IF you know my family too well, you can enjoy a lot of those popular buzzwords and catchphrases that you can use as formula to start creating your corporate management strategies. For instance, when a bulky and chubby-looking 11-year-old nephew visits the house, you can hear me telling him: “When you grow up, engage in a profitable business making better quality doors than windows. This early I can see your future because of your habit of standing between me and the TV set.”
When my wife Bonnie asks me what I want for dinner, you can expect me to declare: “Forget the health food. At our age, we need all the preservatives we can get.” Sometimes, you can hear me telling her: “I used to eat a lot of natural food until I learned that most people die of natural causes.”
Last time, when my daughter Rachel asked me how I’m doing with my events management business, I told her: “Money doesn’t bring you happiness, but looking for it in many places is more than enjoyable.”
That’s how lucky our neighbors are. They get free consultation from a management philosopher who would tell five important things on earth: Some food, some sun, some work and some family members and neighbors who believe in some domestic fun.
The last thing—“some domestic fun” is true, and when it comes to management, one must be good at it. And all the good things about total quality management (TQM) suggests that at some many points in the life cycle of an organization, its people and management must value “some domestic fun” or humor in the workplace. We need humor to help oil teamwork. If not, the workers become disinterested if not demotivated.
“If you think work is no laughing matter, the joke’s on you,” say Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher in The Levity Effect (2008), which was partly based on ground breaking research covering one million employees. “Trust gradually develops as managers show their employees that they can laugh at themselves and can use levity to diffuse tense situations,” according to the authors.
It’s not really difficult to use humor in the workplace. It’s like having a guest in your home. It is as simple as treating your guest as a real guest for two days. On the third day, give him a hoe. That’s what I can as a changeover—similar in intensity but with a modification to what we know in lean production as “quick changeover”—a principle used to make process conversion as rapidly as possible to eliminate waiting time.
For many dynamic organizations like Toyota, “quick changeover” is a “method [that]can be applied any time equipment is ‘changed’ from physical state to another. This may include tool changes, material changes, or changing to a different product or configuration,” according to Jeffrey Liker and David Meier in The Toyota Way Fieldbook (2006).
For the measurement-conscious Japanese factory manager, “quick changeover” is known as SMED (single minute exchange of die) where changes are done (moulding machine, tools, etc.) in less than 10 minutes.
If I’m on my usual game (teaching a TQM course), you can imagine that my audience would surely be fixated to what I’m trying to tell them: “So my question for you is this—how many of you would apply this same principle in a restaurant business with 93 outlets where seven waiters, kitchen crew and other factotums must report for work two hours before the opening?”
There was the sound of silence. I’ve never had someone seriously say a convincing “yes” to this question, until you proceed to convince them by doing the math which is the usual edge condition. I’m not exactly a math wizard but I happen to be an expert on “quick changeover” whenever people ask me about my age. Ok, fine, whatever!
Educating oneself about “quick changeover” is the process of driving a set of prejudices down your throat. So where does “quick changeover” come into the picture, say in the case of the Bureau of Customs? I think many of you cannot answer that question with total certainty until we had a six-pack of San Miguel pale pilsen beer on the table.
To understand the significance of “quick changeover,” take a few moments now to conduct the following scientific experiment in your kitchen. First, fill one-third of a small basin with water. Never mind its temperature. Now mix it with it an equal amount of soy sauce and vinegar. While using a standard wooden kitchen utensil, gradually swish around the mixture in a counter-clockwise direction.
Do you see what’s happening? That’s correct. Nothing happened except for that yellow-black mixture. Does it smell something? Yes, but not exactly flavorful for me. That’s what I’m saying. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think you can change the Bureau of Customs overnight if you’ll resort to plainly changing their assignments.
I mean, you can’t change a man, unless he’s in diapers.
Rey Elbo is a business management 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 and LinkedIn.