I have been blessed with two boys ages 13 and 16. I often sit back and watch them and wonder how two totally different kids could have ever came from the same parents. This week is Spirit Week for their High School and one day of participation was called “Duct Tape Day.” The concept was simple: decorate your clothes with duct tape. What followed was a week of incredible observation on my part.
My youngest son got all excited and jumped all over it with great gusto! The night he found out about it he came home from school, stole my only roll of duct tape and proceeded to tape up one of his T-shirts. This brought about a lot of discussion by the family and the duct taping festivities began. My oldest son decided that he would talk about it for three days and start working on it the night before he had to do it. He came up with a great idea. He talked his mom into buying an old suit at Goodwill and turning it into a duct tape tuxedo. Unfortunately, his extensive planning almost used up all his time and he almost didn’t get it done before he needed it.
As I sat back today and thought about it, I quickly realized that both of them exhibited traits that I have done before when problem solving. I love writing out PDCA’s and plans but there have been times when I take way too long writing them and then struggle to get the activity done before it needs to be done. On the other hand, I have had times that I have been so excited about trying a countermeasure that I haven’t taken the appropriate amount of time to problem solve the true issue. So how do you find an equal balance that allows you enough time to problem solve the issue yet allows you to fix the issue in a timely manner?
I thought back to my lean training and remembered one of the first tools my Sensei taught me. At the beginning of each week he required me to fill out a form that planned out my week. On it was my plans for activities for the week, the struggles and learning’s I had doing these activities, what my results were for the week and what I was going to work on the next week. It then hit me that both of my boys failed to have a plan that included the goal of the project, how long it should take and what steps should be completed by a certain time to ensure success.
I begin a new job on Monday with a new company. Much like a kid at the end of summer I am extremely excited about entering a new voyage knowing that in a few months that the honeymoon will be over and the daily stress and struggles of work will settle in. All I know is that I report at the shop at 8am, go to an orientation and then pair up with the supervisor from another shift to get me settled in. I am open ended on when I go to my shift and begin taking over my duties since they base it on my progress. (Which is a positive sign to me about their value on training.) However, how would I make a plan for that?
Rather than doing the easy thing and saying, “I don’t need a plan for next week, I’ll let them take care of it” I decided that I would sit down and write one out. There are several reasons behind my thinking. First, there are a lot of questions I have about my new company and if I don’t write them down I know I will forget them. Next and probably most importantly, how am I to reflect about my week and learn from it if I don’t have an expectation for the week? You might ask “what could I learn” but simply looking at what I enjoy most and what I would want improve in my training could help me build a better new orientation for my team members.
The lesson for myself is simple. Those times that it seems most difficult to come up with a plan are the times that it is most important to have one. I might arrive on Monday and find an agenda for my activities has been written and that will be great. It will address the things the company determines that I need to learn for that time. However, if I don’t list out my personal expectations for the week I might come up empty handed to my needs next week. Also, I will miss the opportunity for reflection on my week to see what I can do better and what I liked about the week. Bottom line is simple, TPS has taught us that we always need a plan.