Saturday, September 21, 2002

Defining the Conflict

I had a very testy and brief conversation with our safety director on Thursday. Stan and I are friends...we like and respect each other. Yet, we were both fed up with the other and felt it.

At issue was fork truck operators not wearing seatbelts. OSHA requires it. Our guys are on and off the truck 30 times an hour and refuse to do it. Stan said "Hey, they just need to do it." I said "Hey, we have to make it easy to do." Thus, the conversation with Stan ended.

I had a long drive to a job site (see Friday’s entry) right after that, which gave me time to think. My mind moved to Eli Goldratt’s "evaporating cloud" technique, and I sought to utilize it. In it, one takes care to carefully define the shared goal and the conflict. In this case, the shared goal was a safe and productive forktruck operation. The conflict was that safety demands wearing seat belts, productivity demands ignoring the seat belt. You can’t split that baby in the middle.

Goldratt says to then find the assumptions which sit under this conflict and see if you can zap it, making the conflict moot. While in Gemba, at the job site, I saw another subcontractor operating a small skid-steer loader. That unit had a padded bar that the operator pulled down from above his head to secure him in the seat. It resembled a safety bar on a roller-coaster car.

The assumption this may eliminate is that we have to use the seat belt. What we need is to secure the operator. If we can install/retrofit a safety bar, we make it both safe and productive.

Until I defined the conflict, however, I was still hung up on the testy exchange with my friend. Instead, we are checking out this option.

No comments: