When Strict Rules Don’t Work in Lean Manufacturing

Have you heard the story about the lifeguard in Florida who was fired because he saved a swimmer’s life?!  Mark Graban writes an interesting post on his Lean Blog about the incident.

In his post Lifeguard Saves Swimmer, Gets Fired, Graban compares the shocking response to the lifeguard’s laudable action to possible consequences of overly strict rules in the Lean work place:

  • A lifeguard, Tomas Lopez, was “hastily” (and incorrectly) fired by a supervisor after saving a swimmer in distress… because the swimmer was outside of Lopez’s assigned zone. Are you kidding me?
  • The lifeguard wasn’t fired due to a bad policy… he was fired because a supervisor misinterpreted (or didn’t understand) a policy.
  • That’s just common sense that Lopez should have saved the swimmer.
  • It sounds like the supervisor didn’t even know the proper rules and regulations… firing Lopez because they thought he violated some rule.
  • We can’t put rules, procedures, and “standardized work” in the Lean parlance ahead of common sense and judgment. Can you image the uproar of Lopez had just sat there because saving that swimmer “wasn’t my job”?
  • We need to be careful that our standardized work, especially in healthcare settings, aren’t overly restrictive or violate common sense. Maybe this lifeguard story is a good illustration of what could go wrong…

Lesson learned?  People do have sensible ideas of what to do outside of set rules.

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