I’m always amused by Whack-A-Mole. This is the game where a mole pops out of a hole, you whack it with a mallet, and another mole pops out of another hole. The faster you can “whack the mole” the higher your score.
I’ve come to the conclusion that a good Lean operation in a small company is about the same. You’re playing Whack-A-Mole. You find the biggest problem, whack it, make it go away and then quickly move on to the next problem.
The issue is that most of the time you don’t really play Whack-A-Mole, you play deal with the swamp. This is where an alligator rears its head and you’re forced to deal with the problem or more likely, the emergency that’s occurred.
Whack a Mole is prospective.
When you play Whack-A-Mole you are dealing with a problem that’s important, but not urgent. When you work on problems that are not nipping at your heels like the alligators in your life you can take your time and solve the problem and make it an opportunity.
No one is calling you on the phone and screaming that your shipment is late. No one is saying anything. The problem has been there. You’ve been working around it. Now you have the opportunity to deal with the problem on your terms. That’s what dealing with a prospective problem is all about.
Whack-A-Mole is simple.
It’s easy to explain this game to your staff. Everyone gets the idea of Whack-A-Mole right away. You might even find that your people have some great ideas for where the mole is and which one should be whacked first.
Don’t be surprised if your staff doesn’t know which mole is the peskiest. You probably know what you should concentrate on. Once you identify where the mole is your staff will be more than glad to help find and get rid of it.
You control which mole to whack.
It’s a nice idea that in the beginning of a Lean program your staff will know where to put their energy. The reality is that most of the time your staff won’t have a clue where to start. If you force them to choose they’ll likely choose something that isn’t the peskiest of all moles.
You want to get rid of that really pesky mole first. That’s what being prospective is all about. You search for the biggest problem with easiest payoff. You do the hard work of identifying which problem or mole to whack. You then ask for help from your staff on how they think the best way to go about getting rid the pesky mole is.
You have to be aware here. If the suggestions you get aren’t getting you the best ideas you need to step in and direct your staff’s energy. Start by asking for help. If the help isn’t what you expect step up and tell your people where to look.
Whack-A-Mole has a nice payback.
When you stay in control of the game there is almost a guarantee of a good early payoff. When you start a Lean operation you’ll find lots of “low hanging fruit.” These are the easy things you can take care of that has a high payoff. You and your staff will enjoy getting some easy wins. This is how you want to start a Lean operation and get early excitement. Once your start and have success, keeping the ball rolling or in this case whacking the next mole will be easy to do.
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