So you've dedicated your time, energy and money to a continuing quality improvement program. While you're busy trying to milk the last dollar of improvement from your existing product or service, your competitor is whizzing by you with new and innovative solutions to your customer's needs - and probably making your product obsolete in the process.
If the computer industry did what you're doing right now, we'd still be using 286 computer chips - dirt cheap and much improved, of course - but still 286s and slow as molasses."Wait a minute," you say. "What about all these gurus out there espousing the quality improvement movement? Are they wrong?"
The answer: an unqualified "Yes!" Today's technology is not one of continuous improvement; it is evolving into one of major breakthroughs - what I call "leapfrog technology."
Here's a definition of this new concept and some ways to take advantage of the movement now, before you join the buggywhip generation:
Leapfrog technology is the act of substituting innovative research for quality improvement. Your children play this game well. Suzie puts her hands on the back of Sean, then propels herself over his back to land in front. Suzie may fall down as a result of the leap, may only stagger or may land solidly, but Suzie is in front.
It doesn't matter what kind of business you conduct - retail, wholesale, manufacturing, transportation, service. What matters is whether you are out in front, providing your customer with what they want or need as opposed to what you can offer.
- A retailer might offer in-home shopping for a complete line of products. This "go to the customer" idea is not new, but new communication and database technologies could automate the process for consumable goods such as food, clothing and personal products.
- Wholesalers could combine related products, then offer Internet order capabilities with well stocked online trucks making super-fast deliveries. Route sales of individual products could be eliminated in favor of the new system.
- Manufacturers should start working on the next technologically innovative solution to a problem the second the original product comes off the assembly line. Only a minimal amount of energy should be devoted to improving existing products.
- Service companies might invent the "industry service" concept, combining all service for an industry into one package, then automating that service for the customer at a dramatically reduced cost.
- Transportation companies should use satellite positioning and cell phones with message service to route pickup and delivery in a zig-zag fashion as well as use the antique transfer station concept.
How to get started: Call a halt in all executive activity and begin a new program where you look at the innovation concept for your company. If you don't know how, get some help. Your goal is to determine how you can become a "leapfrog company," which direction you should leap, and how to land solidly on your feet. As soon as you finish, call a new team together and start research on the next leap ... the game is won only by the one in front.
What about the gurus? If the followers of Deming could have their way we'd still be watching black and white television, riding in an improved version of the horse less carriage, using piston engines and propellers for air transport power, and calculating everything using a slide rule. Ridiculous? Not if you believe in continuous quality improvement!