A classic example of failing at yokoten (transversalization) that I like to share frequently is American Airlines suggestion system. As much as consultants and subject-matter-experts like to share stories of success about AAs IdeAAs program, the truth is that it was not as rosy as they make it appear. Not only was the program not delivering the type of results known possible from good employee suggestion programs where according to page 105-106 in Robert B. Tucker's book (Driving Growth Through Innovation: How Leading Firms Are Transforming Their Futures) AA saved $36M/yr with revenues likely exceeding $20B, but it was likely due to low employee participation, too many roadblocks, and poor knowledge sharing - Yokoten.
Here’s my example based on two suggestions engraved in “suggestion Systems Lore”… In 1987 a flight attendant proposed removing the Olives from all salads after realizing most passengers were not eating them. This saved, according to popular culture about $80,000 (and the term –The $80,000 Olive – was born).
But here’s the lesson, yes it was great that employees identified these savings, but one has to wonder why it took 4 years before an almost identical idea was implemented.
In fact, while most experts like to point to and credit the IdeAAs program for its success in discovering a $500,000/year savings, I like to point out that the failure of the IdeAAs program to enable Yokoten and engage everyone while making knowledge readily available cost them $2,000,000!