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Stray Jet Follow-Up

So, the story about stray jet-the plane that missed its stop and was out of contact for 78 minutes-continues to unfold.

The latest CNN article now reports that the pilots have said that they were both distracted because they were using their laptops in the cockpit during that time. One was showing the other how to use a new scheduling program.

Now, I tend to support people over process in most cases. I’m a big believer that most errors come from a poor work method. Make the process better, and people are protected from the fallout of mistakes.

That is why I am a big supporter of Lean. The standardization it provides helps reduce errors on the job. And with fewer errors, there are fewer chances for people to have conflicts with bosses and coworkers, improving job satisfaction and the bottom line. There are also fewer chances for quality problems to be passed on to customers.

I can even understand some occasional rule-bending. In many cases, when a process is bad, it creates situations where employees are put on the spot. They have to choose: follow the rule and fail, or be a little rebellious with the intention of doing the right thing.

My message when I encounter teams in those situations is

“Follow the process, but if the process doesn’t work, change it.”

Processes are not set in stone. When there is a better option, throw out the old one. I am forgiving in the ‘rule-bending’ situations because people have the right intent, even if the method of execution is poor.

But what should happen when person chooses to ignore a rule or process because it is inconvenient?

Even in this difficult situation, it is important to create and use a process to evaluate the abnormal condition—no matter how obvious the problem appears to be. Leaders should go to gemba to see what really happened and to identify the specific step in the process where things fell apart. Once they fully understand the problem they can create a mistake-proofing poka-yoke to prevent the waste of similar errors happening in the future.


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