Non Root Cause Solutions?

Today, I had to drive to return a rental car at Newark Airport and saw
an example of what might be “non root cause” thinking in action. As I
approached the airport on the highway, there were signs for three
separate airport entrances – none of which was specified as being rental
car return, as most airports do. I probably should have assumed it was
the “Main Terminals” exit, but I didn’t and ended up in the wrong area.

As I was driving around the airport, I saw no signs that said anything
about rental car return. What I did see, every quarter mile or so, was
a giant sign that asked “Are You Lost?” with what looked like a bus
stop. Apparently, if you’re lost, you are supposed to stop your car and
refer to the map in the bus stop. I think there was even a phone to
call for help.

I have never seen that at any other airport. If the Port Authority
somehow realized the airport was confusing, I don’t understand why some
better signage wouldn’t have been a better (and cheaper) solution to the
problem. Expecting people to pull over and consult the “bus stop” seems
like a bit much.

How many times in your factory have you seen people create an
overly-complex solution to a problem that could have been solved more
cheaply and elegantly? Before relying on technology, do you try the
“low tech” solution?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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  1. Chet Frame says:

    Two weekends ago I had a similar experience at La Guardia and I found that it was difficult to understand where I should be going until I got to a certain point and it became more evident. This past weekend I returned a car to Seatac and I was directed from before I got to the airport so that I would make the right choices and get to the right location. I checked here in El Paso and Rental Return is marked from before you enter the airport proper.

    Perhaps the planners of more complex issues are too deep into the issue to see the beginning clearly and should seek peer help to understand where the beginning is. Planners of less ocmplex issues can see the entire issue including the beginning and then place their markers still earlier in the flow.

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