat in an economy seat? What about the last time the failed CEO of GM went to a dealership and shopped around and bought a GM car? Probably never. And that’s probably why both of those things suck. Jeff Bezos goes and ships products from the Amazon warehouses. There's a huge difference here, and I think it is no accident. •