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Being Frank: Our 7 Tenets

Brent Graves

Over thirty years I have worked for a number of companies in the bike industry, and while none were perfect, all had good intentions to deliver products riders would appreciate. It is common, consultants would say “best practice”, to translate those intentions into a company vision, a mission statement, and company values. However, in my experience these are rarely seen beyond the printed glossy card next to the requisite coffee mug and care package I’d find waiting for me on my desk on the first day of a new job. One CEO I reported to repeated “the way we work” phrase but could not explain to me what that way was.

Admittedly, it is not easy to apply such grand thinking to everyday work and behavior. But that is what we at Cane Creek set out to do almost six years ago. We did not come up with anything unique or revolutionary, we just made it routine to talk about these things. We talk about them in meetings, we have team members provide real-world examples in our Town Halls, and we refer to them for guidance when tough decisions are required – incidentally Eric and I just discussed how we should delay production on a new product so that a tooling modification could be made that would ensure a better surface finish. We call this guidance “Our 7 Tenets”. Some seem self-explanatory and are, but like many things, there is usually more to it than meets the eye. In this Being Frank, we’ll dive into stories behind Our 7 Tenets.

MOVE FAST, SLOWLY

This tenet is not meant to confuse but grab attention and provoke thought. It means we aim to get going without wasting time, but doing so in a controlled and methodical manner. Trying to plan everything perfectly before acting burns precious time. On the other end of the spectrum, running full-speed without a plan is careless and likely results in wasted resources. Move fast, slowly is about finding the balance between the two.

There’s no confusion with this one, but there are many forces that can work against it. The best example of this tenet is new product introduction. We strive to not launch a product until it is in production. The bicycle industry is terrible about showing new product and not delivering it for sometimes many months later. I’d like to say Cane Creek never does this, but when we do reveal a new product we make every effort to be upfront about when it will be available. Additionally, our sales team’s top priority is to keep our customers updated on delivery status. This might be the toughest of our tenets to meet, but it also is the one we focus on the most.

UNDER-PROMISE, OVER-DELIVER

INTERROGATE ISSUES, NOT PEOPLE

 When something goes sideways it is critical to dig in and understand why so that it will not be repeated. Doing this successfully requires trust and respect amongst the team that has been built over years. If trust and respect are not there, then it is too easy for people to feel blame and defensive. Remembering that our aim is to constantly learn, improve, and move forward helps us center on the issue. 

This one is different than many first think. While we always try to offer the best product that we can, we are not perfect nor blessed with unlimited resources. Sometimes given the situation our product is good but not great. Though this tenet is not about the product. This tenet is about our effort. While we may not be able to make every product the best, we should always try to do our best. This applies to every aspect of our work – communicating with customers, shipping accurately, helping riders at events, forecasting our business, paying our vendors, etc.

GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH

FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS, NOT PROBLEMS

 This is related to the interrogate issues, not people tenet. Actually, you’ll likely notice some of the tenets do overlap. This is analogous to the trail rider’s adage of look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Certainly, we need to learn from our mistakes, but too much time and energy can be wasted on what went wrong. We aim to ascertain quickly the key points of the mistake and focus our energy on what we can do differently/better going forward. There are always options, and this tenet drives us to uncover as many options as possible.

I stole this one from the late and great Jack Welch. Mr. Welch was an engineer who worked his way up to the top of GE and transformed its business. This tenet is related to move fast, slowly. Instead of spending time and energy trying to create the perfect plan, make a good plan and execute the hell out of it. We see this with some successful sports teams. While their gamecraft may not be revolutionary, their superb consistency via execution can lead to victory.

GOOD STRATEGY, GREAT EXECUTION

IDENTIFY, ANALYZE, ACT

 This tenet reminds us that the order of our thoughts and actions is important. It is similar to the old “ready, aim, fire”. As the world moves ever faster, it’s important for us to take a breath and not just react. We strive to identify what happened first, and make sure we are aware of the critical elements. Then we need to analyze the situation objectively like a scientist. Once, we’ve understood the situation, then we need to action to ensure improvement is made.

As I said before, there’s nothing revolutionary here. Our 7 Tenets have made a difference at Cane Creek because we have committed to talk about their meaning and application on a daily basis. Honestly, five years ago the tenets had little impact. But we kept at it, and now I am super proud that we have a defined set of tenets that truly help us be a better organization.

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