Lean Whiskey — 39: Does Starbucks’ CEO Serving Coffee and Uber’s CEO Driving Passengers Do Any Good? Tasting Sourced Whiskeys

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In Episode 39, Mark Graban and Jamie Flinchbaugh toast the completion of Mark’s new book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation (coming soon!).

We also acknowledge Jamie’s forthcoming podcast based on the book People Solve Problems. That’s already plenty to cover before we even get into our whiskey. 

Our whiskey theme was sourced juice, or essentially whiskey producers that buy whiskey from other distillers. This practice takes many different forms. Jamie is drinking Holla Bourbon Whiskey, a 4 year wheated bourbon, while Mark is drinking The Senator Straight Rye Whiskey sourced from MGP. Holla Spirits is primarily a vodka company with an incredibly wide range of infused vodkas, from jalapeno to pickle to cotton candy. They use higher grade ethanol from either corn or cane.

Our lean topic was CEOs who “go to the gemba,” specifically referencing recent Wall Street Journal articles featuring Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi driving an Uber and Starbucks brand-new CEO Laxman Narasimhan being trained and working as a barista. While there is a lot these articles don’t tell you, we have to draw some conclusions about whether these efforts are well-intentioned or not. We didn’t like the barista with gold cufflinks or the Uber driver ignoring important calls from his General Counsel. 

We did conclude that there are three dimensions to this practice to get right, and all three must be right for this practice to be worth the effort. First, you have to get the intention correct. Second, you must execute it with the right spirit and curiosity. Third, you have to do the right things with what you learn, not just fixing specific problems but challenging business model assumptions or improving major systems of how the company works.

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