ALEX was a newly retired corporate executive who moved from the city to the rural area planning to live a simpler life. He bought a farmhouse with some land around it. After he moved in, he bought a hundred baby chicks that died a few weeks later. He was disappointed, but just the same, he bought another hundred baby chicks. Unfortunately, all of these died as well.
He became confused and started looking for answers. Alex went to the local agricultural office and explained his problem. He told how he wanted to become a successful chicken farmer and needed to know what he was doing wrong. He asked if he could possibly be raising his chicks too close together or perhaps, he was using the wrong type of feeds.
The agricultural officer responded that he could not answer his question until he sent in a soil sample. Alex asked him what scientific principle this soil sample could probably demonstrate. And after thinking about it for a moment, he answered: “Soil PH.”
Problem-solving is, perhaps, the single most important element of any quality program. Get this right and you should have a successful program. But get it wrong and there is little chance of the program delivering the expected results.
But what if a supposed expert that you’ve consulted appears to prescribe an out-of-this world approach? You wonder and ask the question about the relationship of the soil to poultry-raising. Alex, being a former corporate marketing executive tends to challenge the views of people on certain things. You know what I mean.
Marketing people will tell you that a successful communications strategy is based on a strong brand image—an image that everyone immediately associates with the subject. Alex started questioning the credibility of the aggie officer, except that he doesn’t have much choice unless he consults an expensive veterinarian.
Yes, consulting a local aggie officer can be hazardous to one’s business. Alex started to learn the lesson the hard way. The point is that, as a safety precaution, you should never consult a local government employee unless he’s the only person left on this planet.
The situation is similar with management consultants. When people and organizations like to find out an appropriate strategy for their business, they must not rely on consultants without having at least 20 years of corporate experience. For example, I know of an alleged consultant named Oliver (not his real name), who to my knowledge, has never in his life worked for any dynamic organization except for his not-so impressive 10 years in government service.
Oliver is an alleged kaizen consultant, but what worries me much is that the name Masaaki Imai (global best-selling author of many kaizen books) does not ring a bell to him. There’s no such thing as Imai or his books that continue to be used as the basic foundation for continuous improvement. What I’m saying is here is that to be a successful kaizen expert, you need to memorize all the principles that are found in Imai’s books.
But enough of Oliver, I was interested in helping Alex. I thought that maybe he has something like the 3C (concerns, causes and counter-measures written in a notebook) to help him monitor the daily activities of his poultry operations, and come up with an analysis he could present to a veterinarian or local aggie officer. The trouble is that Alex has not heard of 3C. That’s why he has no recourse but to go back to the “soil sample” requirement.
The total elapsed time involved in getting and bringing a soil sample back to the agricultural office was around 30 minutes, of which at least 25 were devoted to Alex’s incurable skepticism. But still he banked on it in the absence of any needed data that can be provided by 3C.
Of course, that was the only viable approach for Alex. Depending on the expertise of aggie officer, Alex might get more than a good advice, if not get the actual money except that releases of pork barrel may no longer be possible today.
Yes, working on workplace problems can be pretty rewarding, if you know how to do it with 3C. So why wait until the last minute to explore it? Why not get started immediately on exploring the amazing world of kaizen and use only low-cost, common-sense solutions?
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.