I tell this account as a means of understanding the Lean approach.
A number of years ago, I was involved in setting up a local youth club. As a volunteer committee, we agreed to meet for one hour each week on a Wednesday at 8pm.
None of us were prepared for the work involved in policies & procedures, premises, insurances, garda vetting, child protection training, not to mention membership, volunteers and events.
Our one-hour meeting was precious time, given voluntarily and we aimed to cover just a few items each week.
Those of you who are seasoned meeting attenders may recognise occasions when a meeting is ‘hijacked’. Despite the agenda, some attendees have a burning issue which needs to be raised and the earlier the better.
Our weekly meetings could easily be hijacked as we learnt early on.
The one I recall dominated a meeting shortly after our club got up and running. We commenced mid-September just after the schools had re-opened.
By November, the clock had gone back and the dark evenings drew in.
As our weekly meeting was about to commence, one of our volunteers said “Before we start, I’d just like to say that I don’t think it’s ok for our children to walk home in the dark”.
Our younger members attended the club on a Friday night. They were 5th and 6th class children, aged 10-12 years old. The club ran from 7pm till 9pm. It was pretty dark at 9pm in November.
Before our regular meeting got under way, we were busy debating how to solve the Friday night problem.
Lots of ideas were raised:
• We could hire a bus for the dark nights.
• Organise car-pooling between parents.
• Get hi-vis tops for all the children and supervise walking home.
• Write to all parents to request that children are collected during winter months.
• Run the club at an earlier time during Winter.
• Keep all the children at the club until they are collected
• Ensure we have 2 contact numbers for all children
As each idea was raised, it was met with reasons why it could and why it couldn’t be done.
After about 30 minutes, someone asked “How many children walked home in the dark last Friday?”.
Initially, nobody knew.
After a few phone calls, it emerged that no children had actually walked home in the dark. Two children had been collected late – they were brothers – and their parent arrived about 5 minutes after 9pm.
In actual fact, we had a very responsible group of parents and one volunteer who got upset at being delayed at the club.
It’s a simple account but as a group we had given half an hour of our meeting time to solving a problem without actually understanding the problem we were trying to solve.
In business, we can spend a lot of time and resources on solutions to problems that are not fully understood.
The 8-step problem-solving methodology is based on demonstrating a full understanding of a problem and sharing this with a team of stakeholders before we embark on selecting a solution.
Enterprise Ireland offer support to clients through their Lean Business programmes.
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The Skillnets ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will commence in Dublin on December 13th.
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