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Business Lessons From Banana Boxes

August 23, 2010

Yesterday, my oldest son and I volunteered at the Second Harvest Food bank. Our job was pretty straightforward. About 20 of us were asked to sort donations into two groups—food and non-food. Simple, right? We were sorting into banana boxes—Chiquita and Dole—and it didn’t take long before I realized that the Chiquita tops didn’t fit on the Dole bottoms. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who realized this, but I kept seeing people struggling to make the tops fit even though they clearly didn’t (markings on  the bottoms indicated which were Dole and which were Chiquita). Yet, even with this simple task, people made their work harder than necessary rather than taking the time to do it right. Some even took pride in laboriously forcing the mismatched tops onto the wrong bottoms. We all do this, though. We get accustomed to a particular process and even when we discover a better (or the right) way to perform our task, we avoid making a change. We complain about frustrations and inefficiencies, but don’t take the time to solve them. I know we still make Chiquita tops fit on Dole bottoms in my office, but I’m committed to taking a few minutes this week to change our processes so we save time and frustration in the future. How about you?

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