Monday, October 07, 2002

The Seeds of Improvement...

...are in the ugliness of screw-ups.

Last Wednesday, we discovered about $4,000 work of building material had
gone bad while sitting outside in our yard. Ouch. We asked Why? five times
and discovered that the material in question should have been under cover.
We had tucked it under an open-sided building, but it wasn't good enough.
The rain still blew in.

So where could we put it? Folks voiced a lot of opinions and as usual,
there was more heat than light. Except for Ernie....

Ernie supervises our entire yard operation. He and his eight direct reports
handle $1M worth of material a month inbound and $1M outbound. He walked
around the yard with us last Wednesday and Thursday and watched the
hand-wringing and opinion-making over this degradation of materials. And he
thought...and he thought.

On Friday afternoon, I talked with Ernie, and put forward an idea I thought
might work, yet I knew it was only a partial solution. After I proposed it,
Ernie, keeping a straight face, said harshly "NO!! That'll never work.
Come here." I thought I had really ticked him off.

He walked me just inside of a building. "You see that rack there? We're
going to move it on Tuesday...we'll replace it with the rack to hold that
stuff that went bad. We can get to it easily with the fork trucks here. I
thought about it last night and realized we could do this. My guys are
swamped on Monday...we'll do it Tuesday." And then he grinned and slapped
me on the back...he had me.

What strikes me out of this is:

  • We had to lose the money on the material to define the need clearly.
    The screw-up got us to face reality.
  • Getting mad didn't help...thinking hard did. We defined what we could
    do, even when we didn't know how to do it.
  • The best idea came from the guy closest to it. Ernie captured the idea,
    mulled on it at home and came up with the solution.
  • A solution can come about quickly. This one had bugged us for several
    years. When we finally faced up to it, we had an improvement in 5 workdays.

    Embrace the screw-ups. Therein is the seed of your next improvement.
    Try it today.

No comments: