Change – blends of People, Process and Technology

Change – blends of People, Process and Technology

We have looked in the previous section at the complexity of change and identified some key patterns that emerge from any related exploration.

We have identified key patterns relate to people, process, information, technology, standards and value.

As we have considered those key elements in isolation, let us now consider the important interplay between these key elements with a single example.

Lets take a brief look at the history of the shipping industry. We do so in the knowledge that a single narrative story can help illustrate some complex theory..

Over the long centuries of moving and distributing goods by sea, you wont be surprised that over time the shipping industry had become a very complex business. Indeed it had become chaotic in places with desperately inefficient efforts to move goods common place. Indeed back in 1937 one shipping executive suggested  “that it cost his company more to move cargo 1,000 feet from the street in front of a pier into the hold of a moored ship than it did to transport the cargo thousands of miles across a hostile ocean.”

Amidst that chaos and complexity, entered Malcolm McLean. He had observed closely the complex and complicated process of loading and unloading ships and made transformational improvements in these processes with a standardised container, which (rather than waiting for any top down solution) he developed and pioneered the use of from 1957.

The modern shipping container is constructed to standard dimensions and has a standard approach to information display (inc Owner, Container ID, Size, Type) to aide ease of tracking. While the design was initially patented, Mc Lean made his designs available royalty free to the ISO standards organisation and hence the revolution in the shipping business of the 20th century.

The value added was enormous, in reducing the loading/unloading process from days and weeks to hours, in facilitating  huge increases in port and ship productivity, helped  to lower the cost of imported goods around the world. In numerical terms.. in 1956, loose cargo cost $5.86 per ton to load…using an ISO shipping container, the cost was reduced to only .16 cents per ton.

This single story is typical of how people.. can change processes.. with supportive information, technology and standards.. and add value to all concerned.

There are many similar stories of transformational change available, from the medical domain (e.g. Trauma care & ATLS) , the management field (e.g. Manufacturing and Lean thinking) and the information technology field (e.g. Networking and the World Wide Web),

These key patterns identified in our exploration of change highlight that people, process, information, technology, standards need to be harnessed together to deliver real change that adds value.

At the heart of the interplay between these factors is an area that is ripe for improvements as we develop smarter knowledge economies… that is the interplay between process improvement methodologies and information technologies. we will now focus on this issue further.


Cudahy, B (2006): The Containership Revolution: Malcolm McLean’s 1956 Innovation Goes Global: TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: