Insight article

‘We’ve always done it this way…’

In honour of the World War I remembrances going on, this story seems particularly appropriate.

A very meticulous management consultant was visiting a small and somewhat antiquated English manufacturing company to advise on improving general operating efficiency.

She began by reviewing a particular daily report which dealt with aspects of productivity, absentee rates, machine failure, down time, etc. It was completed by hand on a form that seemed to have been photocopied hundreds of times, so several headings and descriptions were no longer legible.

The advisor noticed that a zero had been written in a box in the corner of every daily report for the past year – but the employees filling in the form, many of whose parents and grandparents had worked in the same factory, didn’t actually know what it signified.

Intrigued, the consultant visited the archives to see if she could find a clearer, earlier version of the form. She found reports going back at least 30 years, all with the zero filled in, but none with the heading any more readable.

As she turned to leave the room, frustrated, something caught her eye, a box with a faded yellow label reading ‘master forms’. Sure enough, inside it she found the original daily report in decent condition. In the top right corner was the mysterious box, with the heading clearly shown.

‘No. of air raids today’, it read.

Nailia Tasseel