Bad People or Bad Process

vial with syringe
April 7, 2021

(source: Gemba Walks by Jim Womack)

The Covid vaccination process is a great example to consider for this. Think of the Lean Principles.

Value in the customer’s eyes – The registration experience was lacking. It was not user friendly and did not consider the first wave of eligible users that were not used to online registration, they were used to calling for doctor appointments. Customers want an easy registration and the least amount of waiting in order to receive their vaccination.

Define value stream – Look at the process from the customer’s point of view. From registration to an accessible vaccination site to the whole experience of waiting until the actual vaccination. We could go one step further and look at the supply chain of vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Some states got weekly shipments and others got monthly shipments. Which was a better flow? Supply and demand were not clearly defined and some states ran out of vaccines.

Create flow – Long lines where elderly people waited outside in the cold for hours. No seats for them to rest their weary legs. People came too early and flooded the lines. There was confusion and anger. EMTs giving the shots did not have a steady stream of supplies at the point of distribution. Imagine an EMT going back and forth from the vaccination supply to their post one vaccination at a time instead of putting an hour’s worth of refrigerated vaccines near them to distribute quickly and efficiently.

Create pull where flow is not possible – Finally a process improvement was made where customers could wait in their cars until they were called to come in.

Continuous improvement – Opening up more vaccination sites was an improvement as well as doubling up manufacturing of the vaccine. More improvements are being made every day and this is a good example of people owning the value stream and making a difference.

Imagine what it would be like if everyone just accepted the bad process as it was? Vaccine distribution is no different from the product we move through the shop. All we are trying to do is reduce the waste from make to ship. All of us have the power to make these changes and improve our process. Because in the end, it is not bad people, but good people working in a bad process.


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