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Government Lean

The TSA and Process Improvement

Airports and government agencies give such great opportunities for Lean blog articles. Despite the abundance of topics where I could point out problems, I have to say there are lots of positive changes I see in the face of challenging regulations and stressed customers.

For example, story after story comes out about how the TSA did something wrong. In my flight through Seatac a few days ago, though, I had a great experience with security. I got through quickly. They were courteous. The layout kept things flowing.

I don’t particularly like taking my shoes off, and was nervous about a mix-up with my laptop since the girl in front of me had an identical model. But all-in-all, the experience has gotten smoother than I remember. This is obviously the result of several years of the government agency’s Lean efforts, even if they don’t call it Lean.

The government? Lean? Really? Yep. It’s true.

And it’s not just one airport that is making improvements. On my return trip from O’Hare, I saw custom carts with a pair of the bins used for passenger possessions at the x-ray machines bolted to them. It made collecting and returning empty bins to the front of the scanner a snap.

I considered taking a picture, but thought better of pulling a camera out and documenting security procedures. Seemed like one of the things that falls into the category of ‘bad idea’.

I don’t argue that there are many more government Lean opportunities or chances for improvement in air travel. Most people have their share of horror stories about getting through security. I just wanted to recognize some of the good things that airport staff in a thankless job are doing. 

I’d love to hear about your experiences with improvements you’ve seen at the airport.


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