Monday, December 06, 2010

Oatmeal work-arounds

#IHI Even at a process improvement conference, you encounter failed processes. Have you ever noticed, in a cafeteria or buffet line, that the serving ladle for oatmeal is often too large for the bowl into which it is being put? Such is the case at the Marriott in Orlando here at the IHI Annual Forum.

I captured this problem this morning at breakfast. What's interesting is to see the rapid development of work-arounds. One person abandoned the ladle and used a coffee cup to extract the oatmeal. In so doing, she put her fingers in very close vicinity to the food that would be taken by the following persons. And she then left a goopy, oatmeal covered coffee cup on the table -- in the way of the next person and too dirty to be reused. Other people tried different serving techniques, but they ran into problems because oatmeal just doesn't flow very well!

In the manner of some surgeons who resist acknowledging systemic problems, one person said that he is able to overcome the design problem because he has "a steady hand."

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

eewww.

Anonymous said...

avoid the oatmeal seems like the best solution.

Anonymous said...

I just have to know this, as I was surfing though this web site I came across your post..(I can not believe that I am even taking the time to comment on your blog)
So here it goes…..
Do you not have much more important things to do than worry about a scoop that you over-filled in the 1st place? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how to manage your situation. So this is what you are doing at your so-called conference... great way to utilize your time...

Paul Levy said...

Actually, this is a terrific conference, attended by over 6000 people interested in process improvement to save lives in the health care system. It is actually a great way to use my time.

Too bad you didn't see the humor and/or irony of this.

Anonymous said...

Shortly thereafter a CEO stopped by to inform the oatmeal ladlers that, while he had never himself ladled any oatmeal or even seen the ladling of oatmeal, he had read some excellent consulting white papers and they would be happy to know he would soon begin requiring them to change over to the "best oatmeal spooning practices" (based on Lean and Six Sigma, of course, so you know it has to be good).

Couldn't resist.

Paul Levy said...

OMG. How did you know!

:)

Anonymous said...

It is a lot easier to pick up bacon and eggs - maybe one reason they are so popular?
Kudos to all for choosing the healthy oatmeal - makes me want to go make some.
Will be curious to see what the next strategy is - that makes the process faster, less messy, less wasteful, and less likely to contaminate the whole pot with finger germs.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious that all comments are anonymous on a post regarding oatmeal.

nonlocal

James said...

Great catch! There are so many metaphors in life where 'samples' of overcoming challenges can be used for learning. I'm sure if there was a video of the 'oatmeal' morning we would find more take-aways, as well as the most commonly found work-around.

Paul Levy said...

You asked! Here's the video: http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2010/12/oatmeal-movie.html