When Murphy Speaks- Listen

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murphy.jpgThis is an eye opening article, 2nd in a series of articles which deal with the basics of quality management & Six Sigma.

 

Pradeep Kumar ET

 

George E.P. Box is an acknowledged world leader in the application and theory of quality methodology to management, process improvement, process design and discovery.
Box has experience as a professor as well as a practicing statistician in the British Army and in Imperial Chemical Industries

Box says, “When Murphy Speaks – Listen”. Let’s try to understand what this phrase means and how we can apply this concept at work.

 

Well, Murphy’s Law states that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and this is usually regarded as bad news. Box says that it is actually not bad news, but good news. Nothing is perfect and Murphy’s Law says that the day-to-day operation of the system itself can help to tell us what’s wrong with it. The catch is that it will only tell us if we listen. If we don’t listen then the bug in the system will cause the same problem to recur and it’s going to lead to frustration and poor quality.

 

In other words every operating system supplies information on how it can be improved and if we use that information it can be a source for continuous improvement. An operating system is like a radio transmitter except that it transmits information instead of electromagnetic waves. In a radio transmitter to hear the message that system is sending out we need suitable receivers, similarly we need receivers in an operating system. In
an operating system the receivers are simple devices for collecting and analyzing data- flow charts, check sheets, Pareto diagrams, fishbone charts, C&E matrix, histograms etc.

 

Murphy’s Law says that the day-to-day operation of the system itself can help to tell us what’s wrong with it.

 

 

The system can be a manufacturing process or invoicing, billing, dispatching or any transactional process. It is essential that we remove bugs from the process and that people in any organization start using receivers. Receivers can be in place to capture data on Customer Perceptions, Accounts Receivables, Accounts Payables, Inventory levels, Defects, Productivity etc

 

According to Box, the main reason why Murphy is not listened to more often is that, the people closest to the system-

 

a) May have no expectation that the system could be better, or

 

b) Do not have any understanding on how to make it better and

 

c) Have no powers to change it.

 

George E.P. Box is an acknowledged world leader in the application and theory of quality methodology to management, process improvement, process design and discovery. Box has experience as a professor as well as a practicing statistician in the British Army and in Imperial Chemical Industries.Also, the people close to the process believe that it is the mysterious and omnipotent

 

“THEY” who alone can decide the way things are done. That is, even when we know that the system we are dealing with is faulty, if we feel we have no powers to change it and leave it to someone else (They); then we are becoming deaf to Murphy’s message.

 

With an example we can understand the whole concept better. Consider a large apartment, where many residents are falling ill, because of water borne disease. When the residents get to know the cause, they are quick to react, “They (Facilities Maintenance Company) are useless and have never monitored the quality and hygiene of the drinking water supplied”. One can understand from this example that in the first place the residents, who are the people closest to the operating system never listened to Murphy; they did not have any receivers in place. The residents should have insisted on regular preventive check reports by the maintenance company. Other inputs could be a regular audit to look for leakages in pipes, condition of overhead and underground tanks, and also a water analysis of the ground water and the local corporation supply. So in the first place they should have methods to obtain data on the condition and take the initiative to drive changes before catastrophe strikes.

 

At work similarly “THEY” can be avoided in many cases-

 

1. They ( Process Engineers) have not corrected the problem in the machine and hence we continue to get defects

 

2. They ( a particular customer ) will never pay on time

 

3. They ( a vendor) always supplies parts with more than 2% defectives

 

The first step to defeat Murphy would be to use tools to listen to the system and secondly to take responsibility, instead of leaving everything to “THEY”. So let us put our receivers in place and let’s not depend on “THEM” to act.

 

Pradeep Kumar ET - Master Black Belt in Six Sigma, is Manager- Quality assurance with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt. Ltd. E-mail: pradeep@businessgyan.com

 

Issue BG55 Oct05