Airport Security with Lean Management Principles

Posted on November 16, 2010  Comments (1)

The ‘Israelification’ of airports: High security, little bother

We [Israel] said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”

“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela. Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

Lean thinking: customer focus, value stream (don’t take actions that destroy the value stream to supposedly meet some other goal), respect for people [this is a much deeper concept than treat employees with respect], evidence based decision making (do what works – “look into your eyes”), invest in your people (Israel’s solution requires people that are good at their job and committed to doing a good job – frankly it requires engaged managers which is another thing missing from our system).

The USA solution if something suspicious is found in bag screening? Evacuate the entire airport terminal. Very poor design (it is hard to over-emphasis how poor this is). It will take time to design fixes into physical space, as it always does in lean thinking. It has been nearly 10 years. Where is the progress?

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A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options. First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain ‘bomb boxes’. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Lean thinking: design the workspace to the task at hand. Obviously done in one place and not the other. Also it shows the thought behind designing solutions that do not destroy the value stream unlike the approach taken in the USA. And the better solution puts a design in place that gives primacy to safety: the supposed reason for all the effort.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check. “But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.

“First, it’s fast — there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

Lean thinking: evidence based management – don’t waste time on charades that are meant to show you are busy, do what needs to be done, don’t waste time on exercises that do not improve security and create great hassle and cost for everyone involved. In 1900 the idea was to make quality you invested a lot in inspection. You showed how much you valued quality by putting lots of resources you could point to as evidence of you putting your money toward your concern for ensuring quality. Well we have know for decades spending money (and resources – time…) is not the same thing as being effective. Design a better system and you get better results for less expenditure or time and money. instead the TSA takes the strategy of security theater showing we care (to themselves but everyone else sees it as failure) while failing to design a system that actually is well suited to increasing security.

The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they’re doing a good job. You can’t say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don’t trust anybody

Lean thinking: trust – the first trust you have to look at now, is the lack of trust TSA management has in their people. They don’t design a system that is built on trust. They don’t hire staff that they want to rely on their ability to act as those in Israel do. The result is you have a system that everyone that experiences it has no trust in. They can see the silly rules they make that just serve to annoy and improve security none. You can see the attitude so clearly in the desire to push all responsibility to technology solutions instead of, hiring, training, then designing good systems that respect people and allow them to do good jobs, and then trusting people to do their jobs. No, instead of that just buy technology so you think you don’t have to rely on people (since GM’s $45 billion robot experiment I doubt their has been a larger attempt to shift responsibility from people to technology). Another important factor is few trust that the current system is effective. That should be an important factor.

The article doesn’t even mention the huge problems now created by TSA’s decision to show complete disrespect to the traveling public (and for liberty) with very questionable physical searches.

The TSA has an important job to do. Their actions at airports have been very poor. This creates lots of loss to travelers – waste. And their actions show a disrespect for people and the risks that exist. The security theater is not what we need. We need evidence based security measure while maintaining a focus on the value stream of people flying. This is far to critical a matter to be managed as it has been. Unfortunately the leadership seems incapable of making good management decisions. We need a good lean thinker and leader to take over this system and create one that works and respects people.

I doubt their has ever been more widespread examples of reacting to special causes with new rules that don’t improve the situation, but instead makes things worse. Adding extra processes to deal with special causes instead of taking a systemic approach creates systems that are extremely unreliable. The current airport security measure are a textbook example of this bad management practice.

H. L. Mencken said it well, a demagogue as “one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” I am not sure if those talking heads saying what TSA is doing is acceptable, and even wise, are demagogues or fools that have accepted what someone else told them, but we need them replaced with people that can design a secure system that respects people.

Finally don’t let those that want to say not adding more ineffective and intrusive inspection techniques is opting to be less safe. That is like a company in 1950 continuing to refuse to adopt system that work and saying if you insist on changes that result in reducing inspection we have to accept more defects. It is wrong. the current practices are bad for people, liberty and safety. Deming said “nobody gives a hoot about profits” as an explanation for why companies failed to adopted proven better management practices for decades. They might say they care about profits but their actions showed they cared more about other things. Today, TSA’s actions show the TSA doesn’t give a hoot about security, or liberty.

Related: We Won’t FlyI would not allow myself to be subject to a molestationManaging GovernmentSystemic SWAT Raid FailuresAd should say that “The terrorists have won”TSA Pat-down search abuseFull Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSATSA screenings drive passengers to find alternatives to flyingTSA workers pulled drug prank twice with air passengers

One Response to “Airport Security with Lean Management Principles”

  1. Respect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in Work » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    May 9th, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

    […] huge part is forcing people to deal with horribly bad processes that just haven’t been fixed. Most TSA employees have to feel horrible about what they are being required to do. This will often then result in them lashing out in other ways (because they try to hide from those […]

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