Variety Can Be Too Spicy
We’ve all heard the phrase: “Variety is the spice of life.” The source of that quote is a matter of conjecture. While there are versions tagged to a dramatist in 1640 and another in 485 B. C., it is commonly assigned to English poet, William Cowper.
One thing we can be quite sure of is that none of these talented people were golfers or ran warehouse operations. The people that are occupied with golf or operations pursuits, don’t like variety. They like predictability, sameness, and certainty.
Can you eliminate all variations? Not likely. You can, however, develop discipline and add established routines and standardization to help with the variety that threatens to interfere with the goals you set.
If this sounds like a stretch, think about it. Golf is a game that requires repeating a process with minimal variation. While a player may get a lucky bounce here and there, that cannot be counted on. Since it is played outside and played by humans, there will be variation.
An area leader in a warehouse has a process that needs to be repeated for the team to be successful. His lucky bounce may be getting a favorable mix of work, but as with our golfer, you cannot count on luck- for that area leader, they have their own variation to deal with from attendance, volume inconsistency, mechanical/system issues, and more.
Through building a repeatable process, our golfer and our area leader are confident that executing that process will lead to success. Adding a routine to make sure the process steps are managed properly is the key to consistent, repeatable success.
Let us compare a pre-shot routine to Leader Standard Work and pick out the similarities:
|Process Step||Pre-shot Routine||Leader Standard Work|
|Assess the situation||The golfer needs to factor in the shape of the hole, where the pin is today, what is the wind doing, other weather factors.||The area manager reviews the situation they walk into; looking for any constraints like staffing or equipment issues and engaging the team in any customer issues that need to be addressed.|
|Pick a target||Where does this shot need to land to put the golfer in the best position to succeed?||Based on the assessment of the situation, set a goal for the day. What is the capacity today, based on conditions? That may fall short of the company goals, but you need to understand your reality.|
|Select a club||Pick a tool that will put the golfer in the best position to hit the target that they chose.||Request support if needed to maximize out volume. Is there labor available in other departments to help, do you need to request overtime, do you need to swap out equipment to better fit your mix?|
|Rehearse your swing/ Step into the shot |
|All the prep work has been completed. Time to get ready to execute with confidence that you have a plan to succeed.||You’ve made your plan for the day and any available support has been provided. You might need to set a new target.|
|Swing away||You are now able to swing away with confidence. You are prepared.||Communicate your status to the team and leadership. Get your visuals updated with the plan for the day. Start the shift with no surprises.|
|Assess the results||You are not done. You are prepared but now things can change. The wind may shift. It might rain. Monitor progress and do not lose the day.||Walk the floor. Check in with the team and help them with any dilemmas. Test for process compliance. Look for any variation in your KPIs (key performance indicators).|
|Adjust if needed||If the round is not meeting expectations, adjust. Is the ball missing to the same side? Are you not getting the putt to the hole? Is your focus lacking? Make the corrections.||If you are missing your benchmarks during the day, do not wait to adjust. Proper corrective action applied in time can save the day.|
The parallel is clear. These steps will help you prepare for your day:
- Taking time to assess your situation including any variation
- Setting a data-based goal
- Using the right tools
- Understanding variations in your environment
- Moving forward with the confidence of being prepared for success, and
- Monitoring and adapting to variation that can occur during the day.
Will this preparation make every round and every shipping day as smooth as glass? No, it will not. It will set the stage for a good start and identify when adjustments are needed quickly.
Managing the variation downward in your golf game or in your warehouse processes will make sure the remaining variety is a little less spicy.