Thursday, November 07, 2002

Grasping New Concepts

George Koenigsaecker of Simpler Consulting proposes 9 ways Lean is different. He prefaced the list with this statement.

The core concepts of Lean are not complex ideas, but they are difficult to apply because they are the opposite of what we currently believe.

In the manner of a good teacher, George captured a big truth in a simple way. A story our General Manager told this morning illustrates the point.

Our GM and his family were on vacation at a hotel in Arizona. Sitting in the warm sun on a cabana chair, Jeff noticed a little flip-up flag on the back of the chair. Being curious, he looked around and figured out that if he flipped the flag up, a server would walk up to him and take an order for a soda or munchies. No flag up meant the server left him alone, to enjoy a relaxing vacation. Jeff smiled, just thinking about that great time in a cabana chair.

This is a marvelous illustration of what George describes as a simple idea, opposite of what we think. We normally expect a waiter to come around and either ask or sense what we need. This hotel, rather, put all that power in the hands of the customer. The waiter did not have to scan all the folks lounging in the cabana chairs around the pool. Instead, he/she needed only look for flags. When a flag went up, immediate, personal service was delivered, right where it was needed, right when it was needed. I'd suspect that in so doing, the hotel required fewer people to deliver better service. And, can you imagine the tips that the waiter could earn by being very prompt and cheerful.

Two principles here; a clear, unambiguious signal for action and "production" is pulled by the customer, not pushed by the producer.

We'll move to George's point three on Monday...I'm taking a long weekend with my lovely wife. Enjoy your weekend.

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