December 5, 2021

Developing Your "Why" as a Humanist Manufacturer

Owners or leaders of manufacturing operations may not understand or might need to revisit their "Why." We will look at the value of integrating humanist commitments into this critical key to success.
Moving on to Why

In the last two blog posts(12), the objective was the introduction of the Ten Humanist Commitments to shape the beginning of a framework for Humanist Manufacturing.  These commitments guided the creation of a vision statement:

"The manufacturing industry allows each citizen of the world an opportunity to meet at a minimum their needs for just and healthy lives, with a full opportunity to achieve their highest potential."

As I worked at how to integrate these humanist commitments into a manufacturing framework, I next developed the following definition:

"Humanist manufacturing focuses on the importance of integrated growth and self-actualization of a production operation's internal and external stakeholders.  The objective is to establish an environment focused on strengths that promote upward spirals toward optimal individual and organizational performance.  The work occurs in a positive whole system setting that compels the natural human tendency of innate good to motivate the organization's members to do well financially while generating positive environmental and social impacts."
Employee Expectations

Employees thirst to work in a company that emphasizes proper care for what Leberecht describes as the heart of the business – people. He argues that organizations need radical humanism. As machines take over business processes, Leberecht explains what remains as "beautiful work." He recommends that the human company will inspire in unexpected and caring ways. The norm should be in building trusting relationships through ongoing small gestures and considerations to create intimacy.  Furthermore, there is too much focus on skin-deep looks, and that companies need to be ugly to be authentic by speaking the truth while still having some fun. Finally, companies need to remain incomplete, as a business is never finished and should allow everyone to continue improving and growing. Embracing the heart can lead to greater employee engagement.

"The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise." - Maya Angelou
Revisiting or Developing The Why

Next, we will revisit the initial development of "Why" a manufacturing operation chooses to be in business.  What resonated with me is Leberecht's position that the human company should inspire employees in unexpected and caring ways.  Regardless of the many technological advances that will continue to grow exponentially, a positive impact on humans should always remain our central focus.  As we consider "Why" we are in business, I recommend doing it from the previously introduced humanist commitments of 1) altruism, 2) critical thinking, 3) empathy, 4) environmentalism, 5) ethical development, 6) global awareness, 7) humility, 8) peace and social justice, 9) responsibility, and 10) service and participation.

Defining the Why

Whether a new startup, a long-running firm, or somewhere in between, the leader must define the "Why" for being in business. Suppose the only goal is to make money for shareholders.  That will not be compelling to all of the organization's other stakeholders.  In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and TED Talk  How leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek's focus on "Why" businesses exist has been viewed more than 57 million times.  His Golden Circle has an outer ring where he posits that organizations know "What" products and services they provide to customers.  The middle ring is the "How," generally known as what they offer that differs from their competition.  He found that most influential leaders inspired people by effectively communicating "Why" they did the work they had chosen to accomplish.

Image Credit: Pixels
How to Develop the Why

An Adalo blog post  presents that great purpose generates excellent creativity.  Further, that customers prefer to do business with socially conscious companies.  Job seekers look at the ethics and community support of organizations.  Morale is three times higher in these firms, and employees are more productive when their work environment matches their values.  To achieve this success, they recommend finding the "Why" by:

• Reflecting on the humble origins of the company

• Determining the current impact the organization makes and how it benefits its customers

• Distilling the humble origins, current impact, and desired purpose into a few clear and concise sentences

• Beginning to spread the purpose with all stakeholders and embed it in the actions of the firm

As younger generations follow in our footsteps, they are not asking but expecting to work for a company whose values align with their own. Therefore, a "Why" based on social consciousness is necessary to attract and retain a strong workforce.

Key Takeaway

Leberecht is on target from my perspective.  People should be the heart of the business.  Highly successful leaders like Bob Chapman of Barry-Wehmiller have fed this hunger for a people-centered leadership model.  His "Why" is "focused on bringing out the best in its people through communication, trust, celebration, respect, continuous improvement, and responsible freedom." The results have been extraordinary by all measures, but in particular their key focus on measuring success on "how we touch the lives of people."

First Step

I encourage anyone responsible for leading people at any level to revisit their "Why."  In particular, view the Simon Sinek TED Talk while considering the ten humanist commitments. Then, for each commitment, determine if it is currently part of your "Why."  If so, can it be further ingrained?  If not, should it be?  Then, like the directions on a shampoo bottle: revisit, review, and repeat, embedding each humanist commitment into your "Why."  I firmly believe you will find the exercise worthwhile for both yourself and those you lead.    

My Gratitude

I am grateful that we continue to see a trend toward what Leberecht calls the "beautiful work." I believe he is correct that increasing technological capabilities will never supplant the need for embracing the human heart.  We need to show younger generations "Why" working in manufacturing can be a compelling career choice.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will integrate humanist principles into the role of leaders to "Know Thyself."

To learn more about our work or to read more blog posts, visit

Cover Image Credit: Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

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