Friends, it’s been a heckuva day. But for some reason, while unwinding tonight from a series of lengthy meetings, home construction and multiple hours in the car, I saw this awesome article by Charles Duhigg in the New York Times that I found so delightfully applicable to camp. Magically, I got a second wind. That’s when I knew this article was some great stuff that I just had to share. So, I present to you the late-night blog article.
Basically, the article describes a principle from the Toyota Production System (TPS) management philosophy called the “Five Whys.” This method is a core process as part of TPS. Duhigg writes, “[TPS] holds that even the most complex problems have simple causes – if you know how to look for them.” Isn't this one of the biggest truths about camp that we tend to forget when we are in the thick of things?? Duhigg's really got my attention now!
Then, Duhigg applies the “Five Whys” to an issue in his life: he wants to eat dinner with his kids. No matter what he and his wife tried, they kept failing to meet this goal. Until he stumbled across the “Five Whys.” Here’s Duhigg describing how it went down:
“For us, “the Five Whys” worked in a fairly straightforward manner. We began by identifying a problem: We never managed to have family dinner. Then we explored, at the most surface level, why that was true: Because my wife and I always got home later than we expected.
Then came another question: Why were we getting home so late? The answer was that, although we intended to leave the office by 5, we often found it impossible to walk away from our desks because there were so many miscellaneous tasks we had ignored during the day.
That prompted the third question: Why had we ignored all those tasks? Well, inevitably, we arrived at work each morning just as our first meetings were starting, and so rather than deal with unread memos and emails, we put them aside until later in the day – and then, when we finally got to them, there were new memos and emails that demanded our attention.
The fourth question: Why were we arriving at work right before our first meetings, rather than earlier in the day? Because although we always intended to leave the house at 8 and get the kids to school, we usually ran late, and didn’t get out the door until 8:20 or so.
And, finally, why were we leaving the house later than we planned? Because it took so long to get the kids dressed in the morning that we always left later than we expected.
We had started by identifying a problem — we never managed to have family dinner — and by using “the Five Whys” found a root cause: Our kids were taking too long to get dressed in the morning. Before conducting this exercise, I had never suspected that there was a connection between our morning routines and our evening mealtimes. But once we forced ourselves to ask why after why, it was clear what needed to change. If we could convince our kids to get dressed earlier, we could make it out the door faster, and in turn would have time at our desks to deal with emails and memos before the day started getting crazy, and then we would be able to leave work earlier, and make it home in time to have dinner together. So we instituted a new family rule: Now, each night before going to bed, our kids lay out their clothes for the next day, and then they get dressed as soon as they wake up.”
This is so perfect for camp!! I was able to use this system with a couple of examples right away…each time leading to unexpected yet logical and practical results. I dare you to try it as an exercise by yourself or even pencil it in for your administrative training or a mid-summer in-service with your staff. Asking the “Five Whys” is an excellent thought exercise and could potentially help camp leaders simplify and SOLVE pressing problems big and small. Check out my examples below, and, if you come across a great example or experience using this technique, please leave your info in the comments or email me at mckinnosar[at]gmail.com
Basic Problem 1:
Why didn’t the dining hall get swept?
Cabin 10 didn’t do a good job
Why didn’t Cabin 10 do a good job?
They were rushed for time.
Why were they rushed for time?
It was hard for them.
Why was it hard for them?
They did not have the tools to do it.
Why did they not have the tools to do it?
The camp does not provide the right size tools for 7-year-old campers.
Potential Solution: Buy child-sized brooms and dustpans for the dining hall.
Basic Problem 2:
Why do we have so many false missing camper alarms?
The rosters are not up to date.
Why aren’t the rosters up to date?
There are multiple camper class changes.
Why are there multiple class changes?
Campers sign up for classes they don’t understand.
Why do campers sign up for classes they don’t understand?
The class descriptions are confusing.
Why are the class descriptions confusing?
Activity heads try to be funny but forget important details.
Potential Solution: Help activity heads practice funny yet practical activity descriptions
Basic Problem 3:
Why is it difficult for me to write staff evaluations this year?
Because I don’t have enough information.
Why don’t I have enough information?
Because I have not made first-hand observations.
Why have I not made first-hand observations?
Because I have been in the office a lot.
Why have I been in the office a lot?
No one is there to answer the phone, so I have to do it.
Why is no one there to answer the phone?
Because my office manager is out taking pictures for the website.
Potential Solution: Transition office manager to manage the office and take pictures yourself while gathering observations (switch).
I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS!! Can't wait to hear if this helps you guys out, too! Good-night!! :) :) :)