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Better and Faster, Better and Faster

September 12, 2019 BY The Rhythm Of Reman Leave a comment

Today's story comes from a trip to the grocery store, the one with the parrot if that helps you connect to the tale.  Immediately I had a favorable impression of the checkout clerk, Aiden.  He had great posture, a smile on his face, and an energy about his work.  Our, "How are you this evening?" conversation was more aware than the typical sleepwalked version we all do most of the time.  This was already going to stack up as a top service experience of the month then Aiden really wowed me.  At first, I thought he was joking around when he opened my carton of eggs and performed a rather thorough inspection.  I commented to Sally, the bagging assistant, "Wow, does Aiden always perform such a thorough eggspection?"
"Yes, he does."
Then Aiden explains to me that the eggs often crack right around the edge of the carton and most people's quick flip of the top does not catch that.  His method was a top flip with an angled visual check for edge cracks.  I asked him how many he caught, and though he wasn’t sure the volume, he did confirm that he catches cracked eggs on every shift he works.  Sally made a comment that I wouldn’t believe how many eggs the parrot grocery store donates to local food pantries.  Joke's on you Sally, I'm already working out the math in my head.  It's substantial.
Aiden also worked with elevated pace.  He wasn't rushing but he was moving swiftly through a set of repeated tasks.  His movements, when compared to typical checkout clerks, appeared precise and deliberate. Better and faster?
Aiden's work is a great example of the benefits of adherence to process.

  • Quality: you cannot catch the single cracked egg per shift reliably unless you perform the inspection on each and every carton with sufficient attention and focus.
  • Speed: through repetition and refinement nearly any repeatable task is optimized.

Now imagine Aiden had a really sharp manager at that store, a RemanU reader like yourself.  Aiden's process for eggs could be standardized across the store.  Eight registers, 7 days a week, multiple shifts......let’s say it’s around 100 total register shifts per week, that’s at minimum 100 cracked eggs that didn’t leave the store.  Even taking Aiden's shifts out of that equation, it's substantial, and one egg per shift was the minimum he caught.  How fast would an initiative like this scale in your organization?
What if Sally then comes up with a better way to load a cart with bags, and another clerk devises an acronym that makes it easier to remember the produce codes for different kinds of apples, and each of these processes are added to the standardized process documentation, or perhaps oral recitation of "best practices" is a better fit.  This applies equally well to running a factory as it does to tying shoelaces or opening a banana.  Nobody in my circle of influence opens a banana upside down anymore, and none of us knew we were doing it ineffectively until someone shared a process refinement with us.
I find it satisfying to take on repetitive tasks and figure out how to optimize them best.  Many of us do this even unknowingly in all kinds of activities: cutting the grass, shoveling, loading the dishwasher, washing the car, getting a family of 4 out of the house on a weekday morning...
What about your shop or office?  Is the team innovating and implementing on the routine processes that all business have a few of?  If you want to get started, collaborate and document just the most frequent and critical activities (performing an oil change, writing up a proposal, taking a payment, or scrubbing up for surgery) and implement them.  Then repeat.
Warning: it's better THEN faster.  It only works in that order; faster will never lead to better but better often leads to faster.  When you are looking for the best examples to build and refine your processes, don’t chase speed.  Build on better.  Speed first is a day trader mentality, risky and short lived.  Processes built on quality (however it’s measured) compound over time, split, and pay dividends.
Share a couple sentences celebrating your improvement, and I'll be delighted to send you a super soft and smart looking RemanU T-shirt.

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