Everyone’s Job is To Do Things Better?
Seth Godin has an example of chronic waste and poor planning at New York's Javits Convention Center. He, with some colleagues, had to sit on the floor in the food court to eat because of a shortage of tables and chairs… not a shortage of space (certainly not a shortage of floor). “It's always like this” at EVERY convention, it's not just a once annual fluke, Godin reports.
Seth sums up:
The problem isn't that they don't know. The problem may not even be that they don't care. The problem is that the mindset of the organization doesn't include the sentence, “your job is to make things better.”
That's very Toyota-esque. The notion in lean/TPS is that people do their daily work, but they're also responsible for making things better, for figuring out better ways of doing that work. That dynamic, I'd argue, is pretty rare in society and the business world. In too many settings, we roll our eyes and fight through the problems we face each and every day. “It's always like this” becomes an excuse or a rationalization to not change.
I think it's probably more accurate to say that most employees, at the ground level, recognize the problems and DO want to make improvements. They often aren't given the resources by management. Or, management creates an environment where the “leaders” are responsible for all improvement (and making sure conference guests have enough chairs probably isn't high on their list of priorities). If Javits Center management was doing regular “gemba walks,” they'd certainly see this problem and maybe even ask customers what they thought or, better yet, ask employees what needs fixing and what resources they need from management.
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