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"Mission: Impossible": What's That?


Mission: it is necessary to achieve the goal, subject to the requirements and limitations. It becomes impossible when it is interfered with by unremovable external conditions.


"Mission: Impossible": Case Study


Nippon Rice company produces machines for rice drying.


From the hopper of the machine, rice moves up. From there it falls down under its own weight. From the bottom up, the hot air moves. It takes away from rice dust, debris and moisture, and then it is released into the atmosphere through a pipe. The cycle is repeated many times until all the grain is evenly dried. The process takes 15 hours.


Air is taken from the atmosphere by a fan, heated by an open flame of burning kerosene. The main costs are electricity and fuel.


Complication is created by an exhausted airflow. Due to turbulence, it creates a very loud noise that travels far throughout the area and bothers the neighbors. They become angry at the farmer.


Nippon Rice engineers have developed an efficient silencer, but farmers refuse to buy it because it is very expensive.


What can be done?


"Mission: Impossible": Modeling


To find a way to accomplish a "Mission: Impossible," one needs to develop and analyze a model of problem situation, and then search for a solution. It should be the model that reflects the content and structure of the circumstances.


Block diagrams (flowchart or “functional model”) meet this requirement. In this model, blocks contain description of the facts, and link between the blocks reflect their mutual dependence.


Also we could use, for example, the “House of Quality” from QFD, as well as the matrix of functions from VE / VA. They include both description of the functions and their interactions.


For simplicity sake, we consider a block diagram: it is most visual.


Example of Block diagram

An example of a block diagram is the so-called typical model of "Mission: Impossible”:

























It describes a typical situation that we call "Mission: Impossible":


According to the intent, to ensure long-term storage of rice, it should be dried with counter-flow of hot air. Long-term storage of grain should not be ensured at any cost, but rather compliant to requirements of keeping good relations with neighbors and managing the farming profitably.


The noise of the dryer bothers other farmers, thereby spoiling relations with neighbors. Installing a silencer can correct the situation, but the fact that it is very expensive prevents farming from being profitable.


The mission is defined as follows: long-term storage of grain while maintaining good relations with neighbors and profitable farming.


Mission becomes impossible due to double Contradiction:


  1. Drying the rice with hot air will ensure its long-term storage, but the noise of dryer bothers other farmers, thereby spoiling relations with neighbors.

  2. The installation of a noise suppressor will ensure the good relations with neighbors, but its high cost prevents farming from being profitable.


We will discuss how, with this understanding, one can search for ways to resolve the problem and accomplish the mission.

| "Mission: Impossible" and Values | Problem Solving Process

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