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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Right the First Time?

Right the First Time? No! Never!!

Japanese, we hear and read, have become famous for doing every thing right the first time. What with their TQM, zero defect programs, kaizen and gemba kaizen etc.

However, in many other countries, it is opposite; right the first time? No. Never. It is not even right the second time or the third time.

A friend of mine who is a business manager in one of the reputed organizations in a big city was narrating me an experience. He wanted to organize a training program for the managerial staff in his company on "productivity". For this, he was in search of a good video film on "productivity" with around 20 to 30 minutes of running time. He came to know that an organization devoting itself fully to the cause of productivity training was having such videos. He contacted the organization personally. He was put to a clerk who was supposed to show him the list of videos the organization had and also to arrange a preview of videos which my friend would select.

My friend had to sit in front of the clerk for nearly half an hour before the file containing the list of videos was traced. After the list was traced, it was found to be an old version. The clerk said, "I think that we have received some twenty more videos since then". Let me check my other records. Other records were equally difficult to locate. So, he stretched his memory and and updated that list- God alone knows how much and how accurately updated that list was!

My friend scanned through the list and selected two videos titled "Productivity" and "Productivity is Every One's Business". In the list against the titles of the videos was written the language in which narration was for the video. On checking with the clerk, he ensured that the narration for the two selected videos was in English, which is what my friend required.

Then, my friend met the officer in that organization who asked my friend to come again the next day for the preview. He instructed the clerk to ensure that at 4 PM sharp the next day everything would be in readiness for showing the videos. The clerk nodded in confirmation.

As per the program, the next day, my friend reached the productivity organization at 4 PM and met the officer. The officer asked my friend to sit down and asked, "Yes gentleman, what can I do for you? From which company you are? etc." My friend some how checked his annoyance and keeping his cool said, "I met you yesterday and you asked me to come today at 4 PM for preview of those videos, you remember?"

The officer looked amused. "Yes, yes, now I remember. I never thought that you would really be so serious about them and also be so punctual". He called the clerk and ordered him to do the needful and asked my friend to follow the clerk.

The clerk gave a big yawn first and then called his computer cum LCD operator, "Listen, show these videos to the gentleman". The operator quipped, "But how's that possible? We have already given the projection screen to ABC Company this morning only". The clerk went on, "Doesn't matter, project on the wall; after all this gentleman wants to have just a peek at them. Even if the projection on the wall is not very decent, don't worry".

Well, that's that. The operator took him to a small dingy room which was supposed to be the computer laboratory cum the projection room for LCD projector. In an almirah, the DVDs and VCDs containing the videos were kept one on other quite haphazardly. The operator took nearly twenty minutes to pull out the jackets of the DVDs on which were written the titles of the videos that my friend wanted to see. The operator connected the LCD to the computer but LCD's lamp would not light up. He started fiddling with the wires, plugs and adapters and in the process, got a mild electric shock. He smiled at my friend, "That's part of the job. This is not the first time". Finally, the LCD and computer, both started. My friend adjusted himself on to a broken stool trying himself to keep away from the open electrical wiring all around. And what did he see on the wall, a video titled, "Do it Right the First Time".

"My God, this is not the video I wanted to see", my friend said. The operator was not much disturbed though. He said, "Doesn't matter. The video you want to see must be in the jacket meant for the video "Do it Right the First Time". So, he took out the DVD from the jacket labelled "Do it Right the First time" and loaded into the computer.

This time the title that came on the screen-wall was, "Right Methods, Right Answers".

And that was the beginning of an unending research project. The operator was taking out DVDs/VCDs one by one from each jacket (right method!) and started showing their titles to my friend through projection on the wall-screen. Not a single video was kept in it's proper jacket. "Effective Executive" video was kept in "Negative Attitudes" and "Negative Attitudes" video was kept in the jacket meant for "Modern Scientific Management" and so on.

It took the operator exactly one hour before he stumbled on "Productivity". My friend, at last, took a deep breath and the operator beamed as if he had made the greatest achievement in the world.

"Yes, the title came all right- "Productivity". Only the title was in English- narration in the film that followed was in some language other than English.

Just above this dingy small computer laboratory cum LCD projector room, in the lecture hall of this productivity organization, a training program was being conducted by the same organization. The name of the program was "How to Solve the Problems Systematically?"

Read the “inside” stories of the corporate sector at: (Management Anecdotes)

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