Beyond workplace heroics

Post date: January 26, 2018 by Grace Bourke

 The world appreciates heroes--they achieve the extraordinary! Workplace examples include the programmer who comes in at 8:00 am after working until 4:00 am installing the latest software version; the nurse who pulls a double shift; the lab scientist who repairs machinery on the weekend, and the administrator who makes the eighth round of revisions to the board report. 

These are good people working hard within broken systems. We can do better. We need to move beyond dependence on heroics. We can do better, such as:

  • Coordinating the schedule so that the software tech can have eight hours of sleep after working through the night.
  • Having staff available so the nurse can leave at the end of her ten-hour shift in a busy ED.
  • Performing preventive maintenance so the lab machine doesn’t break down.
  • Defining a review process for the board report so it only needs two rounds of revisions.

How do we get to better? All of these heroes’ efforts were waste: rework, fixing defects, and overprocessing. The lean philosophy (Toyota Production System) makes a relentless commitment to eliminating waste. It also emphasizes respect, developing people, collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement. The results of eliminating waste, and moving beyond a dependence on heroics, are increased customer and staff satisfaction, higher quality, and lower costs. It’s an adventure!