What need does speed satisfy? LO18054

Mariann Jelinek (mxjeli@facstaff.wm.edu)
Sun, 10 May 1998 19:02:15 -0400

Replying to LO18037 --

Replying to LO18037 -- At's always-interesting post caught my eye, and
nudged me from lurking into commentary. He wrote:

>The name of this topic is "What need does speed satisfy?"
>Tom, what would you think will happen when management begin to press
>for much faster transformations from the "tacit" to the "expressed"
>levels of knowledge? Do you think they will be able to handle it?
>(Here in South Africa the newest slogan for road safety now is

I've just finished reading a nifty book, TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY JET
by Karl Sabbagh, about "The Making and Marketing of the Boeing 777." The
777's first claim to fame was that it was the first "paperless airplane,"
the first plane designed wholly in electronic form, not on paper, using
both computer aided design and an electronic modelling system to simulate
the fit and movement of parts - electronic preassembly -- so that
"interferences" could be identified and fixed before the design ever moved
into material form.
Speaking from a manufacturing perspective, "speed" in design and
execution have several very important benefits: because ideas are closer
to their genesis, they haven't attenuated, so people remember what it is
they were about. Because so much information is available "instantly" to
all the thousands of members of the design team, via computer, the
possible implications of each decision across functions becomes apparent
quickly - in time to fix any problem that might be created. Because faults
or problems are worked on closer to their discovery, they create fewer
downstream disruptions. There's less waste, less rework (Boeing hoped for
50% less, but got more like 80-90% less on the factory floor: a tremendous
savings of time and treasure, providing as well the opportunity for much
more extensive testing to improve the safety of the final plane).
Around the world today, the essence of manufacturing is the
so-called "lean Japanese" system in automobile manufacture: rapid cycle
manufacture, with quick changeover and constant problem-solving. All of
the beneifts noted above, plus less inventory and work in process, have
produced the contemporary automobile, with its lengthy drive-train
warranties (for instance). The quality is simply better, in part because
of the speed. If we know we can produce what we set out to, that the
products will perform as designed, then it will be easier to eliminate
waste - a step, perhaps, toward bringing our material culture more in
balance with the natural world, solving real needs as opposed to often
artificial wants.
We may well argue about whether it's sensible to have the
estimated 20% global overcapacity in auto manufacture, or whether we
wouldn't all be better off walking more (we would!). But the benefits of
speed in terms of quality of design and manufacture seem compelling. I
believe the same benefits - better mental focus and cognitive coherence
around the issues and concerns, better problem-solving and lower cost
solutions with less waste, plus the time for more creative play and
testing of ideas - all come from speed. In an analog to the benefits of
speed reading, you can get your head around the ideas in a more proximate,
intensified way, perhaps even having the option of reading something twice
or more for "steeping" in the ideas, whether it's reading a book or
"reading" a problem or design task.
So, gentlemen, in my opinion, there really is a benefit to speed.
This isn't to say that we should not also "stop to smell the flowers" and
truly be with our companions on the path of life. Nor that there are not
real problems with balance between the natural world and the products (and
pollution) human beings create. Yet those problems too are capable of
address by the same cognitive approaches that Boeing uses to design
complex aircraft. The differences we have yet to work effectively with,
are the human and political ones - where there is enormous room for
further cogent thinking, like what I so often read here. Say on, LOers!


Mariann Jelinek
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
Graduate School of Business The only enduring competitive
College of William and Mary advantage comes from changing
P.O. Box 8795 the rules
of the game.
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795


mxjeli@facstaff.wm.edu (Mariann Jelinek)

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>