Sunday, November 29, 2009

This one's for Meg (uh oh!)

The title sounds shady right? That's coz this post is shady too, you'll get what I mean as you read along! ;)

So, Meg wrote this post about growing older but not making a huge life-changing contribution to the world, and PseudoRandom (as always) made a very very good point, about making small changes everyday instead of wanting to make a giant change. This reminded me of something that I had heard, oh, just this Friday. Something I wanted to blog about but couldn't fit into that useless last post of mine, so hear goes nothing...

We had a lecture Friday, by Mr. Niranjan De Silva, the CEO of Metropolitan Computers, not the MEP. I learned more in that 1½ hour lecture than I had learned in a whole while. He started off by giving us the bad news. Although Sri Lanka had the highest per capita degree, diploma and other certification holders in Asia, we were also the least productive country in this continent. Raman Roy, the father of BPO had come here and said that he could get anything that the Sri Lankan do done better and faster by the Indians. Anyway, he laid out 5S as a way that we could improve productivity. He also made the very valid point that not enough Sri Lankans have a vision, a dream of where they would be in 10-15 years time. And he said "If you don't know where you're going, then any road will take you there", and told us about stories of interviews in which highly qualified people didn't get the job because they were lacking a clear vision for themselves.

He mentioned that Japanese don't believe in depreciation (not to be confused with wear and tear). He had visited a Toyota factory that had brand new machines. Or so they looked, until he asked the manager. He was told that all the machines were about 20 years old! See, apparently the Japs clean the machines and do any necessary repairs before they leave at the end of their shift. And the machines have remained as good as new for 20-odd years.

Ok, now to the point. He talked about Kaizen, or continued improvement. See, making big changes with your life can be disruptive and too drastic. He talked about how making gradual, small, but continuous improvements can make a bigger development. Apparently when the Japanese engineers came here to build the Southern Expressway (yeah the one with all the collapsing bridges) our bigwigs asked them straight away for 'The Biggest Highway in Asia'. The Japanese were taken aback, and thought how could one of the poorest countries in Asia maintain such a mammoth facility. But they then laid out a plan with a small number of continuous improvements, for example filling up the pot-holes in the current Galle Road, which would decrease travel time to Galle by 15 minutes, creating a 2 lane highway first and then gradually expanding that to a 4 lane one, etc., and at the end of 6 years, Sri Lanka would have the biggest highway in this part of the world. Obviously, those plans were scrapped... ;)

Ok, in conclusion, make small, but continuous improvements. Remember the story of the little kid who was walking on the seashore, throwing starfish that had washed up and were dying back into the sea? And the man asked him why he was doing it, what kinda change would it make, that he wouldn't possibly be able to save more than a couple of them? Remember his answer? coz I sure don't err, I mean he threw another starfish into the sea and said 'I just changed the world for that one'...

P.S. He also mentioned that reading material relating to the industry you're in for an hour every single day, was equal to getting a degree every 7 years. So Meg, if you want to improve your Sinhala I'd recommend talking with someone exclusively in that language for an hour, or in the spirit of Kaizen start at about 15 minutes and gradually increase the duration... :) You can call me if you want someone to talk to... ;) There. See. Shady! lol :D

P.P.S. This post doesn't even remotely do justice to the amazing, captivating speaker that Mr. De Silva is... if any of you get the chance to see him live, I recommend that you take it! :)