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Lean Problem Solving

I recently just moved into a house. With moving into a new house you spend tons of time unpacking, putting things away, getting comfortable, and most importantly figuring out where things are supposed to go.

Unlike my wife, when I look for places to put things, I’m thinking about how they affect process flow. For example, where am I going to put my keys so I don’t have to go out of my way to grab them as I walk out the door? Or, where am I going to put my work backpack so it’s not a safety hazard that we trip over? My wife, on the other hand, thinks about how she is going to make the house look nice.

After a couple days of lean problem solving, I developed a process thought that I thought would work. One morning I noticed a major flaw with my process. I was in a habit of locking the door handle, then grabbing my keys on the hanger next to the door. I knew that this could lead to a morning where I lock the door and forgot my keys. After I realized my process was potentially flawed, I spent my drive to work brainstorming on how to change the process:

– I could lock the door with the key instead of the door handle turn. (Although this would increase process time as turning the door handle to lock is much faster.)

– I could move the key basket so it’s located before I reach the door, instead of behind the door opening (thanks to my wife whose goal is to make the house look good). (This change would require a battle that I’m not sure is worth fighting.)

– Lastly, I could hide a key outside in case I lock myself out. That way I could get back inside to grab my keys. (This idea obviously presents some safety risks.)

After creating the brainstorm sheet, I spent a few minutes in my head doing an XY matrix to determine which one adds the least process time, is the easiest to implement, and poses the least amount of security risk. Naturally, grabbing my keys and locking the door with the key ensures that I have my keys in hand. It also only adds about two seconds of process time per day. I was willing to live with this.

The next morning, I decided not to implement my solution because I figured, “What are the chances that I’ll really forget my keys?” Sure enough, the second I locked the door by the handle, I walked right outside and was locked out. After a few minutes of calling my sleeping wife, I had to throw rocks at the upstairs window to wake her up. This ended up costing me 15 minutes of downtime.

The moral of the story is next time you realize potential flaws in your process, don’t wait until you fail to adjust them. Take the time up front and make your process changes. The resulted 15 minutes of downtime is three times more than adding two seconds of process time per day for a year (00:00:02(sec)x5(days/wk)x50(wks/yr) = 00:05:00).

Now when I walk out the door, I lock the door with my keys.

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