Reflections on Vietnam and CX Technology

Sitting here in Cambridge looking out the window at almost two feet of fresh snow, it already seems like Vietnam and its 90-degree weather is worlds away. Now that we’ve been back for about a week, I’ve had a chance to think back on our three weeks on-site and come up with some of my key take-aways from the experience:

  • Going to the gemba is critical for process understanding. This is a concept that is taught in every class about Lean manufacturing and process improvement in general, but it’s one thing to hear it in a class and another thing entirely to experience it in such a profound manner. As mentioned in one of our previous posts, we spent one of our first days exclusively on the manufacturing floor talking to workers and observing how work was being done. Our findings from that single day changed the way we were thinking about the factory and went on to shape the rest of our time on-site.
  • Working in a multilingual setting requires patience, brevity, and clarity. This is something that applies to all situations, but is especially true when working in an environment with multiple languages. Conversations that would take a few minutes in English ended up taking us many multiples more due to back-and-forth translation and explanation. Some of the best conversations that we had were the ones that started with very short and concise questions.
  • Working within a hierarchy requires specific targeted messages. Since the company is very hierarchical, we had to tailor our message depending on who we were talking to. Instead of going to the line supervisors or scheduling department directly, we introduced all our recommendations to the plant manager directly so that he could enforce the top-down approach to change management.
  • Saving Face is an important consideration when recommending changes. It is important to recognize that even when the plant manager or company as a whole accepts a recommendation, they will not always agree with the underlying assumptions that led to the recommendation, especially if the problem being addressed was caused internally.
  • “The Goal” really works. Since stepping into the factory our first day, we essentially recommended the same advice the Jonas expounds in The Goal. Sure enough, the book that we all read as a prerequisite for Operations Management holds some great lessons! Whether measuring the most important metrics or eliminating WIP, it seems like our friend Jonas was on to something.

In prepping for this post, I went back and read one of the first documents that I wrote for G-Lab that explained my personal motivations for taking the course. Among the main reasons were “to be able to apply my operations knowledge to a challenging situation in a developing country” and “to make sure that the work we do for the project will have an impact on the team in Vietnam”. Check and check. I can definitely say that the G-Lab experience exceeded my expectations for the course and left me with a fantastic appreciation of the Action Learning model. It’s classes like this that make it hard to ever think about leaving this place!

At the gemba (i.e. CX Technology factory)

At the gemba (i.e. CX Technology factory)

After our final presentation, we took this pic with the factory management and scheduling department.

After our final presentation, we took this pic with the factory management and scheduling department.

After our final presentation to the Chairman (and Sloanie) Albert Ting.

After our final presentation to the Chairman (and Sloanie) Albert Ting.

Couldn't leave Vietnam without experiencing it from a motorbike! Here on Phu Quoc Island.

Couldn’t leave Vietnam without experiencing it from a motorbike! Here on Phu Quoc Island.

06_Beach

Sao Beach on Phu Quoc Island. Nice place to wind down from G-Lab and get ready to head back to snowy Boston.

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