This is a day on which I'm not getting a lot of love for owning two big Dow stocks -- 3M (NYSE:MMM) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) -- and I think there might be a common thread between them. It is this: Both companies are excellent in terms of operational efficiency and cash flow production, but both have some issues with long-term sales growth.

Looking at 3M's earnings report, we see that revenue climbed 4.6% in the quarter, with 5.1% organic volume growth. That's not terrible, but it's also not all that much better than the country's growth in gross domestic product. 3M did, however, manage to improve its margins again, and operating income climbed 11% while net income (excluding an accounting change) rose by a similar amount.

Growth was strongest in the industrial business, which was helped by the inclusion of the CUNO filtration acquisition and the display/graphics business, where strong demand for LCDs has led to good coatings sales for 3M. The company doesn't have that market all to itself, but as long as customers keep storming Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC) for LCD TVs, it's a good market to be in. On the flip side, health care was weak, thanks in part to higher raw-materials costs and lower sales of the Aldara dermatology drug.

I'm a fan of 3M, but even I realize that the company needs to get moving on growth initiatives -- only the industrial segment posted double-digit growth, and that was due to the CUNO deal. Investors can only hope that the board selected the right kind of CEO to make that growth happen.

Unlike former CEO W. James McNerney Jr., who has since gone on to run Boeing (NYSE:BA) and was, admittedly, a whiz when it came to maximizing operational efficiencies, new CEO George Buckley seems a bit more interested in engineering and innovation. Should he succeed in leveraging 3M's great base of engineering talent, better future growth is attainable.

While I don't expect 3M's stock to move too far too fast until the Street sees signs of renewed innovation and top-line growth from the company, I'm content to hang on and bide my time. I'm collecting a nice dividend today, and I still do believe that new management will combine the legacy of great profitability and returns on capital with a renewed R&D vigor and, I hope, better long-term growth.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of 3M and Johnson & Johnson but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.