Welcome to the QA Tech-Tips blog!

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.  
Old Chinese Proverb

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Cost of Complacency

I spent most of today replacing the front brake pads on my wife's Lexus that we had bought in 2005 or thereabouts.  Not only were the fancy aluminum rims frozen fast to the steel of the disk-brake rotors due to the electrolysis of the dissimilar metals, (nothing being done to prevent it), the calipers and especially the caliper supports that hold the pads in place were unbelievably rusted.  The rotors themselves were so badly rusted that the polished brake surface was actually peeling off the rotors, exposing the rusted and pitted metal below.  These parts had been replaced a year ago by the dealer.  One year later they needed replacing again.

Now we also have a 2002 Camry, and I've done brake work on it before - and yes, I've seen rusty brake parts there too.  But!  They were never as badly rusted as the parts I saw today - even after years and miles of use and abuse.

A friend of mine bought a Yaris for two reasons:  First of all, it was manufactured by Toyota, the Reigning Gods of Automobile Manufacturing,  Secondly, the price was right.  Of course, being manufactured by Toyota, it walks on water and talks to the angels.  Right?

In his case, the car has been one expensive repair after another and he has made a Holy Vow to never darken the door of a Toyota dealership ever again.  Especially since the Toyota people near him have been absolute models of diplomacy and tact.  (/sarcasm!!)

Of course, all three of these cars were manufactured and sold before the Toyota Recall Debacle.  The Camry was, and still is, one heck of a car.  It's within spitting distance of 200,000 miles on the clock with 'nary a burp to sully its pristine reputation.  The Lexus, manufactured two years later, has been a hole in our driveway into which we have been pouring money.  And my friend's Yaris, purchased even later than the other two, is rapidly on its way to being inducted into the "Five Gallons of Kerosene and a Match" Hall of Fame.

Then came the problem of "sudden unexplained acceleration."  And depending on who you talk to, it cost lives - people who died in crashes attributed to that fault.

Toyota was God, so Toyota had become complacent.

So, what happened to Toyota?  Nowadays many people are thinking a second, third, and maybe even a fourth time about trusting Toyota again, and for the first time in it's long history Toyota has been posting sales losses rather than gains.

In the same vein, the exact same vein as a matter of fact, General Motors all but literally owned the automobile marketplace years ago.  They became complacent, and they reaped the rewards of their complacency.  General Motors all but vanished off the face of the earth - and would have vanished without a trace - but for the massive Government bail-out they received.

Digital Equipment Corporation - in it's time - had virtually the entire mini-computer market in its back-pocket.  Being Gods in their industry, they became complacent.  Look where they are today.  Or rather look where they aren't today, having withered away to nothing long ago.

In the '60's, NASA was GOD when it came to technical innovation.  They had the world by the balls, and the sprinkles on top of the cherry, on top of the whipped cream, on top of the icing, on top of the cake was landing a man on the Moon.

When the Apollo 13 mission was rapidly going down the toilet, the three astronauts on that mission were in such deep trouble that, (in all probability), even Lloyd's of London would not have insured their lives.  Thanks to the incredible ingenuity of the people on the ground at NASA they made it home, in record time, with 'nary a scratch to show for their harrowing adventure.

Having gained the high ground, so to speak, they became complacent - embroiled in political turf-battles that sapped the energy and vitality out of that agency.

Where are they now?  On the peripheries of space technology; so far out of the picture that they depend on the Russians, French, and Chinese to get payloads into space.

The United States, once the Gold Standard for innovation, has become complacent since we - obviously - had the entire world by the Short Hairs.

So, what happened?  A recent article on the subject of innovation and its relationship to the economy quoted an independent analysis of the inventiveness of various countries - and guess where the Good 'Ole U-S-of-A ended up on that list?  In the highly prestigious position of being number eighty-one.

That's right, kiddies - in 81st place, right behind Dilbert's famous Country of Elbonia.

And it would not surprise me if position number 81 is even lower than Iraq and Afghanistan's position on that list.  Compared to China?  Fuggeddaboutit!  We're not even in the same Solar System they're in.  We have even dropped below our former Arch Rivals, the Russians, and are probably being outpaced by some third-world countries as well.

There's a saying:  "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you always got."

Unfortunately, that's not true anymore.  If you "always do what you've always done" what you "always get" is to be rapidly left behind by those companies, agencies, and governments who still have the wisdom to encourage, (and fund!), innovation.

Complacency cost Digital it's entire company.

Complacency darn-near sent General Motors to the same fate.

Complacency cost Toyota dearly in that most precious of commodities - customer trust and loyalty.

Complacency has cost the United States not only it's position in the world, but has wrecked more havoc on our economy than ever since the Great Depression, and has placed our National Debt squarely in the fists of the Chinese.  And God Himself help us should the Chinese decide to "call" on even a fraction of the paper they hold.  We'd deflate faster than a pin-pricked balloon. . . .

Complacency costs.  Dearly.  Tragically.  Even Globally.

What say ye?