Ford, Innovation, PDCA, Toyota

Copy, improvise, and innovate to become original


MY general thesis on innovation is that you can start many good things by improving the basic model so that you can come out with something new out of the old. There’s no such thing as instant success. You have to go, test, and improvise on something out of something.

No, it’s not about putting new wine into an old wineskin. Our six-million dollar question remains the same—is there a better way? It’s a companion question to Mark Twain’s catchphrase: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Take Ford Motor’s Model T. When Henry Ford started the company in 1903, he built several car models intended for the middle class.

Ford started with Model A, then B, C, D until he reached Model S—totaling 19 prototypes until Model T was launched and became a hit to consumers for its mass appeal and affordability. In 1999, Model T was named the world’s influential car of the 20th century by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation.

Toyota, one of the world’s largest car makers, has short-circuited the process by copying and improving the achievements of other car brands. During its first few years of operations, Toyota admitted “copying the Chevrolet 65-horsepower straight-six, using the same chassis and gearbox with styling copied from the Chrysler Airflow,” according to

Business history around the world is replete with case studies on how copying and improving on one’s basic model can become an imperative strategy. Another example is Xerox, the company that invented the photocopying machine in 1959 that its name became generic to consumers, like what you can imagine with Colgate and Coke, among other pioneering brands.

However, Xerox was beaten black and blue by Japanese brands like Canon and Ricoh, which produced their copiers much lower in cost while achieving the highest quality and delivered right on time to the customer. I don’t know how Canon and Ricoh made a coup and dominated Xerox’s market. But I will not be surprised if they used reverse engineering to disassemble and analyze the components and inner workings of a typical Xerox model toward the end of coming up with an improved version.

Theoretically speaking, you can find solace with educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy on how these global brands are making money by copying and improving one’s basic model. Dr. Bloom (1913-1999) said there are six types of learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating—the last one being the highest form of learning.

At the bottom of Bloom’s pyramid is “remembering,” like a simple recall of a buzzword or management principle, except that it is considered the lowest form of learning. Even if you can recall facts and define it in your own words, you can’t go places without “creating” something new out of the old, basic foundation.

A good example of this is the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) Cycle, which was copied by American genius and Japanese hero W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), who improved the original concept of PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) which was created by his mentor Walter Shewhart (1891-1967).

Today, the PDCA Cycle has been refined several times over with the popular DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) for the Six Sigma approach of creating zero-defect products or services.

Now, how can you test this proposition of copying and improvising? Last week, I assigned one group of students to improve the ABCD formula that is being used by teachers, facilitators, and seminar presenters on how to come up with the best possible training curriculum.

ABCD stands for Audience, Behavior, Conditions, and Degree. You can check the internet for more details. As I’ve expected, that group composed of 19-year old kids came up with a better version of ABCD using the acronym ANSWER, which stands for Audience, Needs, Successes, Weaknesses, Effort, and Resources.

It became clear. In producing the best training plan, it’s best to use the ANSWER strategy created by young students rather than the ABCD Formula, which was formulated by people with doctorate degrees.

Getting these ideas out in the open give you the chance to become an expert in your own right.

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was right: “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery—it’s the sincerest form of learning.”

NOTE: This article first appeared in the May 23, 2016 issue of The Manila Times. The image is


Lean production, Lean service, security protocol

Extra processing and the security guard’s overkill

I’VE been seriously thinking how the security industry is making a killing in the civilian world. They’re taking advantage of their clients’ gullibility (or partnership in crime) by deploying as ma…

Source: Extra processing and the security guard’s overkill

Lean management, Lean service, Security protocol

Redundant work is your first clue to downsizing

Picture1I’VE been seriously thinking how the security industry is making a killing in the civilian world. They’re taking advantage of their clients’ gullibility (or partnership in crime) by deploying as many guards as possible in and out, if not around our offices, shopping malls, office buildings, factories, and car parks. Even in the presence of CCTV cameras and electronic sensors, you wonder why human intervention by security guards is still needed.

When you enter a car park building, you’d be amused, if not annoyed at two control centers that will screen your body parts and car model. The first one is a computer monitor where you swipe your ID card and as soon as the aluminum boom is lifted, you’d be halted by a second control, this time by at least two guards who will ask your full name, inspect and record your car model and plate number – as if you’re trying to enter the Pentagon.

At grocery stores, you can see security guards checking your receipt and routinely compare it with the merchandise you’re bringing out, in their mindless attempt to mock the capacity of million-peso worth of electronic sensors that they say are nothing compared to face-to-face human control powered by a 12-hour work shift, which is a standard industry practice.

That’s not all. Almost every day, you can see traffic enforcers on the road, trying to justify their physical existence by vigorously waving their hands to motorists, unmindful of a well-functioning traffic light system. Sometimes, they have the bold capacity to make the automated lights irrelevant by waving a “stop” sign to motorists for no apparent reasons (like a screening ambulance carrying mentally-incapacitated politicos), when the green light is on, and vice-versa.

When you talk to these people, you’ll be met by a blank stare, and with a soft, almost in a calm voice, they’ll tell you – “it’s better to be despised than to have a security breach” or words with the same effect as if they’re potential heroes willing to sacrifice their lives and limbs to bring to justice a 62-year old terrorist.

Imagine that foolishness under the guise of a well-intentioned security protocol. But in truth, such cumbersome procedure, more than anything is displaying a ridiculous objective of getting as much money from customers, if not make their lives difficult. “No, these electronic sensors and CCTV cameras are not enough,” security agency personnel are wont to say.

