Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lawn Care, part II

Mowing the Grass--Learning about Lean:  Part II


Continuing my lessons of the lawn.


Where do Innovative Ideas come from?


As I struggled to cut the very long grass in our yard and collect the clippings in the bag on my Lawn Boy mower, the task went slower and slower as I worked into a lower and thus wetter part of our yard.  My frustration level mounted as I seldom could go more than 90 seconds without either plugging the bagger chute or needing to empty the bag that filled all too quickly.  I had visions of being out with a flashlight at midnight. 


How could this go better???  I stopped the mower.  I stood and thought.  An idea emerged.


What would happen if I raised the mower deck to not cut so much grass in each pass?  I tried it, lifting the deck from a 2.5" to a 3.5" setting.  I started back in and, to my surprise, found that I was no longer plugging the chute and the bag did not fill quite so quickly.  The frustration level dropped appreciably and I started getting on with it. 


In retrospect, this is obvious.  But it was not obvious at the time.  And why do I bother to write about it?  Why is this useful? 


It is useful because the seedbed for innovation is often found in annoyances.  What bugs you about your job?  What is the annoying thing you keep fighting?  What triggers frustration?  What makes you stomp off outside to clear your head?  What is it that your spouse secretly prays will NOT happen to you at work because it puts you in such a foul mood by the time you get home? 


Try this exercise today when you encounter an annoyance:   

a.   Stop and think.  Yes, stop what you are doing.  Physically cease action. 


b.  List five things that frustrate you and get in the way of you doing excellent work.  Be specific:  "It annoys me to have to look in three different places for information on the weekly cash report."  "It annoys me to have to sweep down the grinding table every afternoon."  "It annoys me to have walk across the shop to get the wrench I need to adjust this machine."


c.  For each of the annoyances, list five things that YOU could do, NOW, with ZERO CASH to address it.  Don't count on anyone else or any other resources.  Again, be specific:  "I will write a new report to pull the cash data together."  "I will get one of the pieces of data on my way to the coffee machine each Tuesday." "I will choose to not be annoyed because this data is needed."  Don't shift the responsibility...do it yourself, with authority you currently possess.


d.  Do it.  Now. 


e.  Measure, quantitatively or qualitatively, what happens.  Then write down what you learned. 


f.  Go back to step b and do it again for another of your Five Frustrations.  

I'd love to hear what you find...please post a comment if you'd like.


I hope this is helpful.  




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