By Lloyd Graff
Today’s Machining World Archive May 2008 Volume 4 Issue 05
Greg Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, nearing 350 wins in the Major Leagues. He is a master of pitching in almost every sense, which enables him to still win consistently with a fastball that can’t break a window pane.
When Maddux was asked recently about his pitching performance on a particular night he answered very succinctly – “50 out of 73.” It was the number of pitches executed perfectly, not the score, his arm, or his mood.
I was stunned by his simplicity. Though Maddux is renowned for his sophisticated knowledge of the game, his acumen in setting up hitters, and his Gold Glove fielding prowess, it is his ability to not think and just execute that marks his remarkable career.
I am reminded of Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Forest Gump. For Forest, life was “like a box of chocolates.” He made up for lack of worldly intelligence with a purity of purpose and good humor.
I have observed through the years that success in business often goes to those who can see through the temptations of tricks and guile and just do the simple tasks they can understand. The most recent Wall Street debacle over mortgage instruments is a direct result of building a web of complexity that obscured the safe and simple. The derivative market was so complicated and opaque nobody could really evaluate the risky slices of potential insolvency, but the big players hoped they could buy their home in the Hamptons before the music stopped on their financial musical chairs charade.
Lean manufacturing is a noble effort to pare the tough skin off the perfect mango of proper production management. Nucor Steel was one of the earliest practitioners of simplifying the steelmaking process by using electric furnaces and scrap steel. They demolished the antiquated
Bethlehems, and Jones and Laughlins who needed the constant ore boats resupplying the United Steel workers on the featherbedded floor.
I write this piece from the vantage point of a used machinery dealer who has lived off opaque markets and challenging intrigue. Sometimes complexity is fun if you think you have the teachers’ copy of the workbook with the answers in the back. But the periods of time when I’ve been the most successful and the happiest are when I refined the game down to its essence. “Listen to the customers. Meet their needs. Make a fair profit.” Business is hard, but it isn’t that hard when you keep it simple.
In my personal life I have learned, at times painfully, that clarity makes life so much easier. If a relationship is not working, state the obvious because to the other party it may not be so obvious.
Greg Maddux. Simply the best. 50 out of 73.