This is a five-part mystery:

  1. The mystery
  2. The call
  3. The investigation
  4. The solution
  5. The Happy Ending

Part 5 – The Happy Ending…24 months later

   Si and Mr. Under sat drinking coffee in Mr. Under’s office.  They had been meeting like this regularly for an hour to review progress and discuss next steps for the last two years.  In the beginning the meetings were more frequent and could last longer than an hour.  But, as the company’s effort had begun to stabilize into a more predictable routine, their meetings had changed.  Today’s session was a review of where things stood, lessons learned, and a look forward on what to expect over the next two years.

   So much had happened!  Every part of the company was engaged.  Though there was skepticism at first, people began to request inclusion in the training.  Training was activity based and practical leading to a real, implemented result.  People in every business and function were practicing what they had learned and engaging others to participate with them.  It hadn’t been perfect.  Some people had to be convinced and there were a few who chose to find other employment.  But, generally Mr. Under was pleasantly surprised at the response of people across the company.

   Leaders at all levels were identifying hidden factories.  Once people learned how to see them, they discovered that hidden factories were everywhere and consuming vast amounts of the company’s resources.  Eliminating them was a necessity and now they knew how.  The leaders also discovered that while the work was often hard, people felt good about making a real contribution to the company.  In fact, more often than not, people told their leaders that this was a lot of fun and most wanted to do more.

   For the first time in a long time, product performance in the field was beginning to show real improvement.  It wasn’t perfect, but the warranty cost curve had begun to turn down and complaints from customers were trending in a positive direction.   There was still a lot to do, but now the strategy for how to address it had become clear.

   Most importantly, the profitability curve was no longer flat.  For the first time in memory profitability was improving each quarter.  A lot of effort went into analyzing whether or not this change was real or just a coincidence.  The analysis showed that the elimination of each hidden factory contributed measurably to the bottom line of the company.  Many of the contributions were small, some were really big, but each contributed.  The change was real!

   Mr. Under said, “You know I’ve said this before, but I am still shocked how many hidden factories existed, and still exist, around the company.  Once I learned how to see them, they were just so obvious.  What’s even more shocking is how much money, time, and energy was used maintaining them.  The real mystery is how we tolerated it for so long.”

   Si nodded, “Your company was no different than so many others that I have worked with.  People simply get consumed by the day-to-day work and lose the ability to see things as problems.  They need to be taught to think differently.  They also need to be taught what to do once their eyes are opened to the reality of what’s around them.  It saddens me so many companies decide not to take me up on my offer to help them.  They are really choosing to be blind to reality and to perform below their potential.”

   Mr. Under was quiet as he pondered what Si had just said and his experience of the last two years.  Finally, he said, “The real mystery is why so many of my peers are unwilling to even try.”

If you would like to request a listening session for your business, you can contact me, George Strodtbeck, by email at