Select Page

Do you wish upon a STAR when you have a problem?

“The problem is not that there are problems.
The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that
having problems is a problem.”

Psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin, quoted in the Buffalo News

I ran across this quote and it really struck a chord with me. I was living in a week of problems. In manufacturing, there is always a problem. Why? Because in any complex system…

…where multiple people interact with multiple machines, tools/equipment

…and embrace imperfect systems (designed by imperfect people)

…in an effort to deliver to the customer a perfect part

…there will be a problem or two.

I recently had the privilege of a private tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center where my husband had worked. One of the things I saw was the original Mission Control where they flew all of the Apollo missions. During our discussion I was told  they drill into everyone (Astronauts and Front Control Room Operators) the STAR thought process when presented with a problem: Stop Think Analyze React. That really resonated with me as I was in the middle of writing this post. (More on STAR in a future post.)


STAR in action

Knowing that every day you will have a problem or two is key to having a successful day. You will be either getting into a problem, are currently in a problem or coming out of a problem. For those of us in manufacturing we need to:

  • Design flexibility into our systems.
  • Understand the risks and have back-up plans already in play.
  • Embrace problem solving with a vengeance. It is our best friend.
  • Mitigate potential risks. Not every problem can be solved, however every problem can be assessed for risk.
  • Figure out early if the battle wins the war, and if fighting the battle is worth the resources.
  • Celebrate all wins. Bring humor to the effort. Recharge your teams batteries. Without engaged people, there is nothing.

Be the STAR of your operations environment.

Be intentional

Five ways to minimize disruption’s effect.


These folks take disruption seriously. (And I’m glad they do.)

One of the curses to a good running manufacturing operation is disruption. We try to plan for it, correct for it, and recover from it.  It is the thing that can go wrong, the surprise to a perfect plan, Murphy’s Law. Processes and process control are the ways strong, healthy operations acknowledge, minimize and correct for disruption.

However, it is not just the floor that deals with disruption – it is the whole enterprise that can be disrupted.  It just is not as visible, as it is “information flow” that stalls. This would be things like communication disruption, skill set disruption, and disruption due to failed assumptions. On the floor, we can see the disruption by the lack of movement of parts.  In the offices, information disruption is not so visible. What amazes me is that we fail to recognize how critical information disruption is – it usually results in disruption on the floor, just months later. We also have processes and process control for information – appreciating how this keeps us strong and healthy is key.

So how do we correct for and recover from our disruptions in the world of “information” – those things that if not addressed ultimately mean a disruption in part flow on the floor. How do we put the disruptions on the table and focus our energies as a team to ensure the disruption does not happen again? I am not talking about disruptions to your day (i.e., emails, phone calls, people stopping by), but disruption in the flow of information that passes through all of us.

  1. Realize that a small thing today may only seem like a ripple for you, however it may become a huge crack as it moves through the timeline. Learn how your disruptions effect your customer(s) downstream. Based on what is critical to your customer – take the time to communicate the incident (be open and honest) and communicate how you are pro-actively working to minimize future disruptions.
  2. Are you more busy covering up your disruptions or more busy actively finding them? If you breathe a sigh of relief that no one noticed your “information disruption”, your mindset is incorrect. Instead, let your customer know you are working on improving something – they just may help you get there faster.
  3. Really, if it can go wrong it will, really. So why do you plan for utopia? Good “idea people” have a plan, great “idea people” have a flexible plan with mitigation for disruption built in to it. Every day I ask myself “what if?” questions – how often do you?
  4. Before you leave, is there a piece of information, a communication, an execution of something in your computer systems, etc. that if you did your part today would ensure “flow” so that the next in line isn’t waiting? People are counting on you to do what you do in the computers so that they can do what they do.
  5. Know the processes that are around your information. Know the best practices for working with the information.  Knowing is a big part of minimizing information disruption.

Let’s work to stamp out disruption in our information flows.

Take a moment and ask yourself what three things you could do to lessen “information disruption” in your area of influence. Feel free to share one of those ideas below in the comments. We can all learn from each other.

kind regards,