LeanSigma and the Dinner Date

By Bill Iacovelli.

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy a night on the town with my wife. Okay, so it was dinner at 6:00 p.m., as we don’t exactly roll up the sidewalk anymore. I was good and settled in on the salad portion of the menu. I ordered my salad and made one special request – “no cheese please”. Of course, when the salad was presented to me at the table, it included…cheese. I saw no point in raising a big to-do or fuss, as there are much bigger issues in life than a mixed up dinner order. I pushed the cheese to the side and moved on. But it did put me into “mistake-proof” mode (an unavoidable result given my continuous improvement background). Mistake-proofing (or poka-yoke), is one of my favorite Lean and Quality tools. A poka-yoke device is any mechanism that either prevents a mistake from being made or makes the mistake obvious at a glance. It can also be thought of as making it easier to do things right or harder to do things wrong.

While I pondered how the order could have been executed more successfully (e.g., server repeating back my order, kitchen staff confirming any confusion about handwriting/notes, etc.), another surprise came my way. The server, in a bid to show excellent customer service, brought us a complementary piece of cake at the end of dinner, I suppose for my troubles and inconvenience. This was very thoughtful and I graciously said “thank you”. But it compounded things in that I don’t particularly like this type of cake, and my dietary restrictions were saying this one was a big no-no anyway. So ironically, the restaurant whiffed again when it came to delighting the customer. First, the wrong salad, then a seemingly good effort at customer service to rectify the problem, but one with little value to me, the customer. If they really felt like they had to do something to make me happier, if they had asked, I would have requested a complementary appetizer or soup on a return trip. The voice of the customer was never heard in this situation. So now in one dinner trip, in addition to a lack of customer delight, at least half of the eight wastes were in evidence: defects, overprocessing, motion, and transportation.

Whether it is a restaurant, a manufacturing plant, a doctor office, or any other business, I believe that “customer satisfaction = a defect-free process that is mistake-proofed to prevent problems + the voice of the customer to identify the true needs/wants of the patron.” I’m not sure who said it, but I like it.

And all I really wanted was the right salad. At least the company was great!

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1 Comment so far

  1. Such a great article which A poka-yoke device is any mechanism that either prevents a mistake from being made or makes the mistake obvious at a glance. It can also be thought of as making it easier to do things right or harder to do things wrong. Thanks for sharing this article .

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