I just threw out two staplers. They were the same. Ordinary staplers. (Photo 1).
But they didn’t work. You can see the problem in Photo 2. I’d get two staples pushed out, but not evenly. They wouldn’t both hold. Then it would take me a minute to clear the paper. It didn’t happen every time. About once every 10 staples. But it was frequently enough to annoy me.
Photo 3 shows another kind of failure. Two staples are started, but none come out and I was just left with unstapled paper and a jammed stapler. I adjusted my workspace and placed a small screw-driver on my desk so it was easier to clear the stapler. Even with the screwdriver, each jam took a minute to clear.
Why was this happening? Photo 4 shows why. Notice the gap between the front of the staple carrier and the bottom plate. This is where the staples are supposed to slide through. You’ll notice two things. First, they aren’t the same on both sides. Second, they’re bigger than a single staple. In fact, on the side at the bottom of the photo, the gap is nicely large enough for two staples. So when the spring really does its job and pushes the block of staples forward hard, two staples come out… and jam.
How does this help us think about managing?
How many “screwdrivers” do your staff have stashed away to “fix” a recurring problem?
How much time do your people lose every day because they are “dealing with” machinery or processes that build in rework, rather than building in quality? How much does it annoy them?
How many of your machines have built-in sources of variation that make work harder to do consistently, or that make your product less consistent for your customer?
And how much time have you spent in the last week observing the work your staff do, so that you can identify and fix these problems.
If you’re squirming a bit as you read these questions, you know who you are, and what you need to do.
If you or your managers and supervisors need some help knowing where to start or how to uncover and fix these kinds of problems, contact me at (604) 866-1502 (cell or text) or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.