|. . . .|
|ON THE FOLLY OF MISTAKING|
|CULTURE FOR INSTRUCTIONS|
for the packaging operators in a certain plant to work without
instructions as they placed their product in cartons for shipment. Folklore had sustained
this process for years. But, one fateful night, an operator started packing the product
the other way up. The change seemed innocent enough at the time: It didnt seem to
make any difference which way up the product sat in the cartons. It would fit just fine.
The innovative operator informed the other personnel that there was now a new way to
pack the product.
THE QUALITY INSPECTORS, whose mandate was to inspect the product 100%, were
told the Same thing and gave their blessing to the new culture. The inspectors were also
working without written procedures. The new instructions soon became routine for all
WEEKS PASSED without event. Then a call came in
from the companys large,
multinational customer. Their receiving inspection had detected an inexplicable problem
which was suddenly rendering the product useless. After a Q.A. engineer visited the
customer site, the truth slowly emerged that the problem condition was the result of
packing the product upside-down for shipment. The large, multinational customer
promptly returned three-plus weeks worth of product, which swamped the suppliers
warehouse and stayed on the books for many months.
I have worked for several organizations whose management pleaded
with me not to
write process documents for manufacturing jobs. In these environments the manufac-
turing processes were entrusted to folklore, to verbal transmission from one operator
to the next over a period of years. What the manufacturing managers said to me was,
If you write it down, then we cant change it. My response was that the precise reason
for writing instructions was to gain control of change: to permit purposeful change and
to prevent undesired changes. To keep manufacturing instructions in the realm of folklore
is to confuse the uses of CULTURE and INSTRUCTION.
instructions are the software which runs on the hardware of
manufacturing operations. It accomplishes specific tasks, and it can be revised swiftly
to accommodate changes in specification, equipment, or personnel. Its written nature
makes it an effective training tool. Written instructions can communicate a great deal
of detail and keep it available for instant reference. Written instructions almost always
direct certain people as they perform specific jobs.
CULTURE: Consists of the
beliefs and deep programming of the organization and its
citizens. If a company is said to have soul, that soul resides in the culture. The culture
is understood to apply to all employees. Cultural elements may be written, verbal, or
simply understood by all. Culture provides general guidance rather than detailed directions.
Examples of written culture include corporate statements of
purpose, quality policies,
and environmental policies. Desirable unwritten culture might take the form of general
respect for quality, or environmental responsibility, or easy access to management. Equally
cultural, although undesirable, is the animosity which often separates management from
workers, or harassment based on race or gender.
Once an element has been added to a culture, it is all but
impossible to change or eradicate
it. Changing a corporate culture has been likened to asking several hundred people at once
to adhere to a strict diet. Culture is literally a life-and-death matter for any company.
culture should be made with great care and with a clear purpose
CULTURE FOR LARGE, GENERAL, PERMANENT DIRECTIVES.
......USE INSTRUCTIONS TO ACCOMPLISH SPECIFIC TASKS.
January 22, 1999