I Was Two Weeks Ahead of the Curve on This Dilbert Cartoon About Digitizing Suggestion Boxes

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You might remember my April Fool's blog post that I did for KaiNexus as I shared here on my blog:

[April Fool] Special Announcement: Our New @KaiNexus Suggestion Box Builds on Proven Box Technology

One of the core jokes in the description of KaiNexus Suggestion Box was the shredding of ideas as they were scanned into the physical suggestion box:

As it scans, the KaiNexus Suggestion Box's patent-pending shredder mechanism quietly turns the suggestion sheet into a likely-recyclable pulp. Caution: check with your local municipality to ensure the specially-coated scented paper can be recycled.

So, I couldn't believe it when the April 15, 2018 Dilbert cartoon made basically the same joke.

Here is the first panel (click here to see the entire strip):

The design and workflow of the Dilbert suggestion box was, again, very similar to KaiNexus. As the strip explains:

“The original design called for a box that scans and digitizes suggestions written on paper and emails them to the appropriate manager.”

and then…

“Then, the device shreds the original paper suggestion to make room for more.”

Unfortunately, after building the box and the shredder, Dilbert needs additional funding to finish the scanner part.

The pointy-haired boss says:

“We don't have the flexibility in our budget. Let's just deploy what you have.”

Oh no!

Dilbert points out the obvious that the box will shred ideas without anybody reading them.

The PHB says:

“Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.”

That expression isn't meant to be an excuse to have half-baked ideas or to settle for crappy ideas because they're not perfect. There's a grain of truth to the expression, but be careful with it…

Even if an all-software “digital suggestion box” solution doesn't destroy the ideas, there's no guarantee that ideas will be read or acted upon.

Digitizing a broken suggestion box process isn't that helpful. KaiNexus is built upon “Kaizen” principles, which are very different than the suggestion box model in many ways, including:

  • Ownership of the testing and evaluation of ideas is very often kept in the hands of staff (unless leaders really need to jump in and help as servant leaders)
  • We encourage the implementation of SMALL ideas, not just those with the biggest projected Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Kaizen starts with the identification of problems, instead of starting by jumping to a solution or a suggestion
  • It's better to quickly implement something that's an 80% solution instead of talking until you have the “perfect” solution (but remember the warning about the PHB quote)

Here are some other past blog posts and videos about the problems associated with well-intended suggestion boxes:

Why Traditional Suggestion Boxes Don't Work

KaiNexus Education Video #5 – Moving Beyond Suggestion Boxes

Will Suggestion Boxes be a Trend in 2012? What Method(s) do we Need for Employee Engagement?

Video: Kaizen vs. the Suggestion Box

Healthcare Kaizen: The Suggestion Box is Dead

Louisiana's Online Suggestion Box Will Fail; Connecticut Lean Efforts Might Not

Denver Jail's Suggestion Box (and Problems) in the News

When Will The Federal Government & VA Learn? On Suggestion Boxes & Incentives

Why It's OK That This Suggestion Box Was Full of Cobwebs

Are These Bad Suggestions About Suggestion Boxes?

The State of This Restaurant's Suggestion Box Didn't Really Surprise Me Much

What Has Your Organization Done to Move Beyond Suggestion Boxes?

Have you been able to move beyond suggestion boxes in your organization?

Love Dilbert?

See more Dilbert strips related to Lean that I've collected under the tag “Dilbert” and this post that collects a number of links:

Links to Dilbert Cartoons on #Lean and/or #SixSigma

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. His latest book has been released as an "in-progress" book, titled Measures of Success.

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2 Comments
  1. Jean F. says

    maybe Dilbert reads your blog

    1. Mark Graban says

      Nah, and I bet that cartoon was drawn well before April 1 anyway. :-)

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