Continuous improvement strategies can produce consistently good products. Management techniques that focus on systems and processes can improve repeatability and quality.

But sometimes, the system can be optimized and still turn out bad results. Sometimes, the issue isn’t management systems, it’s a lack of critical talent or expertise, an unwillingness to push the boundaries of capabilities, or an absence of imagination.

In Cleveland, we recently watched the Browns beat the New York Jets, delivering the team’s first victory in 635 days. Listening to the team’s coaches during the off-season and after the first two games of the season – a tie against Pittsburgh and a loss in New Orleans – I thought I was listening to a management consultant.

“Trust in the system… results are coming… it’s a process.”

But it wasn’t a process that snapped the Browns’ losing streak. It was a change in talent. Late in the game’s second quarter, starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion, opening the door to 2018’s No. 1 draft pick, Baker Mayfield. Down 14-0, Mayfield put the Browns in position to score a field goal before halftime then dominated the game’s second half, ending with a 21-17 win.

Both quarterbacks had the same playbook, used the same training system, and were guided by the same coaches. Yet Taylor, a player who led a team to the playoffs last year, headed to the locker room without a single score. And Mayfield produced completion after completion and led a historically bad football team (statistically, the Browns’ record of failure is morbidly impressive to a crucial victory.

Mayfield was more decisive, picking his receivers immediately and preventing the Jets from sacking him. He was more accurate, putting passes far downfield, knowing that his receivers would get there in time. And, he was more aggressive, opting for long bombs instead of short throws.

Sure, a lot of this is a fan reveling in a long-overdue win from a team that has been a specialist in generating misery. But, there are lessons to be learned, especially in the era of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0.

Invest in technology, focus on systems improvement, and make sure you have the right talent to grow your organization.

Technology can improve systems, and great systems can produce consistent, reliable results. During IMTS 2018 (pg. 24), many robotics companies, automation vendors, and software developers talked about the need to automate functions to make up for a worker shortage in manufacturing.

But, never forget the critical human element. The right person – a great designer who thinks of a more-efficient layout of a product, an experienced machinist who knows how to get more out of a machine, a maintenance worker who can tell when a spindle is about to fail by the sound it makes – can be the difference between failure and success.