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Castles Made of Mountains


In the recently released Japanese samurai movie, "Castle Under Fiery Skies," Oda Nobunaga, a prominent Japanese feudal lord who attempted to unite a warring Japan during the nation's chaotic Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603), ordered a design competition among local architects to "Make a castle out of the whole mountain."

Aware of the awe inspired by the towering churches of Europe, he demanded:

"Build an impenetrable castle with solid stone foundations and walls, supported by the sturdiest wood you can find. Fit for the ruler of this nation, its grandiosity shall cause respect in the people and fear among enemies. Airy and light with a cathedral ceiling, it shall reflect the nature of our great land. From the donjon, I can keep an eye on enemies approaching from all directions. And I shall live on the top floor."

If you were managing this project, how would you treat this "voice of the warlord"? Would you fill his demands as stated, or would you more deeply analyze his demands?

image of Azuchi CastleAmong the invited bidders was Okabe Mataemon, highly regarded as a Shinto shrine architect but with no experience in castle building. Facing him were the most prestigious and experienced architectural teams of the day showing designs faithful to Nobunaga's orders. After highly praising these designs, Nobunaga views Mataemon's design last. It lacked the cathedral ceiling. "What!" raged Nobunaga, "How dare did you ignore my wishes?"

Trembling, Mataemon explained, "My lord, you stated you are going to reside on the top floor of the donjon (unlike most Japanese castles that were simply military fortifications up until then). In that case, the castle must be both a military base and offer protection for your life. A cathedral ceiling would become an instant chimney in a fire storm; you would never have time to escape."

To emphasize his point, Mataemon set several small fires inside the castle models on display and proved his design would withhold burning down for the longest amount of time.

Have you faced this before -- where the customer demands conflict with best practice, with safety and various regulations, and even with other demands?

One of the strengths of modern Blitz QFD® is that we have gone beyond the early QFD practices of just entering the voice of the customer verbatim into the rows of a matrix. We now have several tools to analyze what customers are saying and translate their verbatims and behaviors into "true" customer needs.

With Blitz QFD® tools like the Customer Process Model, Gemba Visit Table, and Customer Context Table, we would study the current and potential scenarios that could be played out in the gemba, the castle before, during, and after a battle. This would help us see customer needs even a seasoned warrior like Nobunaga missed because he was adding a new function to the donjon, that of his residence.

Since Nobunaga had no experience living in the military fortress, it is understandable he might not know of the dangers to his family of a fire in the kind of cathedral ceilings he was demanding. But to a designer and builder of shrines and temples that did house families like Mataemon, the problem was obvious. The competing architects completely missed this critical unspoken need, in their eagerness to fill their "customer's" demands.

With Blitz QFD® tools like the customer voice table, we would be able to translate solutions like "solid stone" and "cathedral ceilings" into the true customer needs, which we could then ask the customer to prioritize. They bring a solid analysis to the front end of traditional QFD tools like the House of Quality. Come learn them yourselves and apply to one of your own projects at our next course. Or we can come to your company and simultaneously train and facilitate up to two project teams.

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© QFD Institute / Glenn Mazur  

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