Before Shigeo Shingo’s chicken there was another well-known fowl by the name of “Chicken Little.” Do you remember the story? Struck on the head by a falling acorn, Chicken Little concludes that the sky is falling and so decides to warn the king as well as everyone else he meets on his way to the palace. I recall that in the end a fox invites all the frightened parties to a safe haven in his den, and there eats them all. The moral to this story: Don’t believe everything you hear. When someone tells you “The sky is falling,” go see for yourself.
While we often remember Chicken Little, really his only transgression was communicating what appeared to him to be a threat. The great mistake lay with those who listened to Chicken L., and then followed blindly. Today, there is even a societal malady named after our hero: “Chicken Little Syndrome”, defined as “a sense of despair or passivity which blocks the audience from actions.”
American business it seems to me had been locked in that sense of despair and passivity for a decade, making short-term cash decisions to bolster flagging quarterly earnings – in many cases paper profits fabricated from cursory cost assumptions. Businesses are going to China, well . . . because other businesses are going to China.
Now come two separate studies from Accenture and Boston Consulting Group that “Chinese net manufacturing costs are rapidly converging on U.S. costs.” When all cost and competitive factors are considered, it turns out, reshoring manufacturing to America makes good competitive sense. And from Professors Gary Pisano and Willy Shih of Harvard Business School come a revelation that “U.S. innovation declines when manufacturing is offshored because the partnership of manufacturing and engineering is weakened.”
One week to go before the Made Lean in America Northeast Shingo Prize Conference. Don’t be passive. Come join the learning, networking and sharing on October 5-6 in Springfield, Massachusetts: www.neshingoprize.org