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People have been justifiably upset with the Samsung debacle involving their Galaxy Note 7. The last thing in the world that a mobile phone user would expect is a hot hand that turns into a mini fire. Yikes!
Are there lessons to learn from this debacle? Yes, there are. I offer four lessons.
1. The first lesson has to do with the decades-old belief that being first to the market with a new product or service gives you a distinct advantage. Thus, everyone races to get the product or service out there. This can mean not enough research for what we will be putting out in the market place. Our enthusiasm for newness overtakes sound operational practices. Remember the insurance company that sold a new policy and went bankrupt because they had to start paying customers unprecedented amounts that no one had bothered to project? Look at Samsung and you see another example of moving too fast for the good of the company. Organizations must value both creativity and efficiency, but not at the expense of good business sense.
2. The second lesson has to do with problem solving. There are many different ways to successfully problem solve. First and foremost: People responsible for solving problems need to be trained in how to solve problems. How many organizations teach their people how to solve problem? Ask your colleagues at other organizations if they have ever been to problem-solving training. Chances are that they have not. This was apparently the case at Samsung. Properly trained people would have known that the problem was actually not solved.
3. Another lesson that is closely related to problem solving that can be learned from Samsung is the need for critical thinking. “Critical thinking” is a defined process to follow that will get you to the right problem or situation to begin with. Again, organizations do not invest in training. In this case, though, they claim that people already know how to do critical thinking because they learned it somewhere in K-12. I have not seen every K-1 curriculum in US schools, but I have found no one who is an educator in K-12 who can verify that critical thinking is learned in our schools. People have not learned critical thinking protocols. Most folks can’t even compose a litmus test for critical thinking. Business school professors believe that teaching with case studies teaches critical thinking. Even if that were totally true, I do know it’s true that most workers do not have business degrees.
4. A fourth lesson has to do with controlling operational variables. All organizational activity can be bundled into a wide array of processes, such as operational, accounting, hiring and promoting, etc. Many processes are put in place by experienced professionals, top-tier vendors, highly educated consultants, and folks who've successfully followed those processes for years. However, the deal with processes is that unless you review them fairly often to ensure they are still viable, you may be risking a “car wreck.” When I worked in a not-for-profit, we performed what was called a program evaluation every year. We looked at every process and procedure from every angle to make sure that all was moving in strict conformance to a set code of activity that achieved the desired results. Needed changes became obvious immediately. Perhaps this technology giant needs to review some of their process.
These four lessons were learned by the people in many great organizations in the last year, the last decade as well as the last century. The only thing that pops up missing from time to time is vigilance. We have to pay more attention to critical variables on an ongoing basis. Less scrutiny can be deadly to an organization.
WERE THERE OTHER LESSONS TO BE LEARNED?
P.S. – I am the happy owner of a Samsung Galaxy S5
Robert C. Preziosi, D.P.A., is Professor of Management in the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, and can be reached at email@example.com