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Integrated Process Management - Structure is the Key


Don Winton


This is from “Integrated Process Management” by Roger Slater.

I thought it was an interesting concept from those of us interested in this business. After all, structure is the key, is it not. This is not intended to cast disparaging remarks upon any consultants out there. Hope you understand.


The Structure

The king of Mulvania sadly surveyed a row of ramshackle houses typical of those found throughout his principality. “My country has done well in most things,” he observed, “but I must do something to provide better homes for my people.” So the concerned monarch consulted with his soothsayers. They told him he must find someone to train his people in modern house-building techniques.

The king advertised far and wide for such expertise, and in due course three consultants eager for business arrived at his court.

Consultant A explained to the court that his studies had shown a pressing need in Mulvanian construction for new devices called power saws and routers, and that with these tools, all kinds of unusual cuts and joints and embellishments could be quickly and accurately done-and done economically. Then, producing a piece of rough, irregular lumber and a power saw, he proceeded to cut it straight and square in less than a minute, much to the amazement of the court, who had never beheld such wizardry.

Laying the board flat on a table, he sketched something on its surface. Next, a router whined and spit out shavings as members of the court stretched their necks to see what was going to happen next.

After brushing the last specks of sawdust from the surface, the confident, glib consultant triumphantly thrust the board above his head with both hands. The beautifully engraved words “Long Live The King” announced graphically the potential of this amazing equipment. “Only $1000 per trainer per day, plus expenses, and all your people will be able to do this, some even better than me!”

Needless to say, the king was almost too overwhelmed to give Consultant A the contract. But one had already been prepared, so the king enthusiastically signed his name, proclaiming, “Truly, this is the beginning of Mulvanian homes with zero defects.”

Next, Consultant B was shown in. Observing the piece of work left behind by Consultant A, he smiled knowingly and commented, “This is good, but…” He went on to explain the virtues of a proper wood finish-its beauty, and especially its protective role. “I have studied your construction here,” he explained, “and wood finishing is your greatest problem.”

Opening his carrying case, he produced an array of bottles and cans and brushes and sandpaper. Pouncing on the “long live the king” plaque, he sanded it smooth and applied a quick coating of stain which did wonders to bring out the wood’s grain. Then, allowing a few minutes for the stain to dry, he dabbed on a coat of super-glossy varnish as he enthusiastically repeated and earlier statement: “Like I said, this piece of work was good, but look what my products and techniques can do to turn an amateurish job into a professional job-only $1200 per trainer per day, plus expenses, and all your people can do the same thing.”

Already sold on Consultant A, the king could scarcely believe that anything could improve on the work he had left behind. But there it was before his very eyes, a virtual night-to-day enhancement. Bring me the contract,” he exclaimed, “and let it be known in all circles that Mulvanian home-building quality will be forever controlled.”

Having clearly found the solution to his problem, the king felt it unnecessary to even give Consultant C an audience, but being a considerate ruler, he did so out of pure kindness. “This is a world-class piece of work,” Consultant C said of the freshly varnished plaque before him. “It’s too bad that your people will learn to do all this, and then, after the trainers are gone, slowly lose their new found skills.”

Producing what appeared to be a textbook from his briefcase, he continued, “They will lose those skills unless, of course, you make sure that does not happen through my company’s Quality Management Program, which institutionalizes improvements.”

Dubious at first, the king soon found himself agreeing with points made by the smooth, articulate consultant as the impressive presentation went on. “A ruler blessed with wisdom inferior to mine might not look to the future,” he mused, “and it has always been a mark of greatness to think more than one step ahead.”

So, although not totally convinced of the need, he reasoned, “What can it hurt, and at only $1500 per trainer per day, plus expenses, the cost will hardly be noticed by the court treasurer.” Signing the contract, he proclaimed, “This important step will be known as the third wave in our building revolution.”

The year that followed was full of promise and optimism. The Mulvanian people quickly learned their new skills with great enthusiasm, and it became a regular proceeding to bring to the court an unusually skilled artisan to present a piece of craftsmanship. These presentations pleased the king greatly, because they gave him confidence in his program-and he needed that confidence, because somewhere in the back of his common sense, practical mind, a voice nagged at him that all was not well. So it came as no real shock, if he really admitted it to himself, when he made an impromptu tour on the countryside, against the advice of his aides, to see first hand the on-the-job results.

The results were disaster.

Disorganization was rampant. No matter where he traveled, he could not find a single new home anything at all like he had visualized. Unsightly designs, crooked foundations, poor spacing, and monumental construction blunders abounded. True, cuts were square and edges were neatly molded and the wood finish looked just great-but it appeared that everyone was so caught up in his own special thing that the real goal-constructing good housing-had been all but forgotten.

Shaken, the king shouted to his aides, “Take me to the Guru.”

Once there, looking down on the Mulvanian Valley from the kingdom’s highest mountaintop, he told his woeful story to the only one he thought could help.

“What was your plan?” the old man asked the shattered leader.

“My plan was widespread training in techniques necessary for good housing construction. And it worked. I know it did! I saw many examples of the finest craftsmanship with my own eyes. An my aides told me everything was going so well.” Then pausing briefly, he added, “Except for Count Basil.”

“What about Count Basil?”

“He troubled me. He said I was fooling myself with what he called ‘insignificant isolated victories.’ But the archduke convinced me he was wrong.”

“What did you do?”
“I had him beheaded, of course.”
“And the archduke?”
“I rewarded him with a villa on Lake Kulamer.”

Then, following a brief pause in the dialogue, the ancient mountain man’s expression became one of sadness mixed with the knowing compassion of experience. “You put your faith and your trust in tools, in fragments if you will, in things necessary but not nearly sufficient in themselves. Yours was a common error, not unlike good, expensive seed on untilled and infertile ground-a few plants will grow, and if one chooses to look only at these…”

“I do not understand,” the subdued king admitted. “What was missing?”
“What you lacked was a structure.”
“A structure?”
“A structure.”

--------End Snip--------

“For every person with a spark of genius, there are a dozen others with ignition trouble.”

Without structure, there can be no foundation.

Thoughts, anyone?

Elsmar Forum Sponsor


Hunkered Down for the Duration with a Mask on...
Staff member
Some might argue this is the reason for ISO9000 - To require a 'minimum' structure.

Don Winton

Some might argue this is the reason for ISO9000 - To require a 'minimum' structure.
Agreed. The key word is minimum. I read this story a lot and it is a portion of my Internal Auditor training. It gets me thinking (read rambling). I believe it illustrates well the ‘gimmicks and fads’ approach to some deep-seated fundamental problem. The problem is recognized (poor housing), but the solutions offered were wrong. Similar to the ISO 9000 thing. The organization recognizes a problem exists and installs a Quality Management System based on ISO 900x. But goes no further.

Systems management is not something that is based solely on this or that instrument. It is a culture. Had the King not been so dazzled by the ‘bells and whistles’ offered to him, he would have seen that none of the solutions offered by his consultants were a system, just small portions of a yet to be defined whole. As Aesop said, “Beware That You Do Not Lose Substance by Grasping at the Shadows.”

For example, the document based system offered by ISO 900x. Documenting your procedures is fine and probably a good idea. But, how many organizations make this document based system a living entity, constantly updating and improving the documents to better and better serve the needs of customers and the organization. Or rather, how many of the manuals are gathering dust in some room, being hauled out at assessment time and customer visits, to be displayed like just another trophy. The documents are changed when there is a reaction to a problem, not proactive to potential areas of improvement.

Just the ramblings of an old wizard warrior.

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