I was driving home today and saw a construction sign on the sidewalk. It read: “Sidewalk Closed, Use Other Side.” Ahead was a section of the sidewalk which was, indeed, closed off and impassible.
By the time a pedestrian encounters this sign, he is well into the middle of a long block.
The sign is at least implying that the pedestrian should cross the street in the middle of the block to get around the construction. The alternatives are:
- Ignore the sign, and walk on the street around the torn up sidewalk.
- Backtrack to a legal crosswalk, and cross the street where it is legal to do so.
This situation is actually fairly common in a lot of companies. There is a rule “Don’t cross the street in the middle of the block.” Then there is an expectation that is incompatible with following the rule.
- “Be careful, but hurry.”
- “Stop and fix problems, but don’t lose production.”
- Stop for quality, but make the numbers.”
- Get 90 minutes of work done in an hour.
The team member has the same alternatives as above – ignore the expectation, or ignore the rule.
This is a slightly higher level than Hirano’s observation that “the words ‘just for now’ are the origin of all waste.” Here we are putting the team member in an untenable situation because there is no action available that is clearly OK.
Take a look at the rules you have. Take a look at the actual behaviors. Remember that what people actually do is generally what they sincerely believe you expect of them.
If it is impossible to follow a rule, consider why the rule exists.
The words “Do the best you can.” are a warning that you are in this kind of situation.