It is essential for an organization to have two things: (1) people who have an understanding of its raison d'être; (2) people (the same ones) who have a passion for actualizing (1). One part of this is intellectual; the other part, no less important, is emotional. The intellectual part must go beyond having a lot of "smart" people with "good ideas." The emotional part must go beyond the feeling of "I like working here; it is a good company." That's nice. But insufficient.
Exactly what I have in mind here was unambiguously expressed by executives of BMW during remarks presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. These people know what they stand for and they are engaged with the realization of it.
One of the speakers was Prof. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Milberg, president and CEO of BMW AG. First, it is important to note that this mission/engagement provides tangible results. In 2000, Milberg explained, BMW had its best sales year ever, and it had its best return on sales: it moved metal and it made money on doing so. In reviewing what the company had done, and what it intends to do, he stated that the company is "going the right way." He amplified: "To us, the ‘right way' means that the BMW Group is pursuing a premium brand strategy consistently and without the slightest compromise."
The second speaker, Dr. Burkhard Göschel, member of the BMW board of management, unveiled some new vehicles, including the BMW X Coupe concept vehicle, about the development of which he said, "Today's segmented world of ‘either-or,' of vehicles with limits on their personalities and their performance because of barriers in the mind is no longer a valid model for the future. To superceded these confines was the [design and engineering] team's challenge." He went on to say, "Inside and out the X Coupe is a breakthrough in established dogmas, dogmas that are inflexible and static, ‘thing' oriented and not personality driven."
And echoing yet amplifying Milberg, he said, "I can tell you that we are engineers, technicians, and designers who do all we do with heart, soul, and, in a word, passion. BMW's future is built on that passion, built on a Premium Brand Strategy to give our customers meaningful and thrilling vehicles for today and tomorrow."
The echoes of Søren Kierkegaard notwithstanding, it is quite evident that BMW is a company that has both the intellectual and emotional involvement that is so very necessary, especially today when conditions might lead people to believe that if they are not all things to all people (which they describe as being "flexible"), they are likely to fail. These people are the ones who are trying to spread their bets as widely as possible—not so much because they want to win, but because they are afraid of losing. But that kind of thinking can lead to little more than a loss.
BMW, for example, has stuck with its approach of being a premium purveyor, even when there is the vast middle that is not being served (as few companies make any money of the lower segment, chances are no one would pursue it), and it doesn't produce pickups. A final quote, this from Tom Purves, chairman of BMW (US) Holding Corp.: "Products clearly define us in the marketplace. While our finance people certainly have their input, our products are the fruit of effort from dedicated, enthusiastic designers, engineers and futurists within BMW—not focus groups which are only aware of what's possible today, not what wonderful new technologies can help create products of tomorrow. We know, we understand what makes a great car—a BMW." They know. They believe. They do.
If you and your colleagues aren't working with that mindset and passion—well, you've got some exceedingly stiff competition.