Mouse Co. and the Owl Deterrence System
Once upon a time, there was moderately-sized manufacturing corporation run by a family of friendly mice. Though not publicly traded, the company was well-respected in the mouse world and enjoyed significant brand equity and consumer loyalty for lines of affordable cedar chip and shredded cotton bedding.
However, the mouse corporation had a problem. Recently, a competing company run by a consortium well-financed, intelligent owls had established a new, efficient operation in the branches above the magnificent oak tree underneath which the mice operated their production burrows. As the owls first tooled their production facility, the mice looked up and marveled at their efficiency. The owls were six-sigma certified and the mice had never seen such a smooth operation! But when the plant opened, the mice were horrified to learn that the owls were in the business of manufacturing frozen mouse steaks and mouse-derived by-products which were sold as cheap food additives to the poor chicken hawks in 3rd-world pine forests.
The president mouse was outraged!
The union was outraged!
The workers were outraged, but were subsequently threatened with docked pay if they didn't tone down their outrage to adhere to company HR policy.
The president of the mouse shut himself in his office for a few days to brainstorm. When he finally came up, disheveled but beaming, he held up a plan for an owl-detection system that would alert the mice if the owl's procurement division was engaged in raw materials acquisition! All would be saved!
The president hand-picked his best employees to form a crack team that would turn his specifications into a system that would save the company. For two weeks the team toiled and worked, iterating and refining, until finally they emerged from their burrow with the finished product in hand, ready to deploy.
The mice waited until the owl's plant shuttered for their annual Hoot-ennany Holiday Retreat and quickly installed the system around their burrows. They plugged in the cables to their ERP system and switched it on. The whole ERP system crashed! Production came to a screeching halt! Panic quickly seized the president mouse and he assembled another crack, this team of ERP specialists, to assess the situation. Their findings were grim; the amount of data being transferred from the warning system overwhelmed the processing capabilities of the mouse ERP system! They had enough power to run one system or the other, but the budget for the warning system had already plunged profit into the red. There was no money left to fix the system.
The mouse president was distraught. Without the ERP system, the plant couldn't run. Without the warning system, he'd overwhelmed by the insurance premiums he was required to pay to cover his salaried workers. Though upset, the mouse president quickly accepted defeat and shuttered his plant. After liquidating remaining inventory, laying off the workers, and selling off his property, plant, and equipment, the mouse president called for a meeting with his executives. The remaining few executives at the Mouse Manufacturing Company phoned their contacts in the pine forests and proposed funding the construction of a new manufacturing burrows in the cheap real-estate underneath a pine tree. Once the deal was accepted, the Mouse executives were delighted to learn they'd save 50% in labor and recoup their costs in much less time than anticipated.
Happy and content, the mouse executives hopped happily home on their imported, inefficient, luxury toads.
Moral: Systems thinking is a must. For a company to succeed, all systems need to be considered as interrelated parts of a whole that delivers value to a business, rather than is discrete elements to be deployed on an as-need basis.
These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.