"PSF-ing" a Memphis Specialty Chemical Company

I posted last month on the matchless value of erasing functional barriers. I posted yesterday on Schlumberger. And I had a New Year's dinner discussion with a fresh-caught CEO about adding value by bringing his new organization's full skills palette to bear on providing "turnkey customer solutions"—in a traditionally functionally oriented company where the techies (chemists, engineers) believe that they stand above the fetid commercial fray.

All this led me back to my bookshelf and Bob Buckman's wonderful Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization: Overcome Resistance to the Free Flow of Ideas. Turn Knowledge into New Products and Services. Move to a Knowledge-Based Strategy (McGraw Hill, 2004). Bob, an old pal, runs Buckman Labs, a half-billion dollar, Memphis-based specialty chemicals company. You might well roll your eyes at the overused "customer solutions" moniker—but Buckman does just that with panache and for profit, creating and applying chemical compounds in customized ways to deal with production and cleanup issues for specific customer facilities in the likes of the paper and leather-making industries. The devotion to custom "solutions" is the bedrock, the alpha to omega, of the firm's extraordinary new-product and financial record. Those closer to the intellectual fray than I am claim that Bob gets "inventor" rights in the now ubiquitous "knowledge management" arena (they have an alternate knowledge-nurture website!). In any event, this book is the Buckman Labs saga—particularly valuable because it moves so far beyond the relatively easy software-technology bit and emphasizes the way in which a company's culture must be jerked around 180-degrees to pull off this new approach to creating value.

One more tribute to destroying organizational barriers.

One more tribute to "PSF-ing," and thus wholly re-imagining, an entire enterprise.