Do you remember that great scene in the movie Apollo 13 where Ed Harris’ character dumps a bunch of components on the table and tells his staff that they have to find a way to make a square filter fit a round hole to provide breathable air to the astronauts?  I have always loved that segment as an example of how defining a problem with specificity can greatly increase the odds of it being solved.

I learned of another example of specificity in action at the Subaru plant in Indiana.  They were challenged to reduce 15 tons of waste every 24 hours to 0 landfill contributions.  Think about that.  Would you be excited if that task was given to you by your boss?

The staff at Subaru not only took on the problem, they solved it!  

Here is how they did it:  Infographic

The lessons they learned:
1.  Ask the right question.  It wasn’t lofty dumping trash on the floor and sorting it, but it helped them learn what they were up against.

2.  See for yourself.  They worked to reduce, reuse and recycle — there wasn’t just one answer to the problem.

3.  Talk to your outer circle.  Subaru worked with others to assist in finding solutions.

4.  Improve the mix.  They sought an entirely different path for that last mile.

5.  Deliver the difference.  Not only did their efforts help the environment, it improved the bottom line.

The next time you are faced with a daunting challenge, don’t be overwhelmed. Remember how the team at Subaru solved their giant problem through specificity and small steps.  Sounds like connecting the dots to me!

— beth triplett

Thanks Meg for sharing!


About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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