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FedEx Delivers – How the World’s Leading Shipping Company Keeps Innovating and Outperforming the Competition





Book: 'FedEx Delivers – How the World’s Leading Shipping Company Keeps Innovating and Outperforming the Competition'

Author: Madan Birla

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005


Leader Values

FedEx Delivers is an amusingly apt title for a book about FedEx, but what exactly does the company deliver? At the most obvious level, it delivers a lot of parcels – over five million of them each day in over 215 countries. In addition, it has delivered strong business growth since it was founded in 1971 – despatching just 186 packages on the first day of operations. Ex-FedEx executive turned consultant Madan Birla discusses both these aspects of delivery, giving us a broad overview of how FedEx achieved its enviable global position.

But FedEx Delivers is more than just a readable case history. Birla sees innovation as the key to FedEx’s success, and gives a detailed account of the steps that enabled the company to create a culture of innovation. He comments that, “The managers at FedEx did not consciously set out to build and sustain an innovation culture”. But that’s what they finished up achieving, and Birla explains how they did it. Then he generalises the FedEx approach into an innovation-building program that can be adopted by any company. The program requires strong leadership, as indicated by the fact that there are nearly two whole pages of entries under the heading “Leadership” in the index.

Innovation has become an over-worked buzzword recently, and business leaders will immediately agree with the assertion that, “to have a profitable business in the twenty-first century, businesses must innovate”. Most large companies assert in their Vision Statement that they aim to become more innovative. But the challenge is how to create a corporate culture of innovation that actively produces new business-building ideas.

FedEx Delivers breaks innovation down into three separate steps – generation, acceptance and implementation of ideas. The first step, generation, is virtually synonymous with creativity. But if the ideas are not accepted and implemented, all that creativity is wasted. So companies need to have a culture that fosters the three steps of innovation, not just creativity.

FedEx has a ‘People, Service and Profit’ culture and puts its people first in everything it does. So it is no surprise that the FedEx blueprint for developing and maintaining an innovation and performance culture involves getting the most out of your people. The five dimensions of the blueprint are: engaged people, growing people, collaborative people, secure people and committed people. If an organisation is missing any of these dimensions, its innovation capability will be severely limited. The key to achieving this innovation culture is to develop the leadership skills of the company’s managers. FedEx has set up a Leadership Institute at their corporate headquarters in Memphis in order to build these leadership skills.

But FedEx is more than just a company. It is a global phenomenon that has been adopted into our everyday business communication in expressions like “I have fedexed it to you” and “I just received those fedexes”. FedEx Delivers shows how they got to be a part of the language.

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