Last Friday evening, Mr. Giri called me up. Mr. Giri is one of the middle level managers of an Indo-Japanese production unit in the state of West Bengal, India.
He was very happy and excited to announce, ‘You must know that we have broken all previous records of production’.
“Is that so?” I asked; my voice laced with excitement.
“Yes, it is true… almost unbelievable. We have shot up from producing 200 units per day to 2000 units per day from the same machines. Our quality rejection has dropped from 14% to around 5%. We have crossed the 8000 tonnes per month target… ” he almost gasped for breath to continue, ‘… and I must thank you so much…”
Indeed, this was incredible! His company was struggling for the last five years to crank up production and make some profit. They identified the bottleneck of the plant but were simply unable to do anything about it. The Japanese introduced all their famous improvement tools and techniques they had in their arsenal. Everyone sweated and puffed and huffed but no improvement was forthcoming. All efforts were in vain. The Japanese management team blamed the Indians for their ‘work attitude’, ‘lethargy’, ‘incompetence’ and gross overall ‘stupidity’… This obviously made the Indians angry. They in turn called the Japanese ‘overbearing’, ‘conceited’, ‘racists’, ‘foolish’ and what not… But at the end of the day in spite of all that shouting, mud-slinging and sledging no iota of improvement was in sight. In fact, things went for a nose dive. Crisis of closure loomed in the horizon as losses mounted.
‘Thank me for what?”, I asked with a tinge of eagerness.
Then he went on to tell me a story. “You know what the great music maestro Tan Sen said?” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tansen)
“No I don’t have a clue about what he said’ I mumbled.
Giri continued with a tone mixed with excitement and reverence, “‘Tan Sen said if you only know how to sing the first note of seven notes in music very well, you automatically get to sing all notes fluidly’.
‘Hmm..’ I nodded in agreement. ‘Right, but what has that to do with me?’ I asked.
‘Everything’, he quipped back. “You taught us the first note so well that I have now learned to sing anything.’
Absolutely clueless about what he actually meant I asked with curiosity getting better of me, “And what was that first note?” This was because I have tried to teach them many things to improve their performance over a period of 18 months.
“Oh! Didn’t you teach us how to pay attention or observe things and their connections in their own settings without seeing what the mind already knows?” he replied bit incredulously.
‘Yes, I remember that. And you think that was so important?’ I pressed in to learn more from him.
“It was. And it would continue to be so for the rest of my life. It makes me so confident that I think I can work and win anywhere in the world, tackle anything in the world and solve any problem in the world”, he said with a slow deliberate voice exuding lot of conviction.
“Thank you again and would you mind if I come over to Kolkata to meet you some day to learn more of what you say as NOTICE.?” he seemed to stress the last word.
This was the first time in five years they made a decent profit.
As the conversation ended, I sat on the sofa with waves of happiness sweeping over me. I thought to myself, OMG! The power of the humble NOTICE is just amazing! Nothing more is needed. We need not teach people how to think. They know how to think. We need not teach people so many tools and techniques. They would discover those by themselves. We simply don’t need to waste their time doing things which we think must be done. We need not bore them to death to the point of getting disengaged. We simply need to teach those who really want to sing well the first note of the seven notes — “NOTICE“. That’s all!
I noticed my tea getting cold…