January 26, 2007
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the cost of the wasted time and effort spent on programs where there was not a dedicated interest in the end result? For instance, when I retired from P&G I was contracted by another company to set up a consumer research program similar to the one within P&G/R&D. Even though I was only going to be in their corporate offices two or three days a month, I was assigned an office. The result was that I had to attend their corporate training sessions on safety.
The sessions were conducted on the premises by an outside corporation. My first session was conducted on a cold, wet morning which resulted in an icy parking lot and ice covered sidewalks. One of the young ladies participating in the sessions took a nasty fall as a result of the ice covered walk-way. She reported this at 8:00 am. Four hours later as we were leaving we noticed that nothing had been done to improve the safety conditions of the walk-way or the parking lot. Nothing was done to improve the conditions of the walk-way, and no one ever contacted the young lady who fell, about potential injuries. You have to wonder how serious they were about safety.
Another event that comes to mind involved corporate security, a constant theme in that company. There were guards at all the entrances to the facilities. Every employee had a company pass, but they were seldom shown upon entering the facilities. That is, until two private investigators were caught in our research center stealing confidential information, especially formulation cards. The result was major changes, or was it just action?
The company guards were replaced with private security guards. Everyone had to wear their corporate passes in plain view. Everyone had to show their passes before entering the company facilities. To test the system, one employee replaced his photo on his pass with a photo of Daffy Duck. Nothing happened for three weeks and then someone pointed out to company management what was happening. The employee was fired but nothing happened to the security guards who let the employee enter with the doctored pass.
One result of the incident was that about ten people were contacted to offer suggestions to improve company security. I was one of those contacted. Before our first meeting, I spent a day just walking around the facilities and taking notes. Immediately, I noticed that the locks on the office/lab doors, desks and report cabinets were about as effective as a pair of kids' toy hand cuffs. The cabinets containing research reports could be opened with a thin metal ruler (after removing the cork backing) and a wooden door stop (wood is preferred because it does not leave scratches). The same tools could be used to open the desks. (A point worth mentioning is that not only could you open the doors/drawers with these tools, but the same tools could be used to reposition the drawers in the locked position without anyone knowing they were ever opened.) The office/lab doors could easily be opened with a credit card or a plastic ruler. The only thing required to correct this problem was a 2X1 inch piece of metal and two screws.
The above was mild in comparison to what I found out through observation about how the night office cleaning was achieved and most importantly by whom. At night the supervisor would go down the hall unlocking all the doors. The cleaning personnel would follow. After the rooms were cleaned the supervisor would come back and inspect the cleaning and lock up the room. The result was that the rooms were unlocked and unattended for hours, a problem, but not the most serious. It seems that in an effort to reduce costs, management had contracted the local city jail to supply inmates to handle the cleaning chores. (Note: You read it right. They were current inmates in the city jail. It was really a case of releasing the fox in the hen house.)
Observations, just as in market research, can be a valuable tool in understanding the weaknesses in a process. Today. those formula cards which at one time were of great concern, are now shared broadly, with the advent of outsourcing.