Monday, February 24, 2003

Two, rather than Three, Trips

Last Friday afternoon, three guys here had an impact.

Kelly, one of our semi-drivers and Bruce, one of our fork-truck operators, were loading up the building components on a flatbed trailer to head for a site bright and early Monday morning. (Here are some typical buildings.) As a good sized post-frame building, everyone assumed it would take three trips with a 48' flatbed trailer to deliver it.

Except these guys.

Along with Randy, our dispatcher, they asked themselves, "Can we get all the components on two, rather than three loads, and stay within the legal load requirements for gross and axle weights?" Conventional logic said "We've always shipped this size building in three loads." They said, "Yeah, but do we have to?"

So, Kelly, the guy who would drive the rig on Monday and Bruce, who had the forktruck ready, started shifting things around on the trailer. Once they got started, it became clear how it could fit. In an hour, out in the cold and winter wind of the Indiana prairie, they had it done.

How did this happen?

  • They challenged the assumption. They refused to blindly believe that this was the way it had to be done, that three loads were required.
  • They refused to compromise essentials. Nowhere did they suggest we would or could run the trailer over the legal load limit. Bruce and Kelly refused to take any unsafe action to "cram" the load on. They refused to shortcut customer service.
  • They took action. They didn't talk about the theory of trailer loading. They went to the trailer and started trying things that made sense to their experienced eyes.
  • They knew they were empowered to try. All of this started when Randy suggested Kelly and Bruce give it a shot.
  • They knew there was no penalty for failing. If it didn't work, hey, we already had planned on three loads. So, it was a "safe" way to try something new.
This is hardly the summation of how innovation works. But it just hit me as illustrating many of the important points and it happened on Friday, right here. I was pretty pumped about it.

Much more can be said about challenging assumptions. One of the best approaches is Goldratt's "Evaporating Cloud." It works best on sticky problems where it appears that compromise might be necessary to get any forward movement. If I can, I might write about it in the future.

For now, just pick an assumption and challenge it today. If it holds up, you will know better why. If it doesn't, you just might make some surprising progress.

I hope this is helpful. But, of course, I wouldn't just assume so. Let me know what assumptions about you and your needs I'm making.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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