Ohmae's Key success factors LO11775

Scott Simmerman (74170.1061@compuserve.com)
Thu, 9 Jan 1997 22:56:20 -0500

Replying to LO11731 --

Malcolm Jones posted, in LO11731, his comments that:

>"We work in industrial engineering, and have many examples of huge increases
>in productivity measured at plant or department level, many of
>which have shown dubious overall benefit in the company accounts at the
>end of the day.

and goes on to post an interesting discussion of John Sterman's
Improvement Paradox, micro economic to a macro economic analyses and some
other good points. And to a large extent we should agree with the key

Guess my comments are related to the issues of balance again and the fact
that sometimes, and you can quote me on this, "Things ARE simple!". Let
me give an example:

On one project, there was a problem with milk waste. Seems like the
bottled milk was getting spilled. (Milk is perishable, easily
contaminated, etc. so that the spilled milk WAS cried over. (This Is No
Joke Story! Really!))

Okay. Seems like some of the stacks (4-high) of filled cartons, no matter
the container size, would topple over at some point between it rolling out
the stacker and going through the cooler, storage and then into the truck.

And the solution was simple and obvious if one stood there and watched.
Most of the cases were four sided, metal or plastic. A few, for special
retailer coolers, were 3-sided. And when the inventory of cases went down
because the drivers were not focused on returns, the loaders put more of
the three sided cases on the line (they knew they didn't work as well but
didn't know the problem (and of course never got any feedback on impacts
or results.

If that 3-sided case were on the top two of the four stack, no problem.
If #2, then maybe a problem if people were not careful moving it. If it,
by chance were the BOTTOM container, 25% probably that the stack would

Now this analysis for this long-term inventory waste problem came from a
person who had never been in a milk plant. Hell, he'd never even been in
a manufacturing plant before. And this particular plant in Indy had one
of the best results of ALL the company's plants -- The plant manager
repeatedly / regularly told me that he, "was the best plant manager in the
company." (More on that it a bit.)

SO, I did a stupidly simple thing. I asked that any of the workers
passing the line to pull and stack the 3-sided cases. (I got yelled at by
the Union Steward for doing Union Work since I would also pull them out!)
And we gave the waste measurement data to the initial stackers. Results
worth $100,000 plus, bottom-line.

We proved it worked beautifully in the pilot. Then I left (This was when
I LOVED things to be called 'Scott's Program.'). And the Plant Manager,
not wanting to have to admit that this no-nothing consultant was able to
find something he had missed in 30+ years of operational experience let
this program and 20 or so other pilot programs of similar nature die.
After all, why did he have to improve since he was already the best in the

Won't name the company but they are now out of the milk business. Plant
Manager retired, nice pension, as "the best plant manager in the company."
And I sell cartoons and games.

But my point, coming back on center, is that while everything is part of a
system and most systems get complicated, there are sometimes some "easy
pickings" or low hanging fruit that can be improved, that set the tone
that it is okay to experiment, and that could be recognized and
reinforced, making later and more difficult / risky improvements more

Sorry about the length of this, and I could share many other similar
stories of similar impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott J. Simmerman
Performance Management Company
3 Old Oak Drive
Taylors, SC 29687-6624 (USA)
SquareWheels@compuserve.com (new name, same address!)


Scott Simmerman <74170.1061@compuserve.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>