by Winston P. Ledet

A common joke is that there are people who have one year of experience 20 times and others who have 20 years of experience. The distinction between these two levels of experience is how much people have learned from their experience and how receptive their organization is to using that experience.

It is important to keep in mind that all organizations are socio-technical networks, where the people are the socio part and the machinery, including computers, is the technical part. We often hear people say that their most valuable company assets are the people who work in the organization. In essence, they are referring to the fact that people, as compared to machines, have the intelligence to recognize when the organization is realizing the full value that exists in its assets. The role of people working for a company is to realize that value by applying defect elimination to achieve the purpose of the organization.

Motivation is creating something of value for the society at large. Psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl states that man’s primary concern is his “will to meaning,” which he defines as the basic striving of man to find and fulfill meaning and purpose in his life. He contrasts this “will to meaning” with two other sources of drives: 1) the “will to power,” proposed by philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche and used by Dr. Alfred Adler in his approach to psychiatry, and 2) the “will to pleasure” or pleasure principle proposed by Sigmund Freud in his approach to psychiatry.

Frankl contends that the status drive or will to power and pleasure principle or will to pleasure are mere derivatives of the will to meaning. As people pursue goals that have meaning, they require certain means that can be obtained through various powers and achieving that meaning has the consequence of creating pleasure. Therefore, power is merely a means for seeking meaning and pleasure is a natural consequence that ensues from achieving meaningful goals. He concludes, “Only if one’s original concern with meaning fulfillment is frustrated is one either content with power or intent on pleasure.”

Accomplishing meaningful goals, according to Frankl, can take place in three ways:

  1. By creating something,
  2. Through intimate relationships,
  3. Through one’s attitude in unchangeable circumstances.

Since the manufacturing world has the primary purpose of creating something of value for the society at large, it most legitimately contributes meaning through creating something. In order to create something, some work needs to take place. It is through participation in this work that people find meaning in manufacturing organizations. The primary focus of The Manufacturing Game (TMG) workshops is to restore meaning in the participants’ work. This is the source of motivation in the workshops and the essential element in creating commitment to making the change to proactivity. These workshops are used to implement organizational change from a reactive to a proactive mode of manufacturing.

To explore the value of the experience within an organization, we need to look at the definition of several words according to Wikipedia. Experience has five different definitions, and according to your own experience, one or more will be meaningful to you.

EXPERIENCE

  1. a: Direct observation of, or participation in, events as a basis of knowledge. b: The fact or state of having been affected by, or gained knowledge through, direct observation or participation.
  2. a: Practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of, or participation in, events or in a particular activity.
    b: The length of such participation.
  3. a: The conscious events that make up an individual life.
    b: The events that make up the conscious past of a community, nation, or human kind generally.
  4. Something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through.
  5. The act or process of directly perceiving events or reality.

UNDERSTANDING

  1. The power of comprehending; especially the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars.
  2. The power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories.

Figure 1Figure 1: The Manufacturing Game®

TACIT KNOWLEDGE

(AS OPPOSED TO FORMAL, CODIFIED, OR EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE)

Tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. For example, stating to someone that London is in the United Kingdom is a piece of explicit knowledge that can be written down, transmitted and understood by a recipient. However, the ability to speak a language, use algebra, or design and use complex equipment requires all sorts of knowledge that is not always known explicitly, even by expert practitioners, and which is difficult or impossible to explicitly transfer to other users. While tacit knowledge appears to be simple, it has far reaching consequences and is not widely understood. (see TMG News, January 15, 2012)

The conclusion from these definitions is that the value of experience resides in the collective understanding by the workers and managers of the value chain they serve. If an organization can tap into the knowledge, skills and tacit knowledge of all employees to create a clear understanding of the potential value that can be realized if they collaborate, it can produce far more value for the company and the world than what they are currently achieving. Most companies are afraid to give their employees the freedom to make decisions because they don’t have a process to ensure the best understanding of the situation is used to make that decision. When an organization cultivates a strong “shadow network,” the probability of sharing understanding is vastly increased if that network is very diverse and includes all the functions. In DuPont’s worldwide benchmarking of maintenance, the facilities that were visited in Japan were by far the best performing organizations in maintenance throughout the world. The biggest differences the Japanese facilities exhibited were in the action taken in cross-functional teams where they could share their collective intelligence.

Understanding the system we work in is what creates our ability to know what to pay attention to, how to make choices and why we make certain decisions to maximize the value we realize from our assets and effort. These together display our will to maximize our contribution to the world. The principle here seems to be “waste not, want not.” Defects are elements of waste.


Winston Ledet headshot

Winston Ledet

Winston Ledet is a leading consultant and internationally known workshop instructor on proactive manufacturing and maintenance. He has 27 years of experience with E.I. du Pont de Nemours, serving in a variety of assignments. He is one of the creators of The Manufacturing Game® as part of his work at DuPont. Winston formed his own consulting firm, Ledet Enterprises, Inc., in 1993, using The Manufacturing Game® to help drive improvement efforts in process industries, as well as discrete part manufacturing sites around the world.

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