Mentor: Advisor & Consultant – Downstream Oil & Gas | Former Executive Director-Indian Oil | Director-Indian Oil Mauritius Ltd

Help! My car is allergic to vanilla ice cream

Written by: Sivasis Dey
About the author: Mentor: Advisor & Consultant – Downstream Oil & Gas | Former Executive Director-Indian Oil | Director-Indian Oil Mauritius Ltd

Sivasis Dey vanilla icecream blog2

This is the second time I have written to you and I don’t blame you for not answering me because I kind of sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert after dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varied every night, as the whole family voted on which ice cream to have and I drive down to the store to get it.

 It is also a fact that I recently purchased one of your new automobiles and since then my trips to the store have created a problem. You see, every time, I bought Vanilla ice cream and I start back from the Store, my car won’t start. If I get any other flavor, the car starts just fine.

 I want you to know I am serious about the question, how ever silly it may sound. What is there about this car that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?’

The President of this Auto manufacturer was understandably skeptical about the letter but deputed an engineer to look into it.

The Engineer contacted the customer and he was requested accompany the Customer after dinner to the Store for fetching the ice cream. This continued for few days.

To the engineer’s surprise the complaint was found to be true. When they got vanilla ice cream, the car actually didn’t start. Whereas when they got any other flavor like strawberry or chocolate, there was no problem.

The engineer, being a logical person refused to believe that the man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream and was not ready to accept that ‘vanilla’ was the culprit. He studied everything, starting from the time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth, etc.

In a short time, he had a clue. The man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. And the answer was in the layout of the store.

Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the Store for quick pick up. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer time to fetch it and getting checked out.

Now the question was why the car wouldn’t start when it would take less time. Once ‘time’ became the problem, not the vanilla ice cream, the engineer quickly came out with the answer: ‘vapour lock’.

It was happening every night, but the extra time taken to get the other flavor, allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapour lock to dissipate.

The moral of the story: Buying vanilla ice cream and the car failing to start are correlated events. However, correlation does not mean causation.

This story displays key factors used in the Kepner-Tregoe KT Clear Thinking Process. Problem solving should not be a spontaneous, unfocussed series of actions to try to fix a problem. KT Thinking Processes advocate a focused, consistent method of KT Clear Thinking, root cause analysis and situation appraisal processes to quickly isolate the problem to find a solution.

Customer’s complaints to be addressed, even it appears to be peculiar and sounds funny or silly.

A customer’s feedback can lead to a path breaking solution, which can be a game changer

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