The Need for Pilots (Not the flying kind) at the TSA?


My dad was flying back from Seattle last week and he noticed this at the TSA “gemba” in the airport, as he reported in an email:

The [TSA] woman's stamp kept falling of the stand. She said they just got new podiums, but the lip isn't high enough.

That's got to be frustrating, having something like that happening over and over… reaching down to pick up the stamp. Last week, I was in Ontario, talking about kaizen (continuous improvement) and my upcoming book Healthcare Kaizen at seven different hospitals (and I'm back there this week for three more).

One major theme is the “PDSA” problem solving mindset, where we have iterative improvements and we test our improvement hypothesis with experiments, action, and data. We talked a lot, during the sessions, about the power of running “pilots” in a small area, rather than going “whole hog” with a change or a new system across the hospital – this includes starting and rolling out a kaizen program. Instead of starting something as a hospital-wide initiative, it's good to start in one area to work out the kinks and to see what works (or doesn't work). It sounds like the TSA could use this lesson.

How many times a day was the stamp falling off of the new podium? I don't know, but I wonder. Did they test this new podium before buying it for Seattle? Probably not. I hope the TSA didn't put in a huge order for podiums to be used at airports across the country! What is the feedback loop that shares the feedback about the lip on the podiums to TSA purchasing? Is the TSA worker doomed to having her stamp constantly falling off onto the floor?

Has your organization successfully used “pilots” to help test new improvements before spreading them throughout your organization?


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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