When we think of pulling a rope, we might be thinking of a tug-of-war, or swinging on a rope over a lake’s edge.
This isn’t the case for this post. I’m referring to the Andon cord used at the NUMMI plant almost a decade ago on it’s assembly line. This is what the line worker is doing in the picture above. Incidentally, this is also the new home of Tesla’s assembly plant.
As a result of pulling the rope the entire assembly process stopped, completely. The line supervisors were immediately notified a particular line station having a problem. This did two things – it kept defects from entering a vehicle before it reached final assembly, and it empowers the entire plant. Anyone could “pull the rope”.
The andon cord is one of many Lean Manufacturing attributes and principles used in many different spaces, healthcare, software development and engineering, to name a few.
“Pull the rope” for me is about stopping or ending production of outcomes which stem from waste in my own life. Things I’ve wasted over the last few decades have been time, money, and opportunities. I recently created some space in my life by decluttering material and mental things. This gave me the opportunity to look at the “waste” (also another Lean attribute) in my own life to see which outcomes I must avoid.
I began to pull the rope when I saw those outcomes materializing in my day. And I have been diligent about stopping those outcomes for the most part. This is mental muscle I need to train, it will get stronger with practice.
The result was being more intentional with my time, resources, and opportunities. Being the INTJ I am, I created a whole plan on my birthday this year and didn’t deviate from it. How could I keep from deviating? I saw many better outcomes from this plan.
We know no plan is perfect, and I’ve tweaked this plan as I learned more about the exact outcomes I wanted, and more importantly, why I wanted these outcomes. The what and the why didn’t always meet when I put this plan together – I just knew I needed to pull the cord on some things, and cut the cord on many others. I did modify the plan, but only when I learned more about the what or the why.
Are there things in your life you need to pull the cord on? I don’t know, but you probably do. And if they’re things which manifest themselves into waste you may want to start with those. To clarify, when I refer to “waste” I wasn’t necessarily thinking in terms of landfills and septic tanks – the Lean definition of waste is something that doesn’t add value. In this context it would be something which isn’t adding value to someone’s life – stress, relationships, finances, etc. Those three things are top of mind for me.
For me, pulling the rope has added a lot of value to my life in the short term. I only see it getting better from here. I hope it can do the same for you.
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