People tend to accept the current status and ways of working. An outsider is better able to challenge these practices. Analysis and understanding are the first steps in any improvement effort, but each situation is different. Blindly copying practices from elsewhere does not always work. Adapting methods that blend with the prevailing company culture improves the chance of success.
The availability of an intelligent and motivated analyst was a lucky break. The fact that he was able to pick up concepts quickly contributed greatly to the success of the project. He worked long hours, but obviously enjoyed the challenge. It was a bonus that he was able to get along with people, and was able to earn their respect quickly.
In making significant changes to existing work practices, it is always a good idea to test them out first. The two trials and their relative success boosted the morale of the entire crew. They were eager to try out their skills and beat the new challenge with the guidance and coordination of the intern. The relatively long time available for preparation and training helped reduce some uncertainties.
At the beginning of the project, I was confident we would find a way, though at that stage, I did not have any idea of what exactly we would do. Nearly every other person associated with the project thought I was over-optimistic and would land in deep trouble.
Method Study was a suitable process for the analysis, and the intern collected hard data carefully. He had the right qualities of inquisitiveness and industry. He was innovative and had analytical and people skills.
We did not commit ourselves to any targets till we had carried out field trials in normal working conditions. This reduced the risks involved. The team had a say in the decisions made, as we had weekly meetings to discuss the data, analysis results, and progress. Everybody had a role in the successful outcome, and the "feel-good" levels were quite high.
The one decision that was questionable was the ordering of the fourth trolley. Though it was used occasionally, we could have managed without this trolley. Its role was in risk mitigation, i.e., as an insurance spare, which it fulfilled adequately.
- 1. The role of a leader is to challenge the status quo. The GM did this by making a seemingly impossible demand.
- 2. Knee-jerk reactions are poor substitutes for careful analysis and understanding.
- 3. "Look before you leap" is an apt saying; the risks can be high when attempting new ways of working. It is necessary to take proper risk control or mitigation measures, and these have to be thought through in advance. A field trial is one way to evaluate risks.
- 4. The tools we use must be carefully selected. In this case, Method Study was appropriate, but there is a wide range of techniques available for use in other situations.
i. Kanawaty, G., ed. 1992. Introduction to Work Study. 4th ed. Geneva: ILO Publications. ISBN: 92-2-107108-1.
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