By Kevin Meyer
I've been a little out of touch over the last few weeks dealing with an unnecessarily complex business situation involving multiple customers, suppliers, and even collaboration with competitors. We're getting things under control after a rather crazy amount of travel, analysis, and discussion, but I've learned a lot of lessons. Some lessons deal with basic lean philosophy, some with how strong I'll push my passion for lean, and some may someday end up in a book entitled "D'oh!"
"Unnecessarily complex" is the operative phrase. Some of what happened was due to complexity that prevented an understanding, or acceptance, of what was really going on. Some was the opposite – discussing how lean could attack complexity actually brought us closer to a key customer also on the lean journey. In any case I've become very sensitized to the impact of complexity. I've often said that "the greatest cost in business is not material, labor, or overhead – it's unnecessary complexity." I just proved it to myself.
I'm organizing several thoughts that I'll share with you over the next several weeks, but to kick things off here's an entertaining video from TED with Rory Sutherland regailing us with examples of how we have a tendency to want complex solutions to complex problems.
One example: do passengers (even business travelers) really want faster trains? Or are they just bored? What would happen if you spend a couple million having supermodels (yes, both sexes so I don't get a bunch of scathing comments!) serve coffee instead of billions deploying higher speed trains? What's really the problem?
People with power often have big budgets that must be spent, and they want to do big expensive things. We also seem to have an almost instinctual desire to have the scale of the input equal to the scale of the desired change, which should be equal to the scope of the perceived problem – even when science provides many examples to the contrary.
By the way, consultants should check out the quadrant chart near the end of the video…!