Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Elves' Mistake

Every year the elves at the North Pole make all of the toys for the good boys and girls throughout the world. The elves have been making toys for years. They always have the job done in time for Santa Clause to deliver the toys on Christmas Eve to all the children. The elves usually take their time in the building of the toys. This particular year however, the elves have fallen behind. They examine how many toys they will have by the time Christmas comes around and they realize that it will not be enough for all of the good boys and girls. In order to complete the job by the deadline, the head elf orders all the elves to speed up the process and make the correct number of toys by the deadline. All of the elves begin to speed up their work processes and begin to work double shifts in order to get the toys ready. You see, the elves did not realize that the population of children in the world had increased so much. They just felt they could continue to use the process they always had because it worked in the past. The elves were working longer hours than they had ever worked before and they were making toys faster than they had ever made them before. What happened was that when the toys reached quality control, they did not measure up to the standards to be delivered. The elves came to Santa to say that they did not think they would have enough time to make enough toys for all the good boys and girls. Mrs. Vicki Clause overheard this discussion and came up with an idea. She would do a quick systems analysis on the elves' work to see if there were ways to save time and improve quality. After implementing the changes Mrs. Vicki Clause suggested, the elves were able to work more efficiently and improve their quality. They were able to make enough toys just as the reindeer were about ready to take off.

Moral: Just because a project is completed on time does not mean that the project is successful. The quality of the work that is performed is just as, if not more important than, making sure that the project is completed by the deadline. The second moral is that just because a process has worked for a company (or the North Pole) in the past, does not mean it will continue to work if the environment the organization is in changes. Going along with that moral is the fact that just because your system works doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. If the system cannot take into account changes to company's customer base, than the system needs to be re-evaluated to meet the business' changing environment. The third moral is the same moral that has been used in the past, make sure to include your professor's name in the fable, and cast her as the hero.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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