the importance of understanding delay

July 25, 2010

in solving daily problems, it is important to understand the cause-effect relationship. what problems caused by which root causes.

the same importance goes to understanding the possible “delay” between our actions and the effects.

finding the root cause of a problem has been well known by many people in business and non-business, but many of them do not understand (or seek to understand) whether their improvement actions will create instance impact to the problem or there will be delay.

last nite during my dinner in a small resto near my house, i remembered an old experience at  another resto.

couple weeks ago my wife and i had a dinner in a nice but crowded resto. while we enjoyed our spicy food, my wife ordered lemon tea. Having wait for ten minutes or so, my wife called another waiter and told him that she ordered another lemon iced tea. until we had finished our dinner, the lemon ice tea did not show up on our table, hence my wife was so upset (well, the food was spicy) and complained to the supervisor of the resto; she reminded that she want her lemnon tea.

within 5 minutes, three different waiters were rushing brought three glasses of lemon tea!

apparently, because it was so crowded, the resto had problems in tracking the orders and who’re working or delivering them to each table. The consequence was many orders at that nite were counted as two or three different orders, because many guests did not realized that there were many delays and there was a total mess in the orders tracking. people in the back office did not realize that many orders were actually just reminders/redundants.

The moral of the story is, if we don’t understand there is a delay between our action (“order lemon tea”) and the effect (“getting the lemon tea”), we tend to keep repeating our actions (reminding, re-ordering, complaining) until we get the result. If we understand it, our action might be quite different.

In real business situation, how many times you are doing many different things, tweaking actions, cancelling your one-month old advertising, or trashing execution just because you have not seen the result yet?

How many times your boss stopped your projects because they do not see any improvement after waiting for [just] 3 weeks?

Do your boss understand there is delay between today’s action and the effect?

OR, do YOU understand it and have explained to your boss and other stakeholders?

why the current war on terror may take longer (than expected)?

July 7, 2010

First of all, I highly appreciate Indonesian anti-terror unit (Densus88) accomplishments to date, in term of their quickness.

Secondly, this “terrorists”  issue is one of the most complicated issue of the century, so I have no intention to offer the solution for this issue since there are many experts are working on this and still quite far from the end solution. And of course, I am far from knowledgable in this issue.

What I want to show (by borrowing from Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline) is that taking ONLY the most obvious solution from the terrorist attack (by attacking them back,kill or  capture & put them into jail) might not resulting the best solution.

As explained by Senge, what seems to be an obvious and logical solution in a our perspective, may not be the best from the holistic  perspective.

Let say there is a bomb exploded in another hotel in Indonesia.

From the government view, an attack by terrorist is a threat to all Indonesian and should be responded aggresively (Pic 1).

From another perspective (of the so called “terrorist” group), their view of the situation is simply responding to the aggresive attack from the anti-terror unit (Pic 2). The more aggresive the government, the more millitant their response. The more recruits they got from the people who shared the same belief.

These two views apparently will build its own “system”. This is a vicious cycle which makes the problem more complicated because what it seems the obvious solution is simply just create a bigger problem (Pic 3).

From the system view, we need to break the cycle. Violence only creates violence, an old say yet we still ignore it.

I have read many articles and experts urged the need to tackle the root cause of the militants movement in the form of mediation and common ground setting (not easy, of course) in addition to the immediate law enforcement. Got to do that.

The quick result will show if we can avoid the prison become “the school” for the new recruits or from the old players to plan another attack.

simple, not simplistic

July 7, 2010

I am a fan of simple solution, but NOT simplistic one.

Simplistic means oversimplification of a problem (without deep understanding of more data/facts), taking the most “obvious” solution, taking shortcut and the fastest result. For instance, in simplistic solution, if you cannot sleep for more than 2 nites you are taking some sleeping pills to help you. That’s simplistic.

Simple means taking the uncomplicated solution based on understanding of the facts and data. Uncomplicated means you don’t need the 100% accuracy for solving all the issues but focus on critical few over the trivial many; hence, the 80/20 rule. In the case of you cannot sleep, you will try to collect info/facts on why you cannot sleep (may need an experience people/doctor).  Your root causes could be:

a. stress from office workload

b. taking too much nap during the day

c. your husband is snoring*

In simple solution, you need to take care whichever the real problem is. In either case, none of taking any sleeping pill will help. In fact, that solution can bring more harm because not only it hides you from the real root cause but also it will create another problem such as addiction.

This is quite common sense, but the issue is many big issue comes from this simple thing.

I’ll show you in my next post.


if the real cause is because your husband is snoring while sleeping, the solution is not kick him out of the house. That’s simplistic:). The simple solution can be just using a pair of earplug?

Some positions for professionals in process improvement

July 4, 2010

Dear readers,

Here is an opening from a US-based consulting for jobs in Indonesia. Interested applicants please send CV to

Variance Reduction International, Inc.

Vacancy: Subcontractor Black Belt Position Posting

Positions: Subcontractor Black Belts.  Execution of Lean Six Sigma projects and mentoring of Green Belts executing their projects.

Position Requirements:

  • Certified Lean Six Sigma or Six Sigma Black Belt
  • BA or BS degree
  • Expertise in executing the DMAIC roadmap for Lean Six Sigma projects
  • Expertise in Lean Six Sigma tools and methodology
  • Expertise in building a Lean Six Sigma project queue
  • Expertise in Lean Six Sigma project management
  • Expertise in evaluating the Voice of the Customer
  • Expertise in scoping a Lean Six Sigma project
  • Expertise in data analysis and interpretation
  • Expertise in capturing financial benefits of Lean Six Sigma projects
  • Expertise in mentoring others in the use of Lean Six Sigma tools and project deployment
  • Physically able to travel
  • Completed two Lean/Six Sigma projects with a financially verified benefit of greater than $50,000US (submit presentations of the projects along with application)
  • References from at least one Master Black Belt
  • Software expertise in SPC XL 2007 or 2010
  • Proven facilitative leadership and project management skills
  • Minimum of two years of Lean Six Sigma experience
  • Willing to travel within the Indonesia
  • Able to work in a culturally diverse work environment

Desirable But Not Required Skills and Attributes:

  • Engineering degree
  • Expertise in Kaizen facilitation
  • Change management expertise

Location: Work to be performed in various locations throughout Indonesia.

Project Duration: Minimum of two weeks a month, for twelve months.

Contractual Obligations: Agree to work as a subcontractor to Variance Reduction International, Inc. (VRI) for at least 2 weeks a month for 12 months, contract extensions will be awarded based on performance.  A default clause will be in effect for poor performance allowing VRI to terminate the contract.

For interested applicants please send CV to