Typically, we see things in an “either/or” context, you can do one thing at the expense of another, take your choice!. You can have line efficiency, or line flexibility, not both, advertising reach  or frequency against a narrow target, but not both in the advertising budget, covering inventory requirements of A, or B by the end of the week , but not both. Happens very day.

This trade-off is programmed into us, but has the unintended consequence of “allowing” shallow problem analysis, facilitating our “jump” to a conclusion, rather than going through the hard work of real problem   articulation, consideration of many possible solution options, and the testing and recalibration of hypotheses that should occur and re-iterate to identify where more data is needed, more ambiguity dissolved, and more responsibility taken.

When was the last time you acted too soon, and laid all your bets on a single obvious solution being the right one, only to find the siren song of “easy and obvious” led you astray?

I first came across this phenomena in the late 80’s (to my younger readers, some of us were working  then) when my then employer was running “Ski” yoghurt down a new form/fill/seal machine designed for long runs to meet the demand in France, where the machinery was made. Run raspberry yoghurt for a few days, and it worked wonderfully, great in France, but for us it would have been a years stock, so we had to change flavors after little more than what would have been a changeover run in France, in many cases, less than an hour, with the attendant changeover times and start-up/finish-run inefficiencies, which the French engineers assured us were “absolutement” unavoidable.

Over a period of time, in a structured and progressive way, our fitters  and operators who ran this piece of French engineering revenge on the rest of the world,  using what would now be described as a PDCA continuous improvement cycle, made that machine do what its makers said was impossible, and we got both efficiency and flexibility out of it.

Either/or  was not good enough, progressively, with many small steps, a great deal of experimentation, and recognition that the operators often had a better view of the intricacies than an engineer working off a plan, it evolved it into a “both/and” machine.

As a result, we made pots of money, because we had very low inventory levels, almost 100% order  fulfillment , and an increasing market share because our customer service to big retailers was better than our opposition, and the consumers loved the product. Truly a lean virtuous circle!