Following Rules or Doing What Works?
I got a comment on a post from April, about UPS developing efficient driving routes, including the guideline of avoiding left turns to save time. The commentor, purportedly a UPS driver himself, wrote:
“Yeah well, it may save time in one sense but I still think it is faster driving straight. The system is not that smart so you end up delivering two blocks, make a right, deliver two blocks, make a right, etc… Too many right turns if you ask me and people in the neighborhood think we are lost, driving in circles. When I do it my way, I drive less miles and that is cheaper for UPS.”
That raises a question I find fascinating: Is it better to have people following the rules or to do what works? The driver is talking about driving less, saving gas, but is he also considering time? I’m not saying he’s wrong, I don’t know, I’m not there.
It makes me think back to the principles of Standardized Work that say we’re not trying to create unthinking robots who just follow our standard practices. Standardized Work should be followed unless there is a good reason, right? The challenge is getting agreement on what the “good reasons” might be. It can’t be used as an excuse to not follow the Standardized Work, to say we always have good reasons.
The same question comes up quite often in hospitals, as well. We’re not doing the same 45 second Toyota assembly line job over and over, so we need some leeway to use judgment in deciding exactly how we do the work, at times, that’s what people will say.
From my perspective, I would be happy that a driver is “breaking the rules” to save money for the company, at least in this case. Speeding or breaking the law would obviously NOT be a good violation of the Standardized Work.