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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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