Faster, Shorter, Cheaper May Be Simple; It’s Never Easy

2005 – This article describes an experimental alternative to months of redesigning systems . IKEA conducted an experiment in 2004. In one meeting a group of 52 stakeholders held up to the light the existing product design and distribution, developed a new design and a strategic plan and formed working groups to execute the plan, led by the responsible managers. In 18 hours the plan was completed and signed by the CEO, some key figures and several customers.

The question now is: is this something that is reserved to IKEA ? Or would this work also somewhere else? The authors of the article suggest that one way to redesign a system in such a short time is to bring key stakeholders together and setting them up to share their knowledge in such a way that action can be taken without the consent of non-present authorities.

The method used is called " Future Search " and is based on the following principles:

  • The " whole system " in one room; usually 50 to 80 people, who have authority, expertise, resources, knowledge and feel the urgence.
  • Explore the entire system, as known to those present, before searching for parts to repair.
  • Seeking a common ground and shared aspirations, while problems and conflicts are used for input only and not as action.
  • Participants are responsible for the process in their own sub-groups, for providing and interpreting information and for making implementation decisions.

Within a year this successful meeting led to lower costs and lower prices while maintaining profit margins and product quality, which in turn has led to better sales. The reason for this was better availability of products and the ability to introduce new products in the mid of the year.

Reference: Weisbord, Marvin, Janoff, Sandra, (2004) Faster, Shorter, Cheaper May Be Simple; It’s Never Easy. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science’ Vol. 41, No. 1, 70-82. The article is attached.