Success Made Humble

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

2 Comments

  1. John Santomer

    October 9, 2011 - 9:35 am

    Dear Jon,
    Its funny how the Amish never even acknowledges that their way is ever based on continuous improvement. Must be because of their humility? But they do admit that; even at their pace, they are behind on some things.
    The simplest of success is worth acknowledging if it will be a learning process.

  2. Robert Drescher

    October 19, 2011 - 10:48 am

    Dear Jon
    I grew up in an area in which the Amish Mennonites had a very large community. On m,any occasions we actually did business with them, and as far as have respect for them and their strong beliefs I will always do that.
    But the truth is that if most farmers operated in their fashion starvation would be something we North Americans would experience. Unfortunately producing food in the volume to feed our society cannot be done using horse and buggy era technology. A graphic example occurred over forty years ago while I was in school. An Amish farmer was injured in an accident, and a group of modern farmers harvested his corn crop for him. The yield from his farm was less than half of what the rest of us produced.
    It may take energy to produce the way modern farmers do, but the yields are what keep food affordable in North America, and help us feed millions of other around the world. Additionally, how many people would lose jobs if farmers stopped buying inputs, modern farming helped build the economy that we all enjoy, it wouldn’t have happened if the majority did it the Amish way.
    If you want to see continuous improvement go to any modern farm, they adapt and change more than any manufacturer has, they have to in order to survive. And other than a few idiots, most farmers use their equipment until it costs more to fix than replace.