October 22, 2009

learning from a ship's crew

I was in downtown Vancouver recently sitting in the lounge area of the Pan Pacific.  A beautiful spot at any time and a perfect spot for reflection.

There was a cruise ship in port, and it had disembarked its passengers earlier that morning.  Some of the crew were moving about on the deck.   They were in the background for me at first.  However, what they were up to captured my attention and I watched them on and off for awhile.

They were cleaning the funnel.  Probably the more nautically-oriented of you have a more technical name for it.  The part of the ship that the smoke comes out of.

From where I was sitting, it didn't initially look like it needed cleaning.  Several stories tall, it was shining white like the rest of the ship.   Their efforts at first occurred to me like a scheduled task to be done whether it needs it or not (with the focus on 'not' in my judgement), because the schedule says it gets done on, say, Saturday.

There was a team of them working together.  They had a long handled broom, and a hose, and they had another apparatus that looked very low tech - a large, white towel stretched over what seemed to be a wooden frame.

Two of them climbed up to the top of the smoke stack.  One had the broom and a bucket, and scrubbed his way around from the top.  The other at first had a hose, and poured water down the sides.  Then he worked with the others below to raise and lower the towel apparatus with some ropes.  It wasn't until they progressed with their task and dragged the apparatus up and down a couple of times that I could see the funnel was actually quite dirty.

The task didn't take them that long really, less than 2 hours. The funnel was sparkling by the end.

I learned a few things from watching them. Such as...

  • Sometimes tasks that don't look like they need to be done, actually do.

  • Some tasks need to be scheduled to get done because if they aren't scheduled, more urgent tasks can usurp them, leaving them never completed.

  • Low cost solutions can be just as effective.  This team didn't use expensive tools but they got the job done and done well.

No comments:

Post a Comment