Sunday, 6 September 2009

Difference between Focusing on Problems and Focusing on Results

Case 1

When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn't work at zero gravity (ink won't flow down to the writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million.
They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.

And what did the Russians do…?? They used a pencil.

Case 2

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan's biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soapbox that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty.

Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soapboxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent a whoopee amount to do so.

But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soapbox passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.


I think this simple principle applies to Plantation Management.

Always look for simple solutions.

Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems.

Always focus on solutions; not on problems.

Do not focus on the wrong thing to find a solution to a problem. I always believe that we need to solve a problem on site and not beating around the bushes and coming out an Action Plan which is time consuming and costly to implement. In certain cases, somehow a decision was made to solve a problem with another problem and later ended up with too many problems.

For instance, there is shortage of harversters in one division and the harvesting interval has been prolonged. You try to shorten the harvesting interval by mobilising harvesters from other division to help out. However, there is no surplus of harvesters in that division. By doing so, you are putting the other division in trouble. The obvious solution is to get in more workers as per requirement.

Another problem is pruning backlog. You do not have enough harvesters to do the pruning and you want your harvesters to concentrate on harvesting only. When there are so many unpruned fronds, a harvester has to take longer time to cut a ripe bunch. When the harvesters find difficulty to earn wages through productivity, they may abscond from your plantation and you will end up with acute shortage of harvesters. There is no other way but go to find a special gang of workers to clear the pruning backlog even you have to pay more. Do not still think of saving expenditure while trying to solve an overdue problem.