Lost and found, on the manufacturing floor

There is an excellent story in leadership consulting lore. I’m not sure how true it is, but the lessons derived from it are incredibly valuable.

There was once a detachment of Hungarian soldiers that struck out on a reconnaissance mission from their platoon in the Alps. While they were out, there was a massive snowstorm and the soldiers lost their way – returning was impossible.  The team was worried; they were not prepared for an extended stay out in these harsh conditions, and even if they had been, how would they get back with no knowledge of their location? They had all but given up hope when one soldier, while rummaging through his uniform, found a map. He showed it to the group and a new =found sense of hope came over them. They rallied together, found shelter, and waited out the storm.

After a couple of days, the blizzard finally let up. Wearily, the soldiers set about returning to their platoon. Using the map, they identified various features of the land, and made their way back. Their commander was elated to see them alive and well. When he asked the team how they did it, the soldier showed the commander the map that had not only guided them back, but had also given them the hope to persevere.  Confused, the commander asked this soldier, “How on earth did you find your way using a map of the Pyrenees?”

This story teaches us many things; here are two:

  • Fear and anxiety can lead people to inaction, even to their own detriment (and the effect usually intensifies in groups)
  • Even with the wrong strategy or plan, the chances of success are higher than if there were no plan at all

The second point has many application in the business world.  One I think of most, in terms of our manufacturing customers, is that of their shop floors.  Often manufacturers, especially small and medium sized ones, don’t have a chance to get deep into process planning.  Stations are haphazardly placed, too many or not enough activities are scheduled at stations, new machinery is placed wherever it fits, etc.  All of this causes bottlenecks and a slower time getting things out the door.  As we all know, time is money – especially in manufacturing, where every lost minute, hour, or day translates into lost revenue.

Tata Technologies has an amazing team of technical experts and works with many solution providers that can help manufacturers find their own map. One of the maturity benchmarks we offer is for the “Digital Factory;” contact us to schedule yours.


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