Sunday, November 30, 2008

Simple or Simplistic?

A colleague recently returned from a management conference where she heard a presentation by a software firm about their new inventory management package. She was intrigued; it had a fully configurable tool to calculate buffer inventory levels based on shipment levels. As sales rose or fell, the tool would raise or lower the buffer inventory every two weeks according to the methods selected by the user. In addition, the package provided signals to production to ask for replenishment of the buffer as customers purchased goods.

Impressed, she complimented the presenter on coding an efficient pull system. He shuddered at her suggestion. “Oh no, this is not a ‘pull system’, this is a predictive system, driven by the program.” She paused, asked some clarifying questions, the answers all pointing to this as a well-conceived pull system capable of managing inventory levels of tens of thousands of SKUs according to the user’s wishes. Yet, the company was adamant they had not made a “pull system,” as if the term was a label they wished to avoid at all costs.

Why? Why the apparent revulsion?

I suspect it has something to do with the confusion of “simple” with “simplistic.” Most of us are comfortable with the former but less so with the latter term. Pull systems are simple. Take one, make one. That’s it. To manage the huge variety of finished goods most customers want, software can do a dandy job of keeping track of the ins and outs, all the “take ones, make ones” signals. The software is complex; the concept is not.

Holding fast to the simple principle, while seeing the need for complex tools to implement the idea is key. But denying the ultimate simplicity, the clarity and the visibility of the principle is downright foolish.

Be simple…not simplistic.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My guess, based on the info in the post, is that the marketing people have been told what to say but don't actually know the concept behind the software. So they can spout what they are told but they can't really think or respond to deep questions they just repeat training to close, present the sales pitch as instructed, overcome objections...

It could be for some reason the sales training railed against pull for some reason or another - having to do with marketing I would imagine not user needs...