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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Isn't it nice when things just work?

This WebRidesTV video is a commercial made by Honda to showcase the Honda Accord. It is a two minute video that shows Honda Accord parts interacting with each other similar to a Rube Goldberg machine.  Take two minutes and enjoy the video, then let's chat . . .

The tag line "Isn't it nice - when things just work?"  contracts nicely with the incredible complexity of the video.

As a project manager, I avoid complexity and look for simple systems that work.  A recent move to a new office complex and the resulting new support staff has me thinking about the importance of simple systems.  Sheila is the person who handles everything at the new place, and she is a master of simple systems.

More after the break (This is my first try adding a break :)). . .

For example, Sheila is responsible for stocking, reserving, and distrubuting video projectors for everyone at this location.  For some support staffs, this would be a project unto itself, requiring automation, key control, access logs, etc.  For Sheila, one assignment notebook per projector, a label maker, and a large cabinet with a door and the system is up and running.  Everyone who needs to use a projector is trained in about 30 seconds (I think you are all trained now too).  Simple, effective, very few parts, pieces, or process steps to break down. 

Sheila takes this same philosophy to the supply room with great effect.  Instead of twenty boxes of ball-point pens, some blue, some black, some full, some empty), Sheila's supply room has two coffee cans of pens (one for blue and one for black).  No one cares if the pen is new or reused - we can't even tell the difference.  There are always pens because Sheila's simple system allows her to take an instant visual inventory.  She uses the same technique with those little black binder clips I always run out of.

With the new focus on simple systems, I'm starting to see them everywhere.  This morning I noticed that Tim Horton's labels coffee carafs with the time the coffee was brewed.  Simple - systematic, and the payoff in coffee quality is apparent.

I really appreciate the thought that Sheila puts into these transactions and the way it makes my life easier.  Now the question becomes - how can Project Managers match her by providing simple systems to our project teams and stakeholders?

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