Skip to main content

Lean is a management system for seeing normal from abnormal right now and responding right now. This is part of my core conception of lean. So you will understand my particular pleasure (and surprise) on receiving my name tag at the Discovery Health Quality Summit 2014:

Suspecting this to be more of a typo than a diagnostic conclusion, I simply attached the tag to my chest and joined the throng of people attending.

The interesting thing is that none of the people with whom I engaged said anything. Did they not notice, or did they notice and, disagreeing with the assumed professional diagnosis, chose to be discrete and not dispute it?

I gave it no further thought and only registered the wording on the tag the following day as I was packing my suitcase. I smiled again. I loved it. I had certainly never thought to march over to the registration desk and demand a correction.

Seeing Normal from Norman right now and responding right now, although the lean way, just did not seem worth it.

Shortly after the Summit I was in another city and had to make my way from my B&B to the factory I was to visit. I had been emailed detailed, turn-by-turn driving directions (with landmarks added). I checked them against Google maps on my iPad. They made no sense! So I simply drove, finding what looked like complicated instructions quite easy to follow. Except for the last turn – I turned one traffic light too early because the instructions missed a detail. But it was easy to guess the error and I was soon at the correct address.

Later in the day I was in discussion with the company management about how best one can communicate standard work procedures. I felt free to raise the matter of the error in the directions; because they were so detailed, I could easily comment on the needed improvement. Normal was achieved and ‘abnormal’ removed.

Why do we sometimes speak up ‘right now’ and other times not? A while ago I had to attend a meeting at the regional headquarters of a national organisation. I arrived on the executive floor of the high rise CBD building, and as is my wont, asked to use the loo. Imagine my surprise on entering the stall to see this:

Yes, you are seeing that correctly: no seat; sit on the porcelain, mate.

Later, when needing to go to the loo from the board room, I found another toilet. On the door was a sign: ‘Gents. Out of order.’ There seemed no alternative, so I investigated and found the toilet to be in perfectly good working order! But I wanted to wash my hands. I could get neither of the soap dispensers at the wash basin to dispense soap. I looked around. On the wall beside the loo was this array:

The gadget second from the left was a dispenser and I used it to wash my hands. On a later visit to the loo (yes, I do go frequently – it is what happens to men as they grow older), I looked more closely and read the label: Toilet Seat Sanitiser!

To cap it, the rooibos tea bags in the board room were in this neatly labelled container.

Did I point out any of these departures from normal? No. Why not? There is a time for that. With the directions, I knew the remedy would be applied; future journeys would have less waste. But with the ‘loo’ organisation I was very unsure that I would get a constructive response; abnormal has become normal and they are dealing with far bigger crises than the labelling of the tea bags. Those ‘crises’ are not unrelated of course.

What do you think? Should I have spoken up? How do you handle the everyday ‘abnormal’ that you come across? Please let me know.

Kind regards,

Normal/Norman Faull (as you like!)