The book Success Made Simple by Erik Wesner was mistitled. While it’s true there are many examples of great simplicity in the book, simple is hard. There is no Amish formula for business success per se. They are as much seeker and students as the rest of us. Some of the success secrets they have found are those being rediscovered and taught in modern management:
“They’re not necessarily included with big decisions,” says an Amish business owner, discussing the importance of having mentors and sounding boards, “but they can be very helpful in improving efficiency and operations on the ground. Employees often have a unique vantage point to access whether a given change is achieving what it was intended to, and whether other issues have been created as a result.”
Here he talks about the need to create a blame-free culture.
“You employees need to [be] sure that they can tell you something needs to be changed, without thinking that you’re going to think badly of them, or retaliate.”
Making a safe environment to give their improvement ideas is not enough, management must also proactively demonstrate that they care, and ask:
“At the same time, it’s important to actually ask them, too. Because some guys… will know something, and won’t tell you, unless you ask them. Just because they don’t think you care, or don’t have time to listen.”
The book makes its biggest impression illustrating the humility of the Amish people, and how this humility is at the source of their success. Their commitment to their community, their faith, their families and the well-being of their fellow man provide a firm grounding for their business practices, making their success seem simple.
Previous articles on the Amish and lean thinking:
10 Things the Amish Can Teach Toyota Leadership
7 Amish Habits to Make You Lean and Wealthy