Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

Care for a Pepsi?

courtesy of Emzee Zahid's photos via Getty Images and Flickr

[tweetmeme]PepsiCo just launched their first Pepsi ad campaign in 3 years.  The new ad campaign is really good and features none other than the iconic Coke drinker, Santa Clause.  The Wall Street Journal reports that they were planning to launch a new low-calorie soda this summer but were convinced by the various Pepsi bottling companies that they needed to focus on, well, Pepsi.

It sounds like the bottling companies were right.  Diet Coke has taken over the number two position for soda consumption while PepsiCo focused on healthy foods.  This puts Coca-cola and Diet Coke ahead of PepsiCo’s namesake brand – an embarrassing development in the cola wars.

Did PepsiCo take their eye off the ball and neglect their #1 and namesake brand?  It looks that way.  So what does this have to do with Lean Leadership?  Lean Leaders can easily take their eye off the ball too.  Life in today’s manufacturing plant is very hectic and there is more to do every day.   Regulatory requirements keep mounting while plant staffs are expected to do more with less.

While there are many projects and initiatives that sound important, attempting to do too much will be counterproductive.  A Harvard Business Review article notes that companies with fewer company wide initiatives are more profitable that the ones who attempt to do more.  You have probably seen the same thing at your level.  You can’t take your eye off the ball.  It is critical that Lean Leaders today are able to focus on what is truly important to their business.   This can boil down to Safety, Quality, Productivity, Cost, and Delivery for many manufacturing plants.

Lean will help you to deliver on the basic Key Performance Indicators at manufacturing sites.  Lean Leaders must be able to prioritize and must know when to say no.


Image by MelvinSchlubman via Flickr

[tweetmeme]PepsiCo appears to have their eye back on the ball heading into summer.  It will be interesting to see if their renewed focus will help them close the gap between Pepsi and either Coke or Diet Coke.  Have you seen other examples of companies who seem distracted?  Have you seen a company regain its focus with good results?  What about your organization?  2011 is half over already.  Maybe it’s time to assess your team’s focus on the critical issues to your business.   Are you distracted by less critical initiatives or are you keeping your eye on the ball?

Best regards,
Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership
Written for the Consumers Goods Club

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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3 Responses to Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

  1. Pingback: Il meglio della blogosfera lean #97 — Encob Blog

  2. Nader Ashway says:

    Well articulated, Christian. The news that Pepsi had fallen to #3 overall is EXACTLY what can happen when you take your eye off the ball. Question in this case, however, is what exactly IS the ball? For the big soft drink manufacturers, is it audience perception? Is it distribution? Is it an innovation? Is it simply a matter of flavor preference?

    The answer is yes. It’s all of those things wrapped up into one: it’s marketing. These mega-companies generate billions of dollars in revenues on the sales of their products. They’ve got 99% of the business cycle mastered. The last mile is the delicate balance of managing consumer perceptions and pleasing shifting desires.

    And they’ve both done a spectacular job of getting their marketing messages and programs out to the consumers. The points programs, the social media stuff, the taste tests, the philanthropy, the rock star endorsements. The “cola wars” have made a lot of noise and sold a bunch of Coke and Pepsi in the process.

    In my opinion, a big reason Pepsi is slipping is because they’ve failed to stay true to their original position. Back in the 70’s they introduced the theme “the choice of a new generation,” and it was a heavy artillery shot to Coke. Why? Because it basically de-positioned Coke as the “stodgy” soda. It used its basic DNA as a cola upstart against the established behemoth, and it gained ground.

    If Pepsi is to re-gain its position (as #2, mind you) it needs to work harder than Coke on the hip-ness treadmill. Coke beat Pepsi’s brains in with its sponsorship/ownership of American Idol. Pepsi has yet to successfully rebound and needs to come up with something fast…Coke’s new initiative – Coca-Cola Music – has its eyes trained on teens, and is trying to beat Pepsi at Pepsi’s own game: becoming the choice of the next generation.

    • Nadar,

      Excellent analysis. Coke’s move to displace Pepsi and the choice of the new generation is an interesting development, isn’t it? It’s probably difficult to remain the choice of the new generation for too long. I remember reading how Levi’s sales were hurting because the younger generation perceived Levi’s as their parents jeans. Ironic considering how they capitalized on the parents generation when they were young. Thanks for your thorough comments.


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