Continuous improvement means breaking orange ropes

on July 15, 2013

Packnet’s continuous improvement journey using Quick Response Manufacturing   (QRM) is a lot about breaking “orange ropes”.  We acknowledge that this may seem like a very odd statement, so allow us to explain this through a story.

One day a boy went to the circus, (the kind that came to town and put up an outdoor tent).  Before going into the large tent, he walked around the grounds and came across a trainer tending to his elephants.   The boy noted that each elephant had an orange rope around one of its hind legs and the rope was attached to a medium sized stake.   The boy went up to the trainer and mentioned that there was no possible way that those stakes could hold the elephants and all they had to do is start walking and the rope would break or pull up the stake.

The trainer agreed, but told the boy “they don’t know that.”   The trainer went on to explain that they started using those orange ropes when elephants were just very young pups.  When the elephant was very young and small, the ropes were more than adequate to hold them in place.  The elephants learned that they couldn’t break the rope, so they stopped trying.

How many orange ropes do businesses have where they “learned” that they couldn’t break free?  In reality the only things keeping us from breaking free from those ropes is our own attitudes and beliefs.   Yet sometimes those beliefs are bigger obstacles than thick concrete walls.

As we go through the QRM process, we are examining many of our “orange ropes” and getting our organization to understand that breaking them is not only possible, but even easy if we are willing to think of new ways to solve old problems.    This process has been challenging and invigorating, but most important very productive as our response times continue to improve across our entire organization.   Our customers may not know about orange ropes, but they are definitely seeing fast response times from Packnet.