For hundreds of years, Switzerland was the largest watch manufacturer in the world. In 1962, aware of the new directions of time measurement technology, the Swiss founded the “Centre Eletronique Horloger” (CEH) to develop a quartz wrist watch. The prototype – “Beta 21” – was proven way superior to the best mechanical watches in market. However, even though the model’s performance was excellent, the big Swiss factories considered they were in a very comfortable position in the market and were not interested in betting on and developing the new technology. The Americans and Japanese believed in the success of the new product created by the Swiss and perfected the model. In 1970, a big paradigm shift caused a revolution in the industry and the watch market. In a few years, quartz watches were costing less than 10 dollars and achieving an absolute success in sales. The Swiss industry, not prepared for the sudden paradigm shift, dived in a great crisis, causing plenty of factories to close down and a whole number of people to become unemployed.
Although 40 years have gone by, the Swiss case is a prevailing example that clearly illustrates the way that paradigms bringing us success today are not guarantees of tomorrow’s triumph. Quite on the contrary. Completely absorbed with producing, organisations are resistant to change and do not question the way they are performing, acting in a mechanical/automatic way and not using time to reflect upon how to do more and better. “We are slaves of our own habits”. This Masaaki Imai quote sums up in few words how employees, teams and organisations dive into a status quo.
It is common and useful to have rules, models and paradigms in general. The problem arises when these models are faced as the only solutions to something. It is imperative to have insight and judgement, to be discriminate, restless and brave enough to reinvent, test and implement pioneering models that will allow for a continued success. The Swiss case dismantles the motto “A winning team should not be disturbed.” and reinforces a new formula: “To keep winning we have to keep changing and improving.”
o That trigger resistance to change
o That generate dull employees who are only absorbed with producing and do not dedicate their time to reflecting on new ways to improve
o That represent a barrier to achieving new goals
- Create a continuous improvement culture which involves every person, every day, in every operation
- Dedicate time to questioning the current paradigms and finding new and alternative paths
- Think of new ways to do better as a team
- Motivation and involvement of employees
- Improvement dynamics
- Improvement of the product and service.