Friday, November 23, 2007

Humorous Communication Errors - QI

Last week's episode of the BBC comedy QI included a couple of classic stories from the panel.

Alan Davies explained how he had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at London Zoo, and took his young nieces along. At the lion enclosure the keeper gave very clear instructions that standing near the smaller mesh was safe but near the bigger mesh was not (of vice verse). When asked if they understood, the young girls said yes. On entering proceeding, one of the girls asked Alan "what is mesh?"

On a similar note, Bill Bailey recounted an opportunity he had to go into a big cat enclosure in a Brazilian zoo. The keeper said "always approach the cat from the front." As Bill made his way into the enclosure the keeper said "sorry, I meant to say never approach from the front."

They made me laugh

Andy Brazier

Missing disks

It is very big news in the UK this week that HM Revenue and Customs have lost two cds containing benefit details of 25 million people when posting them to the National Audit Office. There are lots of news articles, but this one from the BBC is a good place to start.

I think there are a number of worrying things about this case. Not particularly that the disks got lost, as that is entirely predictable. I would expect arrangements are made to minimise the likelihood of it happening, but it can never be zero.

Instead I am concerned that little effort seems to have been made to have protected the data. As I understand it was not encrypted, so could be quite easy to extract by someone who knew what they were doing. Also, some of the data was not necessary but it was considered too expensive to remove it. I would have thought the need to send this type of information to the National Audit Office would be known, and hence that databases etc. would have been set up to allow it to happen safely and easily. It seems that is not the case.

I am also dismayed that the government are so quick to deny systemic failures and blame junior members of staff for not following procedures. What a terrible attitude towards organisational responsibility.

Andy Brazier

Monday, November 12, 2007

LEAN - 5s

LEAN manufacturing has cropped up a few times in various conversations I have had. I must find out more about it sometime. However, one related technique is known as 5s, and I think it has some safety and human factors application.

The 5s's are Japanese words, but it translates quite well:

Seiri - Sort/Tidiness - Throw away all rubbish and unrelated materials in the workplace

Seiton - Simplify/Orderliness - Set everything in proper place for quick retrieval and storage

Seiso - Systematically clean/Cleanliness - Clean the workplace; everyone should be a janitor

Seiketsu - Standardisation - Standardize the way of maintaining cleanliness

Shitsuke - Sustain/Discipline - Practice 'Five S' daily - make it a way of life; this also means 'commitment'

I am sure there are many references to this. Here is one.

Andy Brazier