Re: "you have to find the problem before you can fix it," across the dock (May 2007)
Richard J. Schonberger's letter suggesting that the Container Store may have been sold a bill of goods with its labor management system correctly depicts the benefits of Dr. Deming's process management. He also rightly points out that industrial engineering techniques such as time study are essential for planning, scheduling, and the like.
However, his assertion that measuring employees against engineered time standards is a relic of an era long past raises several questions. CEOs and sales reps are recognized and rewarded for achieving specific goals; why would we want to treat distribution, customer service, and field service workers any differently? Perhaps the lower-paid workers in our vast supply chains are intrinsically motivated by the nature of the work itself? Also, the reasons he cites as the likely causes of shortages and other flaws in the process at best account for a small portion of the worker's day. How then do we account for the vast differences—up to 50 percent or more—I routinely see between high and low performers within the same job?
Most curious is his claim that employees participate in error tracking as a cathartic activity to "get the bosses off my back." How does that accelerate human performance? I think it is time to recognize human motivation for the complex and timeless issue that it is and bring to bear all the techniques and understanding that can help all employees reach their potential.
Jeffrey Boudreau, XCD Performance Consulting