Trust but Verify

I talked to a woman on a plane a few weeks ago; not unusual. She talked about how ineffective many of the HR training programs are in improving performance; again nothing unusual. Her post-doctorate work in this area revealed that people operate with self-imposed constraints limiting their performance and potential; very unusual. These constraints can be eliminated, increasing productivity and potential; very cool.

It’s unfortunate that when people work for companies, they bring these constraints to work. If the self-imposed constraint argument is true, then are we letting our offshore manufacturing friends have an easy win?

Many articles have been written about Western competitiveness against offshore manufacturing. The argument generally takes the form that low offshore costs are offset by disadvantages relating to cycle time, communications, logistics, etc., and that manufacturing may come back. It’s interesting how costs have won out over the other factors in the past and continue to do so.

Could it be true that we are really restricting our competitiveness, thereby letting this cost gap get bigger than it needs to be? I believe it is, because I see signs of it every day. Too often I find individuals limited by self-constraints, and too many of these are people in key positions. The constraint that bothers me most is confidence; either way too much or way too little.

I see too many managers at all levels within organizations who believe their material purchases are cost competitive but have never verified it. I don’t know how many times I have heard “we are getting the best pricing.” Is a supplier salesperson’s assertion valid proof?

I also see too many workers and lower-level managers fearful of benchmarking material pricing because they are afraid of what they will find or what their bosses will say. If you don’t have valid data, you cannot improve! If you are less competitive than you could be, you are letting those offshore win. It's as simple as that! By the way, bosses like improvement.

The phrase “Trust but verify” can serve you well. It never hurts to have things confirmed with data.

11 comments on “Trust but Verify

  1. mfbertozzi
    January 13, 2011

    Glad you wrote about it, Ken. In my opinion Professors (at educational stage) and Managers (at professional stage) have to exaplain in fact and through their professional lifes as pragmatic example, attitude you mentioned inside your article. I really believe a part of “personal constraint” in which people seem to live, will be absolutely resolved and overtaken. I spent a big part of my professional life as industry executive and I met quite often with attitude as “ipse dixit” like Aristotele age from top managers. Nowadays it is not that time. Facts and numbers are needed to sustain or not decisions. Isn't it?

  2. Anna Young
    January 13, 2011

    I cannot but agree. Trust is a good thing but it's not about feelings but about hard facts. How would anyone defend a business decision based on trust if things fall apart later? In the case of the electronics supply chain, managers must sometime make split decisions that may require them going with their gut but most decisions require deliberate thoughts and action. In such situations, it is better to weigh all the facts before arriving at the decision.

    Ken did not address the issue of the veracity of the facts used by decision makers, however. It's all right to try to verify but how can you attest to the authenticity of the data upon which you base your decision? What tools are out there to help a manufacturer determine such things as component pricing, availability, genuiness and delivery? Must a manager develop the tools for gauging all these?

  3. AnalyzeThis
    January 13, 2011

    It sounds like you really lucked out on getting an interesting plane buddy! I'd be really curious to read her work, if she ever got around to publicly publishing a study or paper on the subject.

    I do agree that an employee's self-imposed constraints can limit their performance and potential… and I do agree that training can eliminate these constraints… to some extent.

    For example, you mentioned how an individual's confidence can be a constraint. Would a training program really be able to “fix” such a problem? Such a thing is very much tied to a person's overall personality and I doubt a two hour training session in a conference room would somehow manage to transform a reckless, risk-taking egomaniac into a confident, cool, careful decision maker.

    Anyhow, I'm very curious as to how she believes such constraints could be eliminated… especially given she is also of the opinion that many of the existing HR training programs are ineffective.

  4. SP
    January 13, 2011

    I agree completely with the article. It never hurts to verify and actually that should be one of the key responsibilities. But yes many people knowingly or unknowingly hesitate to do that. They realize it only when customer speak or the problem is big enough to hide.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    Any time you enter into a negotiation, you should be prepared with as much information as possible. Pricing is the key to the realm, so any company that negotiates without due diligence probably deserves what they get. On the other hand, there are few tools to do so, so consolidating pricing information is time-consuming and probably inaccurate.'s tool should be a big asset for the industry

  6. Rob Griffin
    January 14, 2011

    Agree with everyone's comments with respect to due diligence and the negotiating power of validated price information.  I believe Barbara is referring to our components price benchmarking web tool, which can be found at

    Rob Griffin

    VP Sales & Marketing

    Lytica Inc.

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    Sorry about that, Rob. I committed the cardinal sin–I didn't verify the correct name of the tool before posting it. Mea culpa!

  8. Ken Bradley
    January 14, 2011

    DennisQ and Anna, Thank you for your feedback.

    Dennis, the woman on the plane was Lynn Sumida, President of Miruspoint. Her program called Prime Potential is more about education and self realization than training. I agree that training can give you information or skill but rarely is it transformational.  Getting at the stuff that has constrained individuals for years cannot be corrected in two hours in a training classroom.

    Anna, check out FREEBENCHMARKING.COM as a “go to” reference on electronic materials pricing. It is confidential, independent, and guaranteed.

  9. Mydesign
    January 17, 2011

       Ben, good and much informative article. Everybody wants to be more competitive, but in order to become more competitive they are comparing themselves with the weaker colleagues or friends. They are not actually comparing with the real potential talence actually they possessed. When compare with the week, we may feel that we are great and if the comparisons are with more talented the results may be in reverse.  In such cases, benchmarks can be help to overcome constrains and to explore the individual potentiality.  Since our professional life is very much mingled with personal life and more over we are considering it as a part of day to day life, automatically all such constrains may reflect in work place also.

  10. Tim Votapka
    January 18, 2011

    Personal constraints can come from any number of sources: past failures, invalidation, lack of know-how, counter-intention or even from another suppressive individual who's got some influence over the scene. A training session can help if…if the issue is simply a lack of know how. In my line of work, I've seen miracles happen simply because someone had been operating with misunderstood words about his post and what he was supposed to be producing. In that scenario, he's insecure and prone to play a smaller game in terms of his productivity. Security and confidence are only drawn from knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge.

  11. OKM
    February 28, 2011

    You might want to know that Lynn Sumida created a new program called “Success beyond beliefs” ( sometimes called Fear to Freedom).  It is an extention of the conversation you had with her  on the plane and much more… It  allows us to  discover what realy drives our actions and to acquire the know how neccessary for bringing change. Awesome stuff.

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