This is a Lean Integration story – trust me, it will become clear as the story progresses.
I’ve now passed through London’s Heathrow airport security at least five times in the past year, so that makes me an expert. A common pattern I have observed is when the x-ray scanner notices something “suspicious” (like fluids or creams that should be in a separate clear plastic bag.) Then the nightmare starts.
There is nothing wrong with the security agents – they are human beings trying their best to do a good job. And there is nothing wrong with the airport security policies or the strict screening process. The problem is that the process is broken. Suspicious items are put on a side track for the inspection agent. Since there is a backlog of items subject to manual inspection, the passenger needs to wait.
Here is the crux of the problem. The x-ray scanner identifies something suspicious and sends the bag to a secondary inspector. The secondary inspector has quite a backlog and seemingly no information is passed from the scanner to the inspector. The inspector is essentially asked to examine something that is flagged as “causing concern/dangerous” – but (s)he has no specifics. So the only thing to do is to tear the item apart including opening every pill bottle, ruffling through every piece of dirty laundry and closely examining each shoe, to eventually find some nasal decongestant, toothpaste and a nail clipper.
After a 45 minute delay, the question remains. What triggered the review and how to avoid it in the future? Unfortunately, the answer is not clear. There is no opportunity for continuous improvement.
In short, the security clearance process at Heathrow is broken. The process handoff between scanners and inspectors is not Lean – the two process steps are operating in silos with no transfer of knowledge. It would be like a QA test analyst sending the code back to the development team because they found a defect, but not saying what they found.
I’ve seen this pattern with some data integration processes; each person (or team) in a multi-step integration process has a narrow focus on one step in the process. And from each person’s perspective, they are working hard and being effective. But if no one is accountable for the end-to-end process, then delays, rework and waste of all sorts can creep into the system. The poor results of the end-to-end process are not the fault of the workers; they are the fault of the management system.
The good news is that when it comes to complex enterprise data integration, we already have a world-class management system that delivers everything the customer needs – every time! It’s called Lean Integration and it works!
In terms of future travels through London however, my only hope is that one of these days, someone at the security management level puts the customer first and begins to optimize the end-to-end process to reduce waste while keeping us all safe.