Explaining Lean at a Bar
As if explaining Lean to people at hospitals doesn't stretch my brain enough, I sometimes find it's a fun (or at least helpful) challenge to explain what it is I do to folks who've had no exposure to it (like friends or family).
I'm on the road for work and was at the hotel bar with a few co-workers. The bartender asked what we do and I got the job of explaining. I told her we apply methods from Toyota, called “Lean,” for improving quality and efficiency in hospitals. She asked some questions and I tried relating it to her job.
I put out the idea that her bar is probably pretty well arranged for her efficiency — the soda and mixers tap is right in front of the bar, as are glasses and ice. I asked her how it would be if the ice were in the far corner of the bar, requiring lots of walking back and forth all day. She said that would be horrible. Well, that's what work is often like for nurses, running back and forth all day from patient rooms to central supply areas. Ah! An eye-opener for her.
To illustrate quality, I asked her what would happen if she accidentally poured a very expensive scotch instead of the cheaper one. “Well, the manager would be pretty angry.” Some bars have a system (this one doesn't) that “error proofs” the pour size (with automation) to make sure a “double” isn't poured when the customer is charged for a single shot. The bar could have systems that help detect or prevent the wrong bottle from being taken (bar code scanning or other methods). That's a similar challenge to pharmacies and nursing units not taking or dispensing the wrong medication or dose. “Except that mistake can kill people at the hospital,” the bartender noted. Exactly.
What do you think of those examples? Do you have “everyday explanations” that you use to explain Lean? I wasn't “dumbing it down,” just trying to relate it to her everyday job… I think that's a good skill and practice.
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