Tigers, Trucks & Complacent Zookeepers (#13)

I spend much of my time mangling metaphors whilst trying to get points across, in the workplace, to people who can't quite grasp why I'm so bothered by something. This leads me to conclude the following:

1) Much of the knowledge we seek to pass on is technically quite simple, yet...

2) ...much of that knowledge is not well understood (often because of how poorly we pass it on) 

The great thing about a well judged story is that it can cut to the essence whilst bypassing the righteous preachiness of the converted. You float the story, stand back and ask "What do you make of that then?"

Of course, often I do it poorly but sometimes storytelling works like a dream for me, as was the case last week in a new client of mine. This client has a cramped shopfloor where Forklift Trucks (FLTs)  work in close proximity to operators working in their cells. The rules on the floor and FLT discipline (drivers and pedestrians alike) is patchy. 

Walking the gemba with the Ops Director I asked him to pause and watch with me as Forklifts and people intertwined in an apparently symbiotic union of flow. Not to me; all I could picture was an imminent accident where a pedestrian gets very hurt because they are TOO USED to working in proximity to each other.

I could have talked about the clear safety aspects of poorly designed and marked gangways, unclear homes for materials, protocols around material delivery signals, driving quality, pedestrian care around FLTs, space and time separation of people and Materials Handling Equipment etc etc.

Instead my mind settled on tigers (as per the google snag above) and the number of instances I've read of highly trained zookeepers being mauled and killed by the animals they care for. Even with systems, protocols and a whole heap of training, smart and skilled people do daft things.

In most of the zookeeper cases, they became complacent around something very dangerous. Ditto Forklift Trucks and cramped shopfloors. The fact that an apex predator hasn't hurt a zookeeper breeds the unchallenged assumption that it never will. My conversation with the Ops Director reasoned that it was his job to develop people's eyes and minds to challenge the unchallenged and see the unseen.

I asked him to make this the priority before one of his people got eaten by a tiger.

This message appears to have stuck faster than a lengthy lecture on the design of material feed systems from the operator backwards (although that's where it will lead)



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