The BBC’s wonderful albeit slightly grumpy old man John Humphrys is reporting from China this week.

He’s delivering some fascinating commentary every day.

One small insight came from his visit to a motorcycle company you’ve never heard of in a city you’ve probably never heard of (30 million population and growing).

Humphrys was struck by the slogans in Mandarin and English adorning the factory walls.

One especially took his fancy

To compete in price: live in shame.  To compete in quality: live in wealth

He characterised this as “very strange… and there was me thinking competing on price was exactly what got China where it is today”.


If he could (a) make allowance for the translation (how many slogans grace our productive places – there are still some left – in Mandarin?) and (b) check the background with his In Business programme colleague Peter Day he’d realise this is classic lean/systems thinking philosophy.

Perhaps if Humphrys had read

Drive up quality, drive down costs and price

he’d have got the point.

Frequent HelpGov blog readers and quality buffs generally will recognise the truth of the philosophy.

And they know it’s not for industry only.  It’s true for all work – public and voluntary sectors too.