Saturday, November 23, 2002

Saturday Reflections

Some thoughts on a hectic and at times disjointed week just ended.

The trim in my office. Our safety director, Stan Virkler, alterted me some time ago to a particular steel trim we use on our standard roof overhangs that represented a safety hazard. We've had 4-5 crew members require several stitches each because this trim leaves an exposed edge while the building is partially constructed. Stan correctly asked me to work out with our vendors to put a hem or a dull edge on this trim to elimiate the hazard.

So who will help? Unfortuneatly neither the maker of the trim or other sources showed any serious interest in finding a solution. "Yep, you sure have a problem there, Joe." The trim remained in my office.

Duct tape always helps-temporarily. While we tried to find a solution, we resorted to the universal solution to all problems. Duct tape on this edge provided some protection. But it was a pain to apply and we did not have a mistake-proof way to make sure untaped trim didn't get sent to the field. The trim remained in my office.

Frustration led to action. After another near-miss a week ago with a crew guy avoiding a cut just because it was cold out and he had 2 layers on, the frustration welled up. I got fed up with the whole deal. And with myself. The trim still sat in my office.

I called a nearby vendor who had a trim bending machine that I thought might work to implement a solution my colleague Ken Kellams suggested. Yet, over the phone, he couldn't get it. I invited myself to his place on Thursday afternoon and hoped in the car and drove the hour to try to settle the matter. The trim was in my car.

Standing next to his machine, the solution became obvious in four minutes, literally. Once he saw it, we worked to make a prototype solution and there it was. A marvelously simple solution that will remove the safety risk. The solution prototype was back in my office.

So how long did it take? This blew me away. On the back of the trim I had written the date Stan first gave it to me. November 21, 2001. When did I get the solution prototyped? November 21, 2002. ONE FULL YEAR!!!

This just floored and disappointed could a simple thing take a full year to address?? My thoughts, on reflection, about why it happened.

  • Lack of focus. I didn't bring efforts to bear to get it done.
  • Desire for an "elegant" solution. We waited for the ultimate solution from the vendor who made the trim. That "elegance" never came and may never come.
  • Getting distracted by non-responsiveness. I tell you, I have seldom had so many people not give a rip about a problem that was important to me. I let others' mood of disinterest infect my motivation. A very irresponsible move.

The solution came about when the above items were reversed and I "went to gemba" and headed for the shop floor.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for letting me write this out.
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