However, when I got home, all fired up to try out the new stuff I ran headlong into a very rigid, rules based bureaucracy. It wasn’t about doing business anymore, it was about following their internally generated rules. Even if, those rules meant not doing any business at all.
All organizations operate on rules and procedures, but it was as if, they saw their mission as being all about, managing their systems, keeping the well oiled machine running smoothly, and above all, about controlling costs. The Suits were serious, and I most certainly didn’t fit the profile they wanted to deal with. I guess I really underwhelmed them so to speak.
As you might imagine, we didn’t do a lot of business. Judging from the latest Hearing Review dispenser survey, neither did a lot of my colleagues, by their fifth place ranking out of six major manufacturers.
Their failure to innovate their own internal systems rules, to match the realities of their market resulted in great, cutting edge products, that few of us, outside of the institutional settings like the V.A. were buying.
Few, of their employees outside audiology and sales, had much of an awareness at all of the impact their work had on those who use it every day. It had been apparent in the prevailing attitude during the last tour. Lots of diligent people seriously about their jobs, not knowing how their end product changed the lives of those who were using it.
Oh, there were the regular posters of smiling users everywhere, but the mood conveyed no connection.
Their parent company, Siemens AG recognized as much, in their announcement of their intentions to spin off Siemens Hearing, in an upcoming IPO. Recognising that the rules of dealing with cities, railways, power companies, hospitals, and such, don’t meet the needs of the customers of Siemens Hearing.
Hearing aids, and hearing care, are much too personal an item, to fit the same rules that worked for selling power generation and distribution, or diesel electric locomotives, or MRI machines. Few, as they put it, synergies.
The changes in both our products, and market, are too rapid to work under the same rules of running the business of building and selling Transformers, Generators, and power systems, which are planned, and ordered years in advance of delivery, by huge institutions, and governments.
Lots of the folks we serve would be dead between that kind of order and delivery times, and our product cycle times are running less than a year between major technological advances in micro electronics that don’t apply to industrial equipment.
Two radically different customer bases, two radically different products, one Institutional, and industrial, the other a rapidly evolving personal consumer computer product, being delivered through a highly regulated system.
Siemens AG finally recognized these huge differences, and this IPO, will allow Siemens Hearing to evolve to fit this entirely different business model.
So what changes did I observe from my first trip?
Wow, first and foremost, leadership.
Scott Davis is not your average CEO. This Alabama boy is highly intelligent, well educated, and has more street smarts than most. His rural roots ground him in what matters. He knows how much his products change lives. He has a internally burning passion for what he does, that is evidenced by his attitude and actions.
His internal, “all in” program’s effects were evident all about the entire facility.
Where as on my last visit, the mood on the assembly floor, and customer service sections was kinda like a bunch of worker bees, and drones going about their jobs very diligently to exacting standards, this was a visit where the place was alive and, hopping.
The mood was entirely different.
There had been a connection made between what they were doing, and where, and how it mattered. These folks knew, and understood how what they did changed, and enriched the lives of the people wearing their products.
The changes were evident throughout the operation, every part of the tour yielded this same positive energy. These folks understood. They were glad to be about what they were doing. The standards were just as high, and exacting, but how they were going about it, was with a whole different perspective, and energy.
The smiles weren’t fake, the enthusiasm was real. These folks were on the same mission, they really were “all in” and it showed. This is most definitely not the same uptight, button down serious factory I visited last.
This is a company poised to make real inroads in hearing healthcare, and ear level consumer electronics products. Their technologies are in fact “Best of Class”. Their leadership, passion and purpose, have them well poised to take advantage of the freedom to evolve that their upcoming IPO will allow.
They have the potential to change our entire industry with their products, vision and energy, with potential for growth far beyond their current reach. I look forward to watching them evolve into this greater vision.