Perfecting on (near) Perfection

Last weekend, my wife and I made a quick trip to Brisbane – no, it wasn’t a romantic getaway, just some property matter to attend to.  As a ‘process-minded’ frequent traveller, I always try to optimise efficiency at airports, hotels and car parks.  Here are a few of my travel tips:

  • All bookings (accommodation, flights, car rentals) synchronised to the calendar plus carry a physical printout – belts & braces.
  • When parking the car, I find spots where I can avoid lifts (e.g. near a ramp) – quicker to get in and out during peak times.
  • Before security checks, wallet and phone go into the laptop bag – avoid the extra tray with loose items.
  • Wear the same belt and shoes – I know they don’t trigger the security metal detector.
  • At security screening, I place the laptop first, laptop-bag next and then carry-on luggage onto the conveyor. After the X-ray, I grab the laptop and place it into the laptop bag, while waiting for carry-on luggage to come through.
  • Stick to one specific airline – familiarity with terminal layouts.
  • Inside the plane, sit on aisle seat as forward as possible – quickest to exit.

For our weekend trip, we had one bag to check-in – something I haven’t done for a few years and therefore, not very familiar with the updated self-serve process.  I placed the bag at the bag-drop counter and went through the guided process. As I got to the final stage, I expected the luggage tag to be printed so that I can place it on the bag. To my dismay, the bag moved into the luggage belt! At 6am in the morning, I’m now trying to figure out what happened and got concerned. I was telling my wife that this is a serious ‘process failure’ – the system should not have taken the bag in without a tag! I think my wife was more concerned about if we will get our bag in Brisbane.

Listening to my wife’s request (always a good move), we queue up at the service counter to explain about our bag that got sucked into the baggage vortex without a tag. I’m now starting to get annoyed as the queuing time is eating into the lounge time. Anyway, after about 10min we got to the service desk only to be told that all is fine – the system detected my old ‘e-tag’ on the bag and therefore, no baggage tag was required. Phew!

While I was enjoying my coffee at the lounge, I was telling my wife as wonderful as that process was, it would’ve been even better if the system clearly indicated “e-tag detected – baggage tag not required”. That would’ve avoided me from queuing up worried and more importantly, it could’ve reduced the ‘customer-service’ time for the person behind me.

Yes, it was a near perfect process, but it could be improved to be even a tad better. So, here’s a thought to perfecting some of your (near) perfect processes.

Get someone new to follow your critical processes and see where they fall-over.  Sometimes we are too close to the process and don’t see the process gaps.

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Ishan Galapathy is a renowned Operational expert in the food industry. In this book, he provides straight talk to leaders in the food sector who are challenged with the task of driving their company’s profitable growth.
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