Work That Matters: Avoiding A Game of Thrones

As part of the French Resistance during World War II, he was captured and became a prisoner of the Gestapo but orchestrated a daring escape and rejoined the fight against the Nazi occupation. If anyone had an excuse later in life for a mistrusting, uncooperative relationship with Germany, it was Robert Schuman. But instead, because of his work in strengthening the Franco-German relationship, he is now widely regarded as one of the founders of the European Union.

Maybe you’ve heard of the TV series titled, A Game of Thrones. It’s an unfortunately fitting title for many businesses. The departments and functions operate in a mistrusting, uncooperative way with their neighboring functions. Born out of a number of causes and following multiple plot lines, leaders of functions operate as independent “kingdoms” with their own thrones; each with their own agenda, serving their own interests. The procurement kingdom optimizes their interests at the expense of the manufacturing kingdom. In turn, the manufacturing kingdom optimizes their interests at the expense of the distribution kingdom. And so it goes throughout the value chain including the kingdoms of R&D, Marketing, Sales, Logistics, and so on. As a result, end-to-end value chain analysis indicates as much as 5% cost of goods sold in lost or trapped value.

But Robert Schuman didn’t live that way. He realized the Franco-German relationship was pivotal to the successful formation of the EU. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer later remarked: “[Robert Schuman]… laid the foundation for reconciliation for our two countries and for the construction of a united and strong Europe.” Likewise, the key to success and industry-leading results for a business comes from doing the work that matters: operating in an integrated, cooperative manner across the entire value chain. It takes virtuous, selfless leadership and a business designed to let kingdom aspirations and the game of thrones remain nothing more than a television program.