Obsess on the customer, not the competition.

I love this quote from a recent Tom Friedman column:

“When you obsess about the customer, you end up defeating your competition as a byproduct. When you are just obsessed about the competition, you end up killing yourself as a byproduct — because you are not focused on the customer.”

- K.R. Sridhar, founder, Bloom Energy

Lean is often described as an approach to eliminate waste. While that’s certainly true, many in the lean community get riled up by this simplification, pointing out that “respect for people” is a fundamental element of lean. Others point to the essential qualities of just-in-time, or standardized work, or something else. (Check out all the iterations of the Toyota Way here.)

But I think we do lean a disservice if we forget that the ultimate goal is to deliver products and services to customers at the lowest possible price — and in so doing, we render our position impregnable.