The TSA & Explaining "Why"?
Lean was on my brain traveling home yesterday. Mostly bad examples, but one thing jumped out at me, somewhat positive.
I love the TPS notion of “explaining why” (and blogged about it here after touring NUMMI). In the Lean and TPS mindset, you don’t just tell people what to do. If you’re issuing an instruction, you have to take the extra effort to explain “why”. That shows respect for people, taking that extra effort. This applies to our verbal communications with people, as well as signs that might normally be posted around a factory or workplace.
So, in line for the security line, there was a sign that says “Why a One Quart Bag?” If you’re familiar with this security rule, the government line is here. We could debate the merits of the restrictions to no end, but the sign said, basically:
“The one quart bag limits the total amount of liquid and gel that can be carried on board.”
I’ve been able to fit the following in a one quart bag (and you’re limited to 3 oz of any item):
- Small toothpaste
- Small hair creme jar
- Small shaving cream
- Small face lotion
The bag, in a way, is a “poka yoke” device for the security inspectors. They still have to visually inspect the items so that, God forbid, I don’t have a 4 oz. hair gel in there (even if the total amount of liquid/gel is within the quart sized bag limit).
I thought, that’s nice that they’re explaining the tyranny of the quart-sized bag. I guess part of the advantage of the bag is that they can put that through the x-ray separately. The rule might not make perfect sense, but they’re making an attempt to explain why.
But, what if you had a smaller zip lock bag because you only have toothpaste? NO GOOD. Not a quart-sized bag. But the amount of liquid/gel is LESS than a quart-sized bag. NO GOOD. Why?
What if you only had toothpaste and you were willing to put it through the x-ray separately? NO GOOD. Not in a bag. Not in a quart-sized bag.
If the “design objective” is limiting the total amount of liquid, why can’t there be multiple ways of accomplishing that? While there’s some element of “respect for people” in explaining why to the passengers about the quart-sized bag, is there less “respect for people” in giving the TSA employees ZERO lee-way or judgment? Just follow a rule blindly?
I know I’m wasting my time looking for logic or consistency in the airport rules. But think about these concepts in your workplace. Are you giving hard set rules that your employees aren’t allowed to challenge? Are you explaining “why?”
Funny aside, this guy has guts. I like his style. (Note: Kip Hawley is the head of the TSA)