Live example of systems improvement

March 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Systems Improvement | 1 Comment

Recently, I and my wife visited our doctor for consultation. While we were waiting, I tried to make use of the bonus time to read a book and make some notes. I was so absorbed in what I was reading that the pen slipped off from my hand to the floor. With one eye on the page, I groped around to locate the pen and pick it up. As i was lifting my hand holding the pen, I felt pain and there was a scratch on my forearm. I noticed that a corner of the glass top of the center table kept near my chair had chipped off and the sharp edge had caused the cut on my hand.

My first reaction was one of anger. But it quickly gave way to how it could be avoided in future for others. I saw the doctor’s assistant passing by. I called him and showed him both the chipped corner of the table as well as my hand. I expected him to do nothing, at least not immediately. But to my pleasant surprise, he rolled up his sleeves and requested me to help him to pick up the table to rotate in such a way that the chipped corner was turned to the corner of the room where it was unlikely to hurt anybody. The table was heavy and both of us were finding it difficult to lift and turn it around. The receptionist who was sitting nearby rushed in to join hands and three of us together to accomplish the task in no time. All of us felt happy with what we had done; smiled at each other and went our way.

Later when I was thinking of this incident while driving back home, I realized that this small incident had many elements of what system improvement is all about.
• Problem of one person was converted into opportunity for benefit to many in future.
• Rather than passing the buck or shrugging off that it is not my responsibility, the focus was on what can be done about it.
• A person who noticed that her help could be useful jumped in without being called.
• The task accomplished gave satisfaction to all concerned.
• There was no thought or attempt to take any credit.

Isn’t system improvement really about small things handled well collectively here and now?

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1 Comment »

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  1. Hi,

    I hope your arm is better 🙂

    This reminds me of broken windows – less like system improvement, more like system maintenance?


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