Monday, April 20, 2009


In the military they talk about “tooth-to-tail”, referring to the ratio of supply clerks (tail) to fighters (tooth). Keeping the tail as small as necessary to support any given number of teath is an ongoing leadership effort at all levels for military commanders.

One of the big contributors to the current economic crisis is the tooth-to-tail ratio of the biggest American business. Too many administrators and managers to too few workers. Workers in this usage is defined as people who actually design, build, sell, or deliver a product or service to the customer. Now, there are essential support functions. Someone does have to to do payroll, clean the restrooms, and so on.

But too many managers and administrators getting too large a salary and bonus at the top is the first place to cut. The guys and gals on the shop floor should be the last.

To push the military tooth-to-tail analogy just a little further, without the logistics tail to supply the fighters teeth, you have an inefficient army, but inefficient armies have won wars. A superb logistics system with no fighters has never won a war

In the same way, the people who actually build the product or deliver the service to your customer are the key to your profits. All the rest of the functions are support and deal with the efficiency of your process, not if it delivers your product or service at all.

No comments: