Rapidinnovation — A case study in Organizational Development & Change

The Backdrop:

A ductile iron pipe factory operates in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India. It is a joint venture between the famous Tatas and Kobutu Pipes of Japan. This factory is run by Japanese managers and supervisors and even some Japanese operators. They provided the technology, set up the plant, run the operations on a day to day basis and guide the Indian workers, supervisors and managers too.

The problem:

Ever since the Japanese installed their plant, 3.5 years ago, productivity never went beyond 50% of the rated capacity and quality rejections hovered around 10%, which they wanted to bring down below 5% level.

The approach taken by the Japanese managers:

They took their usual approach to analyze problems one by one. For that they employed all of their famous quality tools plus a mix of TPM and TQM approach. Huge amount of data were collected, to which one executive jokingly commented that data collection has generated so much paper that it could possibly cover the whole of Kharagpur

They tried their methods for the last 3.5 years without any success. Neither productivity nor quality improved by even 1%.

That is when the Chairman of the company invited me over to show him some ‘magic’ (he always jokingly refers to me as a ‘magician’, since he experienced my method 7 years back as a MD of another company)

Application of Rapidinnovation

My approach to the issue, that is application of Rapidinnovation, ran something like this:

Step 1: create an internal team focused on improving reliability and resilience of the organization to face this challenge. The team was a mix of junior, middle and high level executives. Fortunately I found this combination has an advantage of accelerating change.

Step 2: was to initiate them in the new thinking process and solving problems. Taught them my all time favorite method of Improvement through design, named Rapidinnovation — a) make them see the connection between all problems. Obviously, not all problems are to be tackled one by one. Only the critical nodes are to be address to resolve the issue holistically b) Show them the unity of the opposites to take the “creative middle” c) Minimal invasion or change based on the principle that a small change creates the desired change in the system both quantitatively and qualitatively. d) How all processes and phenomena would naturally negate their present existence to go back to the previous one hence developing a method of spotting changes and adapting quickly in a given situation. The focus was to creatively strike a balance between ‘reliability’ and ‘resilience’.

Two significant ideas of the approach were.

a) The design changes appeared seemingly insignificant. Extremely small changes (pivot points or lever points — a lesson I learned from Judo). Now I call this Minimalist invasion surgery.

b) No specific attention was given either to improve productivity or quality. In fact not a single quality problem was addressed in the entire engagement. The changes had a holistic effect — i.e. small changes had their effect on the whole (principle of interdependence)

Step 3: was to work out a few problems directly for them to believe that the method of problem solving and improvement works. That is what I term as the Non-Process in problem solving i.e. — Examine things in isolation and then see them in their own environment (interdependence, interactions and the ‘struggle’). Objective is to help things continue their ‘struggle’ to be in the ‘creative middle’ of everything.

Step 4: was to encourage them to apply the method themselves and gain internal confidence and esteem. Here my role was that of a facilitator and a critic.

Step 5: make them think about quickly spotting changes to quickly adapt to improve resilience within the organization.

Step 6: walk the creative middle.

The Results

The results were astounding: Productivity increased by 100% to reach the 100% of rated capacity and quality rejections reduced and came down below the 5% level (i.e. by 100% from former levels) in just under 5 months and the results are consistent over the past 4 months at the time of writing this event. This innovative intervention left the organization with on going benefits for possibly years (that has been my intention in all my previous engagements, which were so far successfully achieved barring a negligible few, 2 out of 50 to be precise).

Appreciation & Comments

a) This is what the Chairman of the company commented:

“Thanks Dibyendu;

I am keeping track of the developments – and the results a lot of confidence that TMKPL would be ranked as one of the best performing cos. in DIP business in the world.

Thanks for accepting the challenge and carrying it forward well.

I had asked Somenath to get across to you about BF opn. ; did he get across to you?


(now he wants the magic for another plant focusing on operation)

b) This is what a senior team member had to comment. I loved it since they see the approach as something that changes ‘culture’. (His reference to Reliability Management is the name of my consulting firm RMCPL, solely engaged in problem solving.)


…RELIABILITY MANAGEMENT is not a problem solving tool, its more of OBSERVING THE PROBLEMS IN A DIFFERENT FASHION AND TOTALLY A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS. It has changed the mind set and APPROACH towards solving problems amongst the team members. RELIABILITY MANAGEMENT IS A TOOL FOR CULTURAL CHANGE throughout the organization which is reflected not only in availability increase of the equipment but also in reduction in the percentage of Rejection and other improvements.

More success will come if we can deploy and involve more people across the organization into this approach.

G Dhar, Manager, TMKPL, Kharagpur


Lesson learned:

Organizational Development and Change Management must always be centred around the reality of problems, challenges and threats an organization suffers from. Then only changes to the way people work happen. Similarly, innovation is also centred around unexpected events that happen in an organization.


2 Responses to “Rapidinnovation — A case study in Organizational Development & Change”

  1. Dr. Col. Ratan Raina Says:

    A practical approach which can produce results. it can be helpful for others also. can I include this case inmy book on Change Management. I need your permission. it will help student to learn practical side of change. Dr. Col Raina

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