By Ido Lapidot
Most organizations develop unique cultures. Their culture influences the behaviors of individuals and teams who are part of the organization and eventually creates thinking patterns and paradigms. Problems arise when these paradigms guide the organization to repeatedly make the same decisions, oblivious to potential alternatives. Over time, the organization risks not meeting the full potential of its resources, products, and services – creating waste and opening the door for competition.
This phenomenon is often accelerated when an organization's mindset is concentrated around one domain. While concentrating on one domain might improve short-term results, it might dominate the decision-making process, cause other domains to be neglected, and therefore lead to a long-term decline in performance.
Organizations that escape this pitfall typically have multiple parameter targets and consider multiple domains simultaneously – cost versus quality, performance versus power, etc. Organizations that fell into the trap used single-parameter targets – cost, quality, etc. Some companies originally had more than one target covering multiple domains, but failed to manage all of them and fell back on one dominant domain.
The Easter Island civilization and the Anasazi of the Southwestern United States are two examples of societies that failed because they did not focus on multiple domains. The Easter Island society collapsed due to environmental damage and the Anasazi faced environmental damages and climate changes.7 Computer manufacturers are a more modern example – the industry concentrated only on "performance" and soon hit a high temperature limit produced by the chip. This caused the industry to stall until it changed the focus from "performance" to "performance versus power."
Many organizations use the classical vision/mission pyramid when planning their operations.
TRIZ uses different terminology but has similar functionalities – ideality, resources, contradictions, ideal final results, separation and principles. Integrating the concepts behind these terms into a common management language can enrich the language, improve it and reduce the risk of a single domain focus.
To facilitate success and minimize language barriers TRIZ concepts should initially be integrated with familiar management terminology. Using a familiar language not only reduces the language barrier, but also minimizes potential resistance. This is referred to in TRIZ as better utilization of existing resources.
An organization concentrated on cost reduction. At one point, they ran a project to improve safety and ergonomics in the work area and asked the technicians to propose and implement safety improvements. At the end of the project the teams presented their findings and projects. One team discovered that replacing a "too short screwdriver" with a longer one resulted in faster and safer preventive maintenance. Assuming a screwdriver costs $10 to $15, why did they wait for a special occasion to purchase them? When asked the question, the maintenance team responded that while they had previously considered the longer screwdriver they did not think management would approve the purchase of the new tools because of the organization's previous focus on cost reduction.
Although management looked at other indicators, the message to employees had been – reduce cost. The continuous "pure" cost reduction messages created a performance barrier for the technicians.
At the heart of TRIZ lies the equation:
V = Value
F = Functionality
C = Cost
r = Resource used
h = Harmful effect
V can grow in the following combinations:
In all of the cases above the numerator and the denominator can represent two different dimensions and can be expressed as a contradiction: improve F while reducing C. The main systematic innovation axiom states that innovations appear when a contradiction is solved.
The s-curve analysis provides more insight stating that a system evolves rapidly until it faces a "development limit," which prevents it from continued growth (the third stage). At that point, "functionality" does not improve anymore. Value is gained by reducing cost with a minimum reduction of functionality.
Physical, economic, engineering, users population, law, culture, etc. may cause development limits.
Limits originating from internal organizational conceptual blockages are "virtual limits," which behave like real ones except they can be overcome without the need for a new s-curve. When they exist, however, they prevent the organization from reaching the full value of its system and therefore are a waste of resources.
If an organization concentrates on cost reductions only, it may fail to invest in the resources that enhance productivity. The s-curve reflects a virtual limitation – lower functionality and lower value (Figure 3). On the other hand, if the organization concentrates on performance only without attention to resources, it will consume its resources and run out of steam (Figure 4).
Historically many civilizations failed to manage their resources and suffered severe consequences when they could not oversee complicated environments with multiple domains. These civilizations failed to mange both sides of the value equation and concentrated on only functionality. In the case of the Easter Island civilization the people chopped down all of the island trees for their spiritual needs and in the process destroyed the environment and eventually themselves.7
Both cases present lower profit and degradation of performance and open the door to competitors.
The problem caused by using two-dimensional targets comes from simple mathematics: the number of contradictions grows by a factor of (n-1), where n is the number of domains managed. Less than three domains is not a problem, but a higher number is complicated to manage. Therefore there is a need to set priorities.
Integrating the TRIZ concepts into the classical management vision pyramid helps an organization identify its "right" vision and mission. Formulating organizational targets and indicators using two contradicting dimensions allows the organization to avoid show stoppers in the form of psychological inertia, thereby allowing the organization to continually increase its value, instead of setting one-dimensional targets which risk focusing on one domain and lead to a reduction in organization value.
Ido Lapidot is an innovation leader at Intel Electronics Ltd., owner of Intel's TRIZ program in Israel. Mr. Lapidot has a master's degree in environmental science from the Hebrew University. Contact Ido Lapidot at ilapido (at) hotmail.com.