The president sat in his high backed chair behind a desk piled high with files and a credenza spilling off onto the floor. “Steve,” he said, “I just don’t understand why we are not making money. Cash is running out the door. What can we do?” The phone rang and he yelled at the person on the other end for about two minutes before abruptly hanging up. He then told me that he was about to fire the caller because even after 10 years they just could not get the orders right. “He’s my problem, him and the other fools that I have hired.”
I asked the president what system they were using to track orders. He showed me a computer program that was functionally obsolete. It did not track order details from inception to completion. It failed to communicate the critical information needed by the dozens of people involved in the process. They were supposed to “know what to do” from past practice. It did not integrate with the accounting system or the inventory system.
When asked why he had not upgraded to an integrated system he said that it cost too much money and would be a distraction to implement. Couldn’t I see that they were too busy? His people did not need systems and training; they needed to pay attention to the details and do their jobs.
Here are seven of the symptoms of chaos that indicate you might be paying too little for your systems, management, training and other methods of chaos reduction:
1) Piles of papers where they don’t belong
2) Quality problems
3) Disorder in the office and in the plant
4) Surplus materials accumulating
5) A frequent need for troubleshooting and problem solving
6) Safety problems and/or accidents
7) You do not have an effective continuous improvement process
A continuous improvement process like the Profit Improvement Process engages the entire team in making order out of chaos and putting cash back into the company where it belongs.
PS: I left this president in his office when he started yelling out the door at another incompetent employee about another mistake. He seems content to be paying the price of chaos. I estimate they’ll last another year at this pace. Then chaos will win.
Don’t let chaos beat you.