Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Crack at Stupid Gurus

Note: this was originally written in 2006  as a skeptic’s view of the foolish complicity of business and consultants in destroying value and industry in America. It was posted on Dewey last February as it seemed interesting in light of the Autos’ tenuous situation following the financial meltdown.  Since then, two of the Big 3  have stepped into the abyss (update at the end of post).

I meant to link it to Monday’s post on self-help gurus. It’s not just individuals who succumb to the snake oil charms of false prophets. Whole organizations have been known to fall under their misguided influence; even entire nations.

So, I’m reposting it, just as a reminder: it’s almost always better to think for yourself than to hire someone to do it for you. That applies to Washington as well as business.  So, Congress: at a minimum, read your own damn bills!

Excerpt from:  “From Quality Circles to Mobius Rings”

For the next two decades consultants trotted out every aspect of Japanese manufacturing culture and force fed it to the Autos … Deming’s philosophy was straightforward: Improve quality and you’ll decrease cost while simultaneously improving productivity and market share. (Hello! Management 101. Ever heard of it?) What Deming might have envisioned as a Zen and the Art of Corporate Maintenance devolved into the most protracted exercise in group navel gazing since the baby boomers first discovered theirs.

…In spite of these efforts, things did improve for the Autos. The embargo ended, oil prices stabilized, the Big 3 laid off thousands of workers, closed dozens of plants, and outsourced the majority of components. This brilliant stroke of reverse vertical integration allowed them to get tough with their suppliers and demand that they provide higher quality components at lower costs. Meanwhile, Chrysler received a massive government bailout to stay afloat, while American Motors went gently into that goodnight. In short, the survivors downsized, accepted corporate welfare and pushed one of the industry’s inherent problems off onto their newly independent suppliers. How many McKenzie consultants does it take to come up with that?

Click here to read entire post, including update. Warning: it’s a long one.