That’s why you can see security overkill everywhere where a computer is pitted against manong (uncle) guard as if it’s an eternal, everyday duel between Deep Blue and world chess champion Gary Kasparov. Seriously, take it as a good example. How can human beings susceptible to fatigue, stress, and personal problems, among others win against today’s computers?

This is not to mention the thousands of people they’re screening every hour, every day contributing to the security guard’s fatigue.

Since the time of Deep Blue-Kasparov chess match in 1997, computer programs have progressed many times over to prove that machine can beat man, much more security personnel who are on their toes, 12 hours a day, and six days a week.

Extra processing is everywhere. It’s a detestable act, but many of you can’t understand them unless you remove your blinders. It’s similar in intensity to a mindless procedure of requiring a dozen signature in a government transaction worth less than P1,000. In the private sector, you can also see this happening in the approval procedure of an application for a one-day vacation leave of hapless workers, who must wait to secure the signature of at least three command-and-control, stupid bosses.

Theoretically, extra processing is a form of waste under lean management. It must be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Why not?

Multiply over-processing to a good number of security personnel doing duplicate to triplicate jobs in several outposts or outlets, 30 days a month, 12 times a year and you’ll readily come out with millions of pesos down the drain or into the pockets of unprincipled office managers who are in the payroll of these equally immoral people from security agencies.

Of course, this is not a general indictment of those people, including those at the Ayala Center as shown in the above photograph. But in many cases elsewhere, we can’t help but think that some managers are simply imprudent and don’t know what they’re doing. Now, can you imagine this happening in thousands of government offices around the country?

NOTE: This article was first published on April 4, 2016 by The Manila Times.


People management

Who’s right — employee or customer? But it’s not who’s right, it’s who is left with you

MAN IS  REASONABLE. If you treat your employees more than what they expect of you, they will reciprocate by treating your customers more than what they expect you to do. It is as simple as that. Progressive discipline has become obsolete in the 21st century workplace. If you’ll stick to the imposition of reprimand-suspension-termination procedural steps, chances are, erring employees may even challenge you with the idea of bringing you to a court of justice, if not make things difficult for the organization in some ways.

Disgruntled employees can do a lot of things. They can sabotage business operations without you knowing it. Among other reasons, they can even copy product designs or customers’ database for some malevolent reasons.

Instead of progressive discipline, why not explore positive discipline where instead of giving suspension without pay, you allow erring employees to exhaust their vacation leave credits instead? Of course, you may find this as an extreme idea, unless you benchmark with other dynamic organizations on how they manage difficult employees.

Image source:


He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

April Fool’s Day is fast-catching up on Japan. The April 2, 2015 edition of Japan Times reports that many companies took part to humor their customers on April Fool’s Day by “offering eye-catching products and services that in some cases appeared to meet a credulous audience.”

Staff writer Magdalena Osumi says “corporate websites glowed with too-good-to-be-true offers of everything from luxury cars installed with rice cookers to speedy delivery of magazines by drone.

“April Fools’ Day hoaxes are rare in Japan, but foreign companies — and increasingly domestic ones — are happy to take part.

“On Wednesday, Audi Japan K.K. said its latest model Audi 8 luxury sedan would come equipped with state-of-the-art technology: a rice cooker.”

Here’s the link to that story

Photo credits: The Japan Times and Audi Japan K.K.

Visual Management

One basic management approach is worth a thousand expert opinion.

If there’s anything that the Philippine National Police should do to improve its image, and without spending much money in the process is simply to require its police force to emulate the Japanese “ritsuban” (stand guard) system. Here’s the link to Alice Gordenker article “Police who stand with big sticks” in the March 20, 2015 issue of Japan Times

Ritsuban is a good example of police visibility. A police officer need not leave his post to be observant of whatever is not right. It is equivalent to Taiichi Ohno’s “hansei” (reflection) where junior engineers were required to stand inside a chalk circle in a factory during the early years of Toyota. Both approaches are proactive in character and intended as a solution looking for problems to solve.

Why copy the Japanese? Why not? The Japanese police is an active participant to Japan’s justice system that continue to maintain a high 99.7% conviction rate, according to Wikipedia.

The only trouble with Ritsuban is that Filipino police officers may be exposing themselves to potential harm from malevolent characters if they are not extra careful and observant.

Photo credit: Japan Times

People management

A manager is one who thinks he knows about management than the workers who do the job.

A traffic enforcer stopped a speeding car at the intersection of a busy location. The driver was a priest. Putting away his citation book, the cop said: “Father, I’ve to tell you there’s a Protestant cop at the next light.

In the same vein, I would often caution people managers in my popular seminar on “Superior Supervision” to reflect on their management style to heed W. Edwards Deming’s (1900-1993) admonition that “80% of all problems can be blamed to Management, and only 20% can be traced to the Workers.” This is usually strengthened by Peter Drucker’s (1909-2005) claim that “what we know in management is usually on how to make the work of people difficult” or words to that effect. It’s easy to understand Deming and Drucker if we know PLOC (planning, leading, organizing, controlling) under Management 101.

Fortunately, I lot of these managers listened to my advice. They were able to change their management style after learning more about themselves and the situation where they’re in. But does self-knowledge generally improve managerial behavior? You only have to reflect on the morale of the workers to find out. One barometer is the attrition rate.