It doesn't make any difference what systems you're operating, what
grand plan you have for the future or what kind of talent you have
in place... If the right information isn't accessible to all the key
players you will not succeed!!! Most large companies are on
relatively equal footing with access to all the new toys with the
accompanying bells and whistles, so what will make your company the
one that comes out on top?
If technology and size were the answer, how do you explain problems
with megafirms like GM or IBM? There must be something else running
under the surface that's blocking the efforts of some pretty
sophisticated business minds from achieving their goals. Since
knowing what you want to accomplish and communicating that to the
rest of the organization are two very different things, let's
examine some of the roadblocks inherent in the process and try to
understand what's driving them.
What's That in the Middle of the Road?
So often as consultants we see cross-functional groups get together
for initial training sessions or project team meetings and say
things like, "If only I could get my hands on that data you've got
on your PC" or "We proposed the same thing two years ago and were
refused funding" or "You mean you file that paperwork too?" System
implementations and other forms of business integration shouldn't
be the starting point for communications. They may serve as a
catalyst, but there's something else fundamentally wrong with that.
Typically the way organizations develop and grow involves inserting
many levels of control across all functions. As these layers become
deeper and deeper, information tends to find places to settle and
become trapped; indeed lost forever in some cases. The "silo
effect," where physical and operational walls exist between groups,
was usually the end product, with virtually no communication taking
place on any level.
Of course, we now recognize that streamlining the organization,
reengineering the business process, etc. are necessary and
desirable things to do. Cutting out these layers, however, is not
automatically going to wipe out all of the acquired habits of the
past, since they are just that— habits. Why should groups start to
share information now when they've never done it in the past? The
silos may be more sparsely populated, but they still exist and that
is where we need to focus our efforts.
So first and foremost, we have history battling against us. Where
else do the problems develop? Human nature is definitely another
culprit that can run the gamut from downright lack of understanding
to more devious methodology like purposely withholding information
(Knowledge is power). This is a much more difficult issue to tackle,
but you have to recognize the fact that it does exist and it may be
hampering the forward movement of your organization.
Most of the "problems" I see in manufacturing environments today
are rooted in the failure to share the right information. That lack
of information leads to confusion throughout the organization and
breeds inefficiencies in all facets of the business, most of which
aren't discovered until it's too late. I'm most certainly not the
first person to propose this earth-shattering theory or to talk
about it in this type of forum. What I do want to know is this: If
it is so obvious, why do we still not communicate well? I think it
really stems from the fact that it is difficult to recognize when
it's happening and equally difficult to cure.
To be Continued
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02
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