PDCA at the TSA?
I am probably giving the Transportation Security Agency waaaaaay too much credit here, but this story made me think of the “PDCA” cycle of “Plan Do Check Act” (known as the Shewhart cycle or the Deming cycle).
The Transportation Security Administration is experimenting with checkpoint lanes designed for families to ease the pressure on parents struggling through an airport with young children.
In one of the first efforts to ease airport security for infrequent travelers, “family” lanes are being tested at the Denver and Salt Lake City airports alongside “expert” lanes for travelers who know every nuance of security screening and lanes for “casual” travelers.
The emphasis on “experimenting” is mine. That’s what PDCA is all about — a small-scale experiment to see if an idea works or not. We often do that in the Lean approach, where someone has a theory (hopefully somewhat thought out) that making a change will improve a system. Supervisors might probe and ask why that idea is a good one or the best alternative. More often than not, we want people to make at least a small-scale trial with an idea, such as this TSA policy.
The article continues:
Segregated lanes could open around the country if the tests show the concept speeds up security lines.
That’s the key — spread the concept (“Act”) if tests show (“Check”) that the implemented concept (“Do”) works well. If not, kill the program (another form of “Act”) and try something new.
I’ve self-segregated myself in airport lines for a long time. Given a choice, I’d alway prefer to get behind an “expert traveler” instead of a family juggling a few kids and all of their stuff.
The concept is criticized in the article by someone with a somewhat undisclosed conflict of interest. Oh well, bad reporting. Of course the guy who wants to SELL expedited security passes to frequent travelers doesn’t want the TSA to improve flow — that lessens demand for his product.
So this policy seems OK to me — if it’s proven to work. But, then again, I don’t have kids. How do those of you with kids feel about the policy?
Either way, maybe you can use this as an example of PDCA when you’re talking about it in your workplace. My headline would have been better if I had called it “PDSA at the TSA” (Plan Do Study Act, an alternative way of saying the same concept).