In a post guaranteed to get Bill Waddell up on his horse about Ivy League MBA pinheads, the Harvard Business Review blog just published a piece on "More for Less for More." The authors (who don't actually advertise themselves as Harvard MBAs) maintain that we're entering a new age of scarcity -- diminishing availability of natural resources, and increasing frugality of consumers. As a result,
Hmm...sounds surprisingly like lean, doesn't it? But why use an established and widely accepted term when you can coin a new word that carries a fancy abbreviation (M4L4M)?
Of course, you can't publish something in HBR without either using the word "innovation" or "disruption" (preferably of the creative kind). Kudos to the authors for innovating the use of "disruptive" as an adjective so that they could combine the two words.
What exactly is disruptive about creative value with less cost? The authors explain that
Let's leave aside for the moment the claim that "most Western firms" over-engineer their products -- though I would like to see some evidence that my toaster oven or washing machine is over-engineered. Let's also leave aside the claim that China's factories are creating stripped down products for global markets. Last time I checked, there's a huge volume of contract manufacturing from US and other western companies, and those products are far from "stripped down." Check out an iPhone, or virtually any other high-tech consumer electronic.
But what's up with the claim that M4L4M offers firms a "new way" to deliver more value at lower cost. Have the authors never heard of a small company called Toyota? Or any of the other companies around the world that are aggressively pursuing lean?
The authors conclude with the promise of case studies of US companies that are adopting M4L4M. And they promise to
Sounds like we're on track for another flavor of the month business strategy. There's a new buzzword, an impenetrable abbreviation, the prospect of both innovation and disruption, and most importantly, the promise that all it takes is a forward-thinking CEO to make the change happen. Sign me up!