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June 08, 2006

The difference

I've read a very funny story today about the different ways of doing things in Japan and Germany which I'd like to share with you. The story is about cooking a potato in an oven.

How would Toyota approach this problem? Easy. Take a new oven, heat it up to 200 degrees, wrap up the potato in aluminium foil, put it into the oven and do something productive during the next 45 minutes. Then check if the potato is done, take it out of the oven and serve it. Piece of cake. I like this pragmatic approach.

You don't think there's an alternative way to do it? There is. Let's see how BMW would do it. First, a team is put together which defines the problem en detail. Then the team searches for a certified potato supplier for six months but cannot find anyone. Therefore a turnip farmer is forced to supply potatoes. Because he doesn't grow potatoes himself he buys them from an uncertified potato farmer and adds 25% to the price for his persoanl profit (you can't blame him, can you?). Then the turnip farmer is asked to heat up the oven to 200 degrees. The BMW people demand that the farmer shows exactly how he has turned the knob on the oven and provide them with a brochure from the oven manufacturer to show that the oven is correctly calibrated. The brochure and certificate are duly examined and the turnip farmer is requested to check the oven temperature with a calibrated thermocouple.

After that he is allowed to wrap up the potato in aluminium foil and put it into the oven but has to open the oven door again to show that he has placed the potato in the correct spot. BMW now asks for a study showing that 45 minutes is the appropriate cooking time for a potato this size. I suppose by now you can easily imagine the design of this study: after 10 minutes the potato is checked every minute and when BMW gets impatient the one minute intervals are changed to five minute intervals ...

After 35 minutes it is decided for some reason that the potato is almost done and after having gratulated the turnip farmer on his success the good news are proudly presented to the management: despite an uncooperative supplier an outstanding result has been achieved. After 40 minutes the potato is finally taken out of the oven to minimise costs without reducing the quality of the cooked potato compared to the originally intended cooking time of 45 minutes.

The potato is served but people wonder how the heck the Japanese could produce such a cheap potato which obviously tastes much better than the German one. This is the hour of management which comes up with the following proposals for improvement:

One could use potato shaped turnips to reduce costs.
The missing potato taste should be advertised as a new sign of quality in an image campaign.
Cooking time should be reduced by 20% by reducing the oven temperature by 20%.
It is to be examined if despite moving the oven to the Czech Republic it will still be possible to serve potatoes in Germany.

On second thought I must admit that this is all much too real to really have a good laugh about it. Looking at the state German economy is in at the moment we could probably be a lot more successful if at least sometimes we just DID things.

Posted by Mausi at June 8, 2006 08:25 PM

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