… But I Do Have Time for Fire Fighting
This recent tweet of mine struck a nerve, apparently, based on the number of times it was liked and retweeted:
— Mark Graban (@MarkGraban) March 10, 2017
The thought occurred to me when I was teaching a day-long class on Kaizen and continuous improvement in The Netherlands that day.
The opportunities and the challenges for continuous improvement seem pretty universal. I've heard variations of the concern “we're too busy for improvement” in many countries.
The Dutch group, attending from multiple hospitals, wasn't uniquely skeptical of Kaizen or their ability to free up time. It was a good discussion we had about how to make time for improvement.
People want to improve. Their leaders want staff participating in improvement. I see people struggle with the notion of how to make time for improvement.
One helpful strategy is to small improvement small, especially at first. Listen to my podcast with Robert Maurer, PhD on why this is a powerful strategy that suits the way our brains work.
Gathering small problems and small ideas on a board or in software provides a ready “job jar” of things to work on as time becomes available during the day ( these are often called “just do its,” but I'd prefer to call them “just PDSA its” to emphasize Plan-Do-Study-Adjust, not just Do).
Once we solve some small problems, we'll free up time to work on more (and, often, larger) improvements. People will build capability and enthusiasm.
For all of the talk about “not having time for improvement,” I think it's interesting that I've never heard anybody say “we don't have time for fire-fighting.”
Because leaders might say they HAVE to respond. They HAVE to fight fires in the proverbial sense.
So why not MAKE time for proactive process improvement to prevent fires? Why not MAKE time to not just put the fire out, but also understand how to prevent the next one?
Why don't we feel like we HAVE to practice continuous improvement?
Here it is as a tweet if you'd like to click and share:
— Mark Graban (@MarkGraban) March 12, 2017
Or here is a version that's not tied to Twitter (if your organization blocks that)… click for a larger view:
Do organizations subtlety and unwittingly reward leaders who put out visible fires instead of rewarding and promoting those who prevent fires and catastrophes?
Hear my podcast with a real life fire captain and paramedic who knows about Lean:
Here is a short Lean talk that I gave on the topic of finding time for improvement… how can we shift from making excuses about not having time to taking action to choose to free up time?
What do you think?