Offering "Expert" Opinions -- Dickeson
It wasn't until I read "Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," by Malcolm Gladwell, that I realized I'd become an expert in appraising the production system of printing plants in a blink of an eye—so to speak.
After you've run four or five plants, walked through 40 or 50 more across the world, like it or not, you acquire some degree of expertise that enables you to reach a quick, snap judgment about the production system. It only takes a thin slice of experience—quite thin—to reach this point. Arrogance? Hubris? Read the book.
That quick judgment doesn't satisfy a client who's paying you $10,000 for a report on the faults of his production system. So you take a couple of weeks and draft a 50-page report (with an executive summary) and go back for a conference to defend the conclusions. That's the consulting game. You become a consultant by self-declaration. You become an expert by landing sufficient consultation assignments to qualify you as an expert. You maintain expert status in the industry only by continuous reappraisal and refinement of your basic assumptions.
Invariably, consulting assignments start with a plant walk-through. The walk-through starts in the raw paper inventory. By the time we've completed this portion of the inspection, I know pretty well what we'll see in the rest of the plant. I've seen the opened reams, the unused butt rolls, the dinged corners, rain damage, haphazard stacking, skid trucks flying around, gouges, raw inventory stacked everywhere there was any space, even in the bindery and pressroom. You be the expert. This is your thin slice of Plant Alpha. Judgment?
Well, maybe it wasn't quite so bad as I've portrayed in this slice so let's thicken the inventory slice with a smattering of inventory data to see what it tells the expert. We must know these metrics from the perpetual inventory records—preferably in pounds, hundredweights, or kilos—as long as they're consistent: inventory beginning and ending on- hand; issues; receipts; and period of time covered. This reveals the average age of the inventory and the number of times it's being turned over each year. Aha! The slice thickens. Six turns? ICU—Intensive Care Unit. Twelve? Slow. Eighteen? Improving.