Post date: March 13, 2017 by Grace Bourke

The quick experiment failed. Now what? It’s time to find an alternate route forward—to find the detour, the Plan B (or Plan C or … Plan H). As I was walking to work, I discovered the sidewalk was closed for construction. I didn’t see a path forward. Crossing the street, I found a detour – the detour was the only way forward. The same applies for experiments: it’s not a straight path, there are detours. The unexpected is what needs our creativity, persistence, and fortitude. Finding or making detours is where the learning happens. It’s the forward part of “fail forward fast.” It’s the adventurous part of lean.

As an example, working with a small but amazing team for a kaizen workshop (an intense, week-long, lean improvement event), the team identified a barrier and had to make a detour as they experimented through PDCA (plan–do–check–act). After a significant effort to consolidate medications to a single, easy-to-access location, the staff liked the consolidation and requested that the medications be moved to a different location, which would require Facilities to move shelves. The team learned from the experiment, made an adjustment, and moved forward on a new path. It took flexibility, humbleness, and courage. Finding the barriers quickly and learning from them is a benefit of PDCA. Detours are not glamourous or exciting, but it’s how we keep moving forward and making progress.