Case 3: The Broken Printers

The Story

The DXL printer produced by Cranda Technologies has been in trouble-free production for over two years. It is a miracle of miniaturization with the paper drivers attached to the sheet guide by a space-age adhesive.

But in a short period of time 221 printers had been returned from the consumer, to the retailer, to the wholesaler, back to Cranda. The consumer’s complaint was a defective paper driver which detached itself from the sheet guide, making the printer useless. Now the Printer Assembly Section was in turmoil with accusations of incompetence flying all over the shop.

The Markets Division immediately sent out replacement printers to the customers. Twenty-six of these replacements were returned with exactly the same defect. Now there’s a negative spectre looming over Cranda: There are still defective printers out on the consumer market which haven’t yet been reported and the replacement printers are defective. It appears there is a major problem in the Printer Assembly Section.

Job Hansen, the Printer Assembly Section Chief, has a very angry group of workers on his hands. And the Markets Division have gone out of their way to heap abuse on everyone in Job’s section. There was even a fist fight in the parking lot involving members from the two Divisions. Job is a sensitive and quality conscious manager, yet he is considering leaving Cranda because of the failure. Senior Management at Cranda decided to act swiftly because the media had gotten ahead of the story and because Cranda had always prided itself on high staff morale and loyalty as well as low turnover.

The Intervention

Cranda doesn’t seem to have a history of problem solving based on targeting the problem rather than its people. This is a serious flaw in the organization’s culture, since any problem coming along is likely to trigger the same response as with the defective printer. Cranda’s Senior Management needs to:

  • Separate the competing interests and bring the two sides together to address the common goal of finding the cause of the problem and applying corrective action;
  • Once business concerns have been addressed, hold staff workshops to identify the common values that everyone at Cranda should be working with and translate them into the interests of the various units delivering product and service to clients;
  • Re-teach the emerging values to Cranda’s rank and file, from the top down, and install key processes in support, e.g. an Issue Management capability aimed at ensuring that emerging situations that are disruptive to the organization are correctly managed with the involvement and commitment of those people that are involved;
  • Monitor progress, and as the organizational culture improves, institute additional training and workshops aimed at installing other needed processes to ensure productivity and effective relationships.
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