We have often written here about continuous improvement and mentioned one especially good platform called TRACC. TRACC has been developed by a South African company called CCI which, in the person of Oswald Duvel, many years ago established a presence in Asia as a commitment to bring operational best practices here.
Very tragically, Oswald Duvel was taken from us last week. The loss left by his departure has rippled across manufacturing across Asia, arguably even more broadly, from Oswald's chosen base here in Thailand to far-flung places in South Korea, China, Indonesia and other locales. This loss would be even greater if it were not for Oswald's legacy, in both the well-documented approach he espoused and the people he trained, who are now ready to continue.
Oswald introduced to this part of the world a fresh approach to improving a key link in supply chain management, namely production. In so doing, he brought an enlightened way to improving the way people do things in many production operations across Asia. Not only is this an especially good way of doing things in and around a production facility but, more importantly, it is a profound approach to the process itself of improving people and processes and, subsequently, employing tools.
There are many production operations in our region that are more effective, efficient, and profitable because Oswald came here and relentlessly encouraged people toward continuous improvement. Consequently, there are many people who enjoy their working lives much more because they have learned these new ways and benefit from, first and foremost, the satisfaction of making a difference and, second, in the results, minute by minute, day by day.
Of course he was here to build a business and that he did. But this business has always been about improving people's knowledge and capabilities so that they can be the ones who want to improve their own business.
We have written in this space many times about the objective of integrating strategy, people, processes and tools. Oswald's focus, to many, would have seemed to be on process (what tasks we do, how we do them). Really, though, it was always people. He always knew that the way to make great improvements to business was to engage people and get them to want to improve things and to use a structured approach to figure out how to do that. He always knew the way was to educate people in new concepts and principles and to coach them on how to implement them.
Losing Oswald has brought to the front of our mind the challenge of striking a balance that is like a Holy Grail. We want and need to empower people to make improvements and to be the ones to "own" that entire process. But, for the successes to be sustained, we need them to be locked into our documented processes and to stick to that way of doing things.
Similarly, indeed, there is a professional legacy of Oswald because he wanted so much to share his excitement and belief in this way of improving things, this way of working together to make a difference. This approach is all beautifully documented in the product (TRACC) in which Oswald believed and supported so passionately. But, to close the loop, it will only carry on because he caught the imagination of many other people.
This, of course, is the essence of knowledge management. It is great, in any circumstance or organisation, to have people with the expertise and/or energy to make things work. The challenge, the Holy Grail for which we must continuously search, is to capture that capability in order to enable and sustain continuous good performance and also to improve on it.
We had a long history with Oswald. Indeed, we first worked together at the very same time as this column was inaugurated. Our third article (this is number 486) was about Lean Thinking, specifically because Oswald brought Dr Norman Faull from South Africa to present these concepts to a new audience here in Bangkok.
Those were his and our early days in this effort in this region.
It was about this time last year that, as part of his never-ending efforts, that Oswald reached out to us again to join with him afresh, this time because the scope of his efforts and his pet, TRACC, were going to span the entire supply chain, well beyond production. This is a tremendous increase in this contribution to the body of knowledge.
Much has been achieved by working together and, in parallel, by informing people about the body of knowledge that already exists. But we did not have the chance to work together long enough. Oswald was only just getting warmed up.
The Link is coordinated by Barry Elliott and Chris Catto-Smith CMC of the Institute of Management Consultants Thailand. It is intended to be an interactive forum for industry professionals; we welcome all input, questions, feedback and news at: Barry.Elliott@inslo.com
About the author
- Writer: Barry Elliott