I was listening to a Reveal Episode – Bordering on Insecurity on my local NPR station and it got me thinking about process improvement and some of the hurtles related to mistake proofing and risk analysis. My belief has always been that people are not the issue, it is the process. But what do you do when, for whatever reason, people in the process are not following it. There may be some options, but this is coming from someone that has not had to work in this type of environment so my comments may not be fair and without knowing the full extent of the problems, I am just offering suggestions.

One of the first items mentioned is related to how the training occurred. It is occurs in an environment that is challenged by an us versus them atmosphere. One of the key points of lean is respect humanity. Does this mean the same thing when looking at a team or a company as it would when you yourself are trying to stop someone else from breaking the law? This is way out of my league but I do know individuals that work in law enforcement and their basic theme is to respect everyone and treat them fairly. I don’t mean to say that someone that is speeding is in the same league as someone trying to get into another country but where is that line drawn?

Another aspect mentioned was related to work load and job satisfaction. This can happen anywhere. Some of the frustration is related to that doing your work correctly is harder than letting something slide through. This is the essence of understanding the value stream and removing the non-value added work. I realize that there is documentation that has to be completed but how can we expect individuals to be effective when there is so much time documenting and scorecarding items and this takes away from the core goal of the position? In the story it was made easier to do the wrong thing instead of the correct one. What if that could be reversed and the correct behavior was easier or as easy as the wrong behavior?

Are there triggers that could be embedded in the process so that instead of an elaborate sting operation? There may be an opportunity that a few daily / weekly metrics as well as going to gemba periodically could help flag an employee that is deviating from the norm or the process. This is a type of quality control and needs auditing, which is not ideal, but this may help the situation and get to individuals before they get too far down the path.

The last item I was thinking about was how the story talked about being 7 years in the position and that is when they see the biggest move to deviant behavior. We often talk of cross training as well as ownership. How can that be done in the environment explained in the podcast? I don’t know but it seemed like a trigger point was a certain number of years on the job or, at least, in the role. Job rotation may not be a total fix but it could be a component.

Once again, I am not saying continuous improvement would solve the problems presented in the episode and some of the items brought up like salary and compensation I did not even discuss but I think we owe it to the individuals that do the hard work to keep us safe deserve someone to look at the overall process and understand what the issues are and develop a process plan of improvement.