Listening Full Test 3 - Section 4

Good morning, everyone. In the last few lectures I’ve been dealing c with business finance, but now I’m going to move on to business systems. And in today’s c lecture I’m going to talk about what can wrong when businesses to try to copy their own best practices.

Once a business has successfully introduced a new process – The parent organisation naturally wants to repeat that success, and capture it if  possible on a bigger scale. The goal, then, is to utilize existing knowledge and not to generate new knowledge. It’s a less glamorous activity than pure innovation, but it actually happens more often (Q31), as a matter of fact. However, surprisingly, getting things right the second d time is not necessarily and simpler than it was the first time.

Now, there’s been a lot of research into how companies can repeat their previous successes, and it certainly hasn’t been confined to the United States. It seems that most large industries are trying to repeat their own successes, and manage the knowledge they’ve acquired – but even so it has been shown that the overwhelming majority of  attempts fail. A host of  studies confirm this, covering a wide range of  business settings:(Q32) branch banks, retail stores, real estate agencies, factories, call centres…to name but a few.

So why do so few managers get things right the second or third time? Let’s consider one reason for failure – placing too much trust in the people who are running the successful operation, the ‘experts’  shall we say. Managers who want to apply existing knowledge typically start off  by going to an expert – such as the person who designed and is running a successful department store – and picking their brains. Now, this approach can be used if  you want to gain a rough understanding of a particular system, or understand smaller, isolated problems (Q33). The trouble is, even the expert doesn’t fully grasp the whole thing because when it comes to complex systems, the individual components of the process are  interwoven with the another. The expert never has complete access to the fact that experts are usually not aware of their own ignorance. Their ignorance can take various forms. For instance, a lot of details of the system are invisible to managers. Some may be difficult to describe(Q34)– learned on the job and well known by workers perhaps, but impossible to describe – learned on the job and well known by workers perhaps, but impossible to describe in a way that’s helpful (Q34). And there are some things that people know or do that they’re not even aware of.

Now, let’s consider two types of mistake that can occur when a manager actually starts to set up a duplicate system to replicate a successful process, and starts trying to improve on it. Another mistake is trying to use the best parts of various different systems , in the hope of creating the perfect combination (Q35).

Unfortunately, attempts like these usually turn out to be misguided and lead to problems. Why? Well, for various reasons. Perhaps there weren’t really any advantages after all, because the information wasn’t accurate. Or perhaps the business settings weren’t really comparable. More typically, the advantages are real enough, but there are also disadvantages that have been overlooked. For example, the modifications might compromise safety (Q36) in some way.

So, what’s the solution? Well, I don’t intend to suggest that it’s easy to get things right the second time … it’s not. But the underlying problem has more to do with attitudes than the actual difficulty of the task, and there are ways of  getting  it right. These involve adjusting attitudes (Q37), first of all…being more realistic and cautious really. Secondly, they involve exerting strict controls (Q38) on the organizational and operational systems. And this in turn means copying the original as closely as possible. Not merely duplicating the physical characteristics of the factory (Q39), but also duplicating the skills (Q40) that the original employees had. Reliance on a template like this offers the huge advantage of built-in consistency.


Questions 31-34

Choose the correct letter, A, B or C. Trying to repeat success

31.    Compared to introducing new business processes, attempts to copy existing processes are
   A. more attractive.
B. more frequent
C. more straight forward.

32.    Most research into the repetition of success in business has
   A. been done outside the United States.
B. produced consistent findings
C. related to only a few contexts.

33.    What does the speaker say about consulting experts?
   A. Too few managers ever do it.
B. It can be useful in certain circumstances.
C. Experts are sometimes unwilling to give advice.

34.    An expert’s knowledge about a business system may be incomplete because
   A. some details are difficult for workers to explain
B. choose not to mention certain details.
C. details are sometimes altered by workers.

Questions 35-40

Complete the notes below. Write ONE WORD ONLY for each answer.

Setting up systems based on an existing process
Two mistakes
Manager tries to:
Ÿ improve on the original process
Ÿ create an ideal 35……………………… from the best parts of several processes

Cause of problems
Ÿ information was inaccurate
Ÿ comparison between the business settings was invalid
Ÿdisadvantages were overlooked, e.g. effect of  changes on 36 ……………………

Ÿchange 37 ……………………impose rigorous 38 …………………...
Ÿ copy original very closely
–  physical features of the 39  ……………………
–  the 40……………………  of original employee






31 B. more frequent
32 B. produced consistent findings
33 B. It can be useful in certain circumstances.
34 A. some details are difficult for workers to explain
35 combination/system
36 safety
37 attitude(s)
38  control(s)
39 factory/factories
40 skills

Leave a Reply