Nambia, a Fortune 1 corporate state located deep inside an 8,000-meter peak in the northernmost part of the Southern Central Himalayas, came to Walter Mitty Inc. with a problem. As the state was transitioning to a poiuyt-based re-oxygenation technology, an unscheduled avalanche on the eastern slope of the mountain sent their vendor’s poiuyt unit and their vendor tumbling to the bottom of an ice field. This setback put the scheduled deployment of the system on hold until a new, fully staffed supplier with vaguely similar capabilities could be located. The Nambian Department of Redundancy Department contacted Walter Mitty to ask whether the company’s proprietary Tapoketa™ cylindrical tube system could be radically reengineered to provide robust poiuyt re-oxygenation functionality at extreme altitudes. Walter Mitty was up to the challenge, immediately launching a comprehensive corporate restructuring to take on the assignment.
A world-leading manufacturer of tubes, Walter Mitty’s world-class R&D department immediately set out on the leading edge of innovation to develop the advanced technology required, force-fitting improvised carbon dioxide scrubbers and third-party air compressors into an extremely large gauge tube. With this potentially functional prototype of a poiuyt oxygenator tube in hand, the company faced a new challenge: the delivery and deployment of the makeshift unit. The delay caused by the avalanche, compounded by an overcrowded climbing season on Mt. Everest, pushed the project deadline to mid-winter, which would require hand-carrying and installing the 2,000 kg Tapoketa-based poiuyt tube near the summit of an 8,000-meter mountain under less-than-optimum conditions, including prevailing winds of 200 km/h and temperatures below -65 °C. The logistics team at Walter Mitty inquired about the availability of poiuyt-certified Sherpas, but no qualified Sherpas expressed interest. Given this critical labor shortage, the undaunted logistics team explored another option that could potentially result in a more compelling case study.
The Walter Mitty team negotiated with a British entrepreneur to change the planned trajectory of a sub-orbital ballistic missile to the coordinates of the Nambian installation for an expedited deployment of the poiuyt unit. This approach, involving flight speeds of up to 40,000 km/h, offered considerable advantages over the estimated 50 m/h climbing rate of the Sherpa solution. The €972,000,000 cost of the revamped installation process required a renegotiation of the contract, to which the oxygen-starved Nambian Department of Redundancy Department readily agreed. The delivery of the Walter Mitty Tapoketa-based poiuyt tube was successfully completed on March 18, 2017, when re-oxygenation commenced. The operation was a complete success, as noted by a testimonial from a Nambian subaltern to the Walter Mitty executive team that noted: “We are still alive.”
I enjoy writing case studies, for all the wrong reasons. The stories are always out of the ordinary, into the realm of the willful suspension of disbelief. They’re full of drama. They offer astonishing challenges, risks and tension, as the company takes project jobs of unparalleled size, scope and scale, requiring engineering heroics and brilliant, unconventional thinking. These are the hundred-year storms of corporate capabilities, drenching the reader in waves of the company’s pride in pulling off the impossible in the face of adversity. They’re great stories. They’re the wrong stories.
Not too long ago, during a planning meeting, a client said, “I don’t understand why our case studies have to always be about our biggest, most complex projects. They’re totally irrelevant to 99 percent of our customers. They don’t need to know about our Manhattan projects. They just want to see if they want to work with us. They want to know if our stuff works.”
Those case studies are, boring — for the writer. The company goes in, thinks through the problem, comes up with a good answer, and implements it. The company does a good job, finishes on time and within budget, delivers on all promises, and is even pleasant to work with. Whatever the objective, whether reduced downtime, increased productivity or cost savings, the stuff works perfectly. Day after boring day after boring day.
If a company can execute its routine jobs to perfection, every time, every day, it has a very compelling, even unique, story to tell. It proves to customers that the company will provide exactly the product or service they need. A truly boring case study tells them what results to expect, because “we’ve done this a million times.”
In addition to heroically solving the Nambian re-oxygenation crisis, Walter Mitty made tubes. Superbly engineered and tooled tubes of extreme ordinariness. They delivered tubes to hundreds of customers every week on schedule and exactly as specified. The tubes always fit into their fittings precisely, and Mitty technicians remained on-site with customers to fine-tune installations. As a result, the increased throughput and reduced tube failures increased the customer’s productivity and reduced downtime, saving money and increasing profitability. Exactly as promised. Again and again.
Those are the thrilling stories. Those are the ones to tell. Again and again